In his book “Tribes,” Seth Godin describes how tribes are defining the new economy. We have moved away from a world of mass advertising, where huge marketing budgets determined whether you owned a market or not. The plunging cost of technology has democratized the tools of communication. They are now within everybody’s reach. We can no longer force consumers to pay attention to us.
But we can host a purpose-driven tribe.
Non-profit organizations and membership associations who form tribes of like-minded supporters and constituents have tapped into a primordial human instinct that stretches back tens of thousands of years. Humans have a need to connect with each other, especially if they can connect around a common purpose and build a sort of “battlefield camaraderie.”
Years ago humans lived in small tribes organized around a single purpose: to survive. They hunted together, gathered together, and protected their tribe from saber tooth tigers. Tribalism is built into our genetic code.
Somewhere along the line, technology enabled us to build huge cities, work in large factories, and travel large distances. We left our farms, our communities, our tribes, and became part of civilization.
We lost the connection to our tribe.
Now that technology has leveled the playing field, we can again form tribes. But these are tribes that are not bound by geography; they are communities formed around mutual interest.
Non-profits and associations are tapping into the tremendous power of Internet technologies to host online tribes. They are providing their supporters and constituents a home base where they can connect with each other over what made them passionate about your organization in the first place.
Humans need to feel they have a purpose. Non-profits and associations that are successful are adept at tapping into people’s need to contribute to a cause.
Tribes that form around non-profits and associations provide human connectivity while sharing a common cause. This provides an extra dimension that gives meaning to engagement.
Though engagement and networking by itself is fine (and people attend professional networking events or online professional communities all the time), adding purpose to their engagement fulfills this other primordial human need.
Soldiers who have experienced intense battlefield experiences often forge stronger bonds with their comrades-in-arms than the family relationships and friendships they left at home. This feeling has also been experienced, albeit to a lesser extent, by participants in weekend retreats, intense 3-day long workshops, and overseas mission trips.
When non-profits or associations provide a community platform for their constituents and supporters, they are able to replicate this battlefield camaraderie. Members of your tribe connect with others who are passionate about your cause, and often accomplish more towards your cause than they would outside the tribe. They form partnerships, lead mini-initiatives, organize fund-raising events, and start groups. They work together towards your cause.
Battlefield camaraderie strengthens your tribes’ connection with each other, and perpetuates their commitment to your cause.
How do you host your own tribe? Provide them with a venue, a home base on the internet where they can get together and share their experiences supporting your cause. This is best done by providing your supporters with an online community that is independent of public social networks that water down the tribe concept.
An online community that nurtures a thriving tribe needs several elements to be successful:
· A blogging platform so you and other top members can educate members about developments related to your cause
· Photo and video sharing to engage the visual and auditory senses around your cause
· Discussion forums to facilitate many-to-many communication, sharing and brainstorming
· An Activity Stream so members can catch up on the latest developments related to your cause in a central spot
· Micro-Community Group capabilities to allow your members to create sub-tribes around initiatives or interests that forward your cause and their particular piece of it
· File sharing to share valuable content around your cause
The popularity of Facebook (800 million + members as of the writing of this post) is often a stumbling block for organizations considering building their own community. Why re-invent the wheel when all our supporters and constituents are already on the most popular social network in the world?
There are several reasons:
1. Social Media is all about them. When we log in to Facebook, our first impulse is to check the little red numbers on the upper left hand corner to see who has messaged us or commented on our latest photos or status updates. We also want to see what everybody else is doing because we don’t want to miss out on anything. A private purpose-driven community, on the other hand, is all about your organization. Your cause won’t get lost in the endless stream of comments and shares about pets, politics and people.
2. Company pages don’t allow interaction with each other. Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn have created the concept of company pages. They are primarily broadcast vehicles that allow you to communicate a message out to your supporters. It’s inadequate for allowing your supporters to communicate or truly collaborate with each other about your cause. Even when they do, the conversation gets lost in the general activity stream. Cause-driven conversations are drowned out.
3. You don’t own your own data. Private cause-driven communities are great venues for brainstorming and creating ideas to help your cause. The ideas and content generated by forum posts, blog posts, videos and photo uploads, are yours to analyze and integrate into the rest of your organization’s web and CRM systems; this content allows you to improve your user’s experience. Facebook, on the other hand, owns all the information created by your supporters. This is a problem not only for you, but for your user’s privacy concerns as well.
Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn and Twitter are great vehicles for social marketing, but they won’t replace your own community as a tool for creating and nurturing a purpose-driven tribe.
By creating a community platform to host a tribe that’s passionate about your cause, you’re not only providing value to your tribe - you’re building value for your organization.
Community members are more loyal, more engaged and more committed to your cause.
A third party analyzed one of our client’s communities (at that client’s request) and found that the client’s community had the following impact:
· Increased new referrals by 78%
· Increased time spent on related web properties by 300% and
· Increased financial contributions by 437%
In other words, providing a platform for your tribe produces real results.
How would you see tribe concept working in your organization? Do you have multiple constituents (tribes)? Do you have a single tribe? How could you see them working together online?