Having a Tribe Means Being Its Member

The word “tribe” used to literally mean a tribe – the source of our survival and joy as human beings – and it had roles, responsibilities: you had to pull your weight, relate and support.

Now we throw tribe around in the world of business, which is fine, unless we secretly mean “customers” and don’t know the difference.

A little story.

One day, “customer” – a term simply meaning “one who buys from you” – was no longer big enough a container to survive the evolution of business. People began to understand that with the birth of human-to-human technology, one-sided communication that brands had gotten so comfortable with would no longer do. Humans had to be treated like people.

So businesses shifted to begin including voices of these people above and beyond simply using their responses to surveys to test a potential market. I suspect because we now had forums and Twitter and could really burn these brands online if they did something wacky. But that’s not really tribe.

So along comes along Seth Godin and says “Your people are not robots! Those that love your work are your tribe, man! Treat them well!” (in so many words), and the world ran with it, pouring this version of soy milk into their coffee instead of creamer, only to discover,  some months later, that there were side-effects of incorrect use. As with all things.

In short, we can’t keep misusing this word; we can’t play tribe without being a tribe member.

We can’t NOT participate and expect something in return.

We can’t seem holier than thou if we want anyone to play with us. 

Sandbox rules persist.

Transparency & Inclusion

What was the last way in which you invited your tribe to play with you? Have you ever? And I don’t mean just asking them to comment on your blog posts.

There are tons of ways to do this. Here are some fun ones:

  • have a campaign promoting something you love (that you may or may not benefit from)
  • make branded items that you sell and give away (people love those, especially if you’re not normally a manufacturer of hard goods.)
  • have a sale for your people only
  • post something funny and honest
  • invite people some place / event you’ll be at (I met some amazing people this way)

A Good Example

Many of you who know me know that I simply LOVE Hugh MacLeod, the artist who did that great pic above. I have a print of his on my wall, have given his art as gifts and got a hilarious T-Shirt that reads: “I survived the Mayan Apocalypse”.

I adore him because his artwork is unique and fun and because he engages with people really well. I’ve even had a long conversation with him about art on Twitter and have submitted myself wearing that silly shirt to his campaign of folks who love his work.

That’s terrific tribal love, and I always tell people about him, inviting them to sign up for his daily cartoon, because it’s not only poignant, it’s consistent and puts a smile on my face.

So with all that tribe talk, please meet my new tribe member, Vas’ka.
She’s a troublemaker. But who’d expect any less. 🙂

What are some fun ways you’ve engaged with your tribe?

What are some thing you’d like to try and do?

  • You have totally enlightened me on what it really means to serve your tribe. I am always writing to my audience to teach them about what I think they want to learn about, but I forget they may not always want to read to learn. I used to write much more comical posts because I didn’t think anyone was reading what I wrote anyway. Now that I have a real audience, it feels like the pressure is on to deliver big informative emails and posts.

    Vas’ka is adorable, what does the name mean?

    • Kat Tepelyan

      Indeed it is a balance! Teaching, engaging AND having fun. The latter is important and can often get missed in lieu of being serious. What always helps is to add a human element, to reach out and say “I’m a human being!” in whatever way YOU do it, while fusing useful information.

      Vas’ka is a unisex Russian human name also used commonly for unnamed street cats. She’s a rescue, and my grandfather was Vasya (endearing as Vas’ka), so it was a double win. 🙂

  • Jennifer hillman

    Kat, thank you for your perspectives. I appreciate that one article will be encouraging and then the next article I read will bring me back down to reality. You really showcase the balance in life…the Yin Yang. I am forever grateful we have crossed paths.

    • Kat Tepelyan

      Jennifer, thank you. It’s always been a strange blessing and curse to see both sides of the coin. To try to walk the middle path, to fly in the sky while taking steps on the ground.

      I’m so glad we’ve met. Your project is so helpful to the world, and I’m so grateful you get something out of my writing.

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