Building your tribe

BY TJ Walker

If you are going to be a leader, you’d better have followers. But they can’t be just any followers; they have to be followers who admire and respect you enough to pay something for your time, expertise or products. Marketing expert Seth Godin talks about how you must be the leader of a tribe to succeed in the digital world—this is a useful analogy.

The key factor here is not necessarily the size of the tribe—it’s the strength of the connection. Michael Jackson’s doctor only had a tribe of one—Michael Jackson, but that was enough to put him on the payroll for six figures a month. You might be able to get an Arab Sheik to follow yon ad shower you with millions of dollars. Or you may have 2 million people follow you on twitter but who never spend more than 99 cents on you when they buy your iphone app—that too could be a nice living. I’m don’t have as big a following as Stephen covey, but I have several thousand key communications, training, and pr people around the world who follow me closely, respect my work and are willing to hire me and spend four, five and even six figures over a period of years—so my tribe sustains me.

Where is your tribe? What do they look like? What makes them tick? If they don’t already follow you on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, your speeches your radio show, your column, or your book, why don’t they? How will you gather them in the next 6 months to 6 years?

If you can answer these questions, you are in good shape to become an influential guru. If you can’t answer these questions and you really don’t know if you have a potential tube, then you are in big trouble. Sure, you might be able to generate 200,000 twitter followers because you are willing to follow them back. But they aren’t really following you in any meaningful way and you, therefore, are not the leader of a tribe.

Part of being the leader of a tribe is that you have to be seen as someone who isn’t just a fellow enthusiast or fan of a subject matter. You’ve got to add true value because you know more, add more, organize better, or deliver better insights. What are you offering that is going to make people not just look at you eye to eye as a peer, but what will make them truly look up to you?

Yes, you’ve got to collaborate, share, listen to, and participate with the community of people who care about your subject matter. But you had better figure out what your value add is, otherwise you won’t be able to take any value away in the form of fees, product sales, books or anything else that will support and sustain your profit or non-profit enterprise.

Develop fans, followers or tribesmen/women. Whatever you call these people, you must respect them, nurture them, listen to them, but first and foremost, you must give them something they can’t give themselves so that they develop some need for you in their life. If you do that, you can be success even if your tribe has just 2 members—you plus one follower. But if you are in a tribe with a million other followers and you are not seen as the chief, you will never become a respected guru or expert.

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