Growing your tribe

Grow your tribe and network with purpose   

Whatever you want to do in business and in life, it’s easier if you have a band of enthusiastic people who support you.

What is a tribe?

A tribe is a group of people who share a belief and a way to communicate with each other and with people outside the tribe.

A tribe is the most effective way to spread an idea.

TV, radio, press and the internet all offer media channels that organisations use for marketing to a crowd – at a price.

Tribe members market to each other and their contacts because they want to. They can’t be bought or persuaded to do it.  A tribe is not for sale and not for rent.

Many tribes are interested in maintaining the status quo, avoiding change and keeping everything as it has always been so rather than join an existing tribe you may want to start your own.

If you start your own tribe it’s usually because you want to make something happen and create change and you need help to spread the idea.

What is it that you want to make happen?

This could be a world changing idea or something simple that changes the world for just a few people, e.g. reversing climate change or changing the way small businesses get their legal advice. See these interviews for three examples.

Try out your idea. Do people understand it? Does it excite them? Do you need to refine it? If you’d like feedback send it to me or share it on our LinkedIn Group.

You don’t need permission

You might fail and you might succeed. Who knows until you try? Do what you believe in. If you need to see success before commitment you’ll never have either. If you’re trying something new you’re going to be criticised so accept that as a fact and change the rules, raise the bar, play a different game until you get what you want or admit it’s not working and move on.

Either way, you’ll know you tried which is always better than wondering “what if …?”.


If you start a tribe you’ll be its leader. If that makes you uncomfortable, that’s good.  Leadership is not about you. It’s not about you being in the limelight, self glorification or looking after number one. It’s not about creating a hierarchy.

It’s about painting a picture of the future, going there and making it possible for people to follow.

It’s about creating ways for everyone to communicate freely both within the tribe and with outsiders.

It’s about backing off and letting the tribe get on with it when they’re ready.

How do you create and grow a tribe?

Talk about the change you want to create. Make it your personal manifesto. Talk about it in person, online, write about it, blog about it, be interviewed about it.

Ask other people for their ideas, make it about them and not just about you.

See who leans in, who is interested, who contributes.

Don’t aim for “most people”.  Aim for the few who are willing to commit before they see success. Aim for the curious.


A restaurant can gather fans by publishing reviews and testimonials. If the fans have no way to communicate with each other or no reason to keep promoting the restaurant that’s as far as it will go. A restaurant that sets up a way for fans to discuss their experiences, share their photos, swap recipes and wine suggestions and arrange meetings will create a tribe.

When I produced the A-Z of Business Success I could have done it all (with a lot of research) but instead I asked my network for their ideas. The people who leaned in and got involved became part of the series and therefore part of the sharing process and an integral part of its success. Three years later their views are still being broadcast to a wide audience.

Not everybody will lean in when you invite them to and that doesn’t matter. Work with the people who do.

An essential ingredient for a tribe to work is communication. Make sure you’ve created easy ways for people to connect with each other and with people outside the tribe. Facebook groups, LinkedIn Groups, Google Plus Communities and Wiki Spaces are a few of the easy and free ways to do this. Twitter is in the process of introducing “Nestivity” – a way to build  communities from twitter followers.

What do you have to give?

For reciprocity to work, you, as the tribe leader need to know what you have to offer your tribe members.
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” might work in war time but most people will want a little more now!

Write a list of 50 things you have to offer your tribe. This could be a mixture of skills, experience and personal qualities. If you get stuck, add something new every day or ask trusted friends what they would add to your list.

Network with purpose

More and more business networks are popping up but there is a quiet revolution going on in the way they are working.

I just saw someone tweeting from an event, saying they’d connected with the speaker on LinkedIn and were carrying on the discussion. At the same event, delegates were using a hashtag (this symbol # that creates a clickable link) to tweet about the event, connect with each other and share pictures and slides from the presentations with people who couldn’t be there.

This is networking.

These people all have a common interest, established immediately. No-one did an elevator pitch and no-one swapped business cards or asked for referrals. The connections will be strengthened or fade according to the individual’s preferences, needs and interests.

The real story here is that business networking has moved on.

Savvy folk are using new ways to connect with interesting people and build relationships using social NETWORKING platforms to network effortlessly, sometimes in very innovative ways, and at no cost.

Some organise casual tweet-ups, Link-ups or Google Hangouts, some have regular meetings with no little or no ritual and they all offer on-line connections as well as face to face meetings at little or no cost.

Building your tribe

Your tribe members won’t be ‘most people’; they’ll be people like you. They’ll be curious, ready for change and ready to support you and other members of the tribe and to be supported by you and by each other.

They won’t need to be sent out to recruit other members or ‘spread the word’. They’ll do it anyway because that’s what they believe in.

Bigger isn’t always better. Some tribes will always be better as small units. You don’t grow by trying to get people to switch from another tribe. There are plenty of unaffiliated people to play with. Unless you’re trying to win an election, numbers don’t matter.

Listen to this TED talk by Seth Godin on how powerful tribes can be:

Do you have a burning desire to create change in some area of your work or life that would be easier with a tribe to support you? Share your idea below and lets see what gets started ………..



  1. Hi Ann
    I leave next week for India & am gone 4 weeks. Biz has picked up again, dates coming in for 2014. While that’s great, I don’t want to take my eye off the bigger goal of growing my own offerings/voice & building my tribe. However, my time scale isn’t immediate - this may take a while & I’m committing to small, steady actions & doing what I can incrementally. There’s a lot of thinking going on too as I need to clarify exactly who I want my tribe to be!

    So - my first step is the website revamp. It seems the best option is to use WP + Genesis framework & a StudioPress child theme that is mobile responsive. The WP plugin Premise is only available another 2 days & I’m thinking I might buy it & just save it till everything is ready to go as it seems v useful for building memberships. Any comments?
    I’d REALLY welcome your comments on my project spec - I have been interviewing techies thru & may work with someone who can also sit with me in person in India & show me how to manage content. I will email you this separately.
    Blogging is something I seriously want to get better at & although I can’t make the next 2 meet ups, I hope to make future ones. Meanwhile, I’m re-reading your lessons & other resources & slowly learning to up my game.
    Tx for the offer of ‘hand holding’ in future - I promise I won’t take up too much time, and I really appreciate a gentle steer so I know I’m heading in the right direction. This course has been a great eye opener - there’s so much stuff out there one can drown in it - so I appreciate you being my ‘google’ & pointing me to the most useful actions & resources.
    Z x

  2. Hi Zee
    I’ll respond separately to your spec and comments here. You’ve done some good background work!

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