Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to travel in over 30 countries, meet thousands of people and train hundreds of thousands of people. My favorite part of these adventures has been building, and studying, community building.
I share this opinion with Seth Godin -- that forming and cultivating a big tribe is the secret to prospering in business in the future. The results, for an entrepreneur who builds a big community, can best be summed up in Ken Blanchard's best-selling Raving Fans. In the book, Blanchard does an amazing job on illustrating how to turn customers into Raving fans, but he is really validating Godin's teaching around tribe-building. A tribe is a large group of Raving Fans.
In the past, I have witnessed many major tribes in their creation and coming of age. I have seen the resulting sales and successes of those tribe masters. I have also seen people who have attempted to build communities with the idea of profiting from those tribes -- and those people have failed miserably.
In my studies, I have come up with a couple of thoughts that I will lightly call secrets, as it is clear that many many people out there don't get it. If you are are considering starting a new company, creating a new cause or just want to get a massive group of people to follow you for one reason or another, then take a second to consider these points:
1. Have a real reason.
People can smell a faker miles away. I have watched many fakers start campaigns that, at the onset, really seemed to be genuine, and I was starting to get excited, but then I quickly realized that these self-reported leaders were not actually being true to their word or did not actually support their own mission. If you try to start a tribe just to profit, it will fail. Make sure that whatever the reason for your community building attempt, let it be real.
Take, for example, Orrin Woodward, the founder of a company called Life Leadership. His goal in life is to help people lead better lives, in every aspect of life. His community is hundreds of thousands of people, and they regularly meet three to four times a year in stadiums with 30,000 to 40,000 attendees. This massive community exists, because Woodward, and his partners, truly do want to help people live better lives. Woodward regularly turns down lucrative opportunities to monetize his community, as he feels that it would contradict the entire reason the community exists. If your reason is ever found not to be genuine, it will surely fail.
2. Have a cause that appeals to people.
You can't expect people to want to be part of a large tribe if they have no personal interest in the cause that the tribe supports. If your personal reason / cause is very specific or abstract, then don't expect a big following, and don't get upset with people if they don't want to be a part of it.
I have a personal deep love for books and invested my entire life in building a platform for people who love books or write books called Reader's Legacy. In an early staff meeting, when we first decided to start this project, I explained to the team that we wanted to build our tribe, because we truly believed that the world of books was falling behind the overall virtualization that publishing and other industries were going through.
We wanted to build a community that would help to change the way people write, read and experience books. I explained to my team that we could not be worried about people that didn't want to join our community, but rather to focus on giving our tribe members the experience that they were depending on us to have.
3. Every tribe / community needs a leader or leaders.
As I travel the world, I regularly talk about leadership and life. I've been asked, from time to time, what my definition of leader is. I quickly reply that I believe the definition of leader can be summed up in one word: example. If you really want to build a big tribe, then understand this now. Tribes follow leaders! You will have to become a bigger leader. The bigger the leader, the bigger the community. Again, you cannot fake this. As the leader, you must constantly work on yourself. Physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Read great books, find great mentors and constantly try to become better.
Also, you must understand that it is very helpful to position yourself as an expert in that space. You need to be a real expert. You need to know everything that there is to know about your business or industry. In Mark Benioff's book Behind The Cloud, he explains how he build Salesforce.com to a billion-dollar company. In the third chapter, he explains how positioning himself as an expert on all things related to the Cloud and his industry landed him on regular TV interviews and made more people aware of him, his cause and his community. Follow this advice.
4. Give them a place to hang out.
Woodward does conventions, I have a website for readers and Benioff holds conventions and does social for his raving fans. It seems that one of the most important parts of tribe-building is giving your raving fans a place to call home. Godin explains that people in a community need a place to hang out. Give it to them.
If you follow these secrets, you will inevitably have success in building your tribe. The only thing you should remember is that it takes time. Don't rush it. A dedicated focus and commitment with these secrets will always work.