how to make people *not* want to join your freaking tribe
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” — Emma Goldman
I got a kick out of this short and punchy post by online maverick Ashley Ambirge.
As she explains:
The internet popularized the concept of “finding your tribe,” and while Seth Godin’s book by the same name is right on the money, the term itself has become cliché, stale, trite, boiler plate, and fucking offensive…
I’m tired of seeing my Twitter feed, my blog reader, and every single “newsletter” that comes into my inbox be another vomit party of #sameshitdifferentday. I’m tired of seeing yet another call to, “live your best life!” (give me a break), or “Join the tribe!”
I’ve also noticed all those calls to join someone’s “free community!” so I can self-identify as a [insert cute tribe name here] and buy their products and services. As with most of the clutter that fills up Internet airspace, I’ve made a habit of tuning them out.
Blame, if you wish, Lady Gaga, who rose to stardom partly on the brilliance of her online savvy, galvanizing a deep online community of hardcore fans known as Little Monsters. Books on branding and marketing have done a deep-dive into the success stories of Gaga and other tattoo brands* —
*(By tattoo brands I mean: brands that people love and self-identify with so intensely that they tattoo the brand logo on a chosen body part. That is when you know you’ve truly made it: when someone immortalizes your symbol on their ass.)
— like The Grateful Dead, Harley-Davidson, Apple. These business books (and well-read bloggers) then break those stories down into 7 easy steps or 10 guiding principles (Give Your Community Members A Special Name) that you, Dear Reader, may follow in order to produce a lucrative ‘movement’ of your own.
I absolutely believe in the power of the tribe. As an artist, writer or creative entrepreneur of any kind, creating your much-discussed platform is creating community.
Except you don’t really ‘create’ community.
You create the conditions for it.
You offer up a cool idea – not a what so much as a why.
You express it in a way that attracts and resonates with the people whom you are meant to serve.
You embody, in some way, whatever it is that you’re talking about; if you just piggyback on a rising trend, people will reject you for someone who lives it. Authenticity has a smell. People are keen to sniff it out.
You create the bonfire that other people gather round. You give them something to talk about, believe in, and bond over. You provide a loose structure in which this can happen: a great spot on the beach, an online home, an annual conference.
I once got cocky – and tipsy – and made the mistake of saying to a friend whom I wanted to impress, “Do you know how smart I am?”
“Too smart to say something stupid like that,” he said promptly.
His point: if you have to say it, or sell it, you’re not (you’re probably the opposite). Because it’s not for you to decide or dictate how other people perceive you (or each other). Lady Gaga did not choose the name ‘Little Monsters’ and then push out emails to sell community as a way of selling her stuff. She created her stuff, and gave the people who liked it a place to go, a language to share, and a way of relating to her (Gaga is known for her frequent social-media use and her candor) and to each other.
The purpose of community is to enable self-expression and connect with like-minded individuals.
Sales become a happy byproduct.
People do not want to be sold to: it’s like the number one rule of so-called platform building.
They do, however, want to be recognized.
So they take that bonfire and make it their own.
They are not your minions. They belong to themselves. They take ownership of a vision that you have managed to articulate in a way that captures their emotion as well as their intellect, their imagination as well as their logic. Community inspires them to live into that idea or philosophy.
Your stuff – whatever it is — enables them a deeper sense of self. Which, when you think about it, is a remarkable and humbling thing. So let them tell you all about it.