Tribes

I want to talk for a minute about tribes. It’s one of those buzzwords that I keep hearing about in marketing circles. People talk about tribes for pages and pages until the word has lost all context. Tribes, as Seth Godin defines them, are groups of shared interest. Simple enough. It’s your basic unit of human activity in the modern world. Your church can be your tribe as much as your book club or people sitting next to you on the Westcoast express. But to hear tribes being talked about by Godin and his followers as if they are some kind of ineffable magical totems. Find your tribe! Connect with your tribe! Your tribe will protect you! Those people outside your tribe? They are not important! The important thing is your tribe! Your tribe!

I’ve read Seth Godin’s book on “Tribes”. It’s not as airy-fairy as the associated literature has led me to believe. Getting a “Tribe” is not just about finding like-minded people. It’s about giving something of yourself to help people. Notice I did not say “establish yourself as an expert”, another phrase I keep hearing on marketing blogs. To those bloggers, a “Tribe” is just a cool word for self-promotion. They don’t give something of themselves. They just want an echo chamber to tell them how brilliant they are. When you actually do the work that is worthy of attracting a “tribe”, whether it’s an e-book, a video, or some handy piece of open source programming, that work stands on its own. It will get people talking, listening, and even criticizing, but it’s not about your name, it’s about the work. There’s no fame or fortune to be had, just a symbol of your gifts and abilities. Believe me, that’s plenty.

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