We all know that “build it and they will come” is a myth. Build it, nourish it, then constantly improve it and they will come is more like it.
Anyone can start a movement, anyone can create a cause. But if you want to build more than a passive, lukewarm community it will take guts, sweat and heart.
A community of raving, die-hard members is never built over night. Despite the hard work, there are many benefits to creating a thriving, enduring tribe.
Here are some of the rewards you’ll reap for your efforts:
- Support when you feel like giving up.
- More energy and strength than you could ever possibly generate alone.
- Enrichment through many life-long relationships.
- A raving community will allow you to make your passion your livelihood.
- Perhaps the greatest — and most unexpected — gift is that leading a community will serve as a catalyst for you to become a better human being.
As you can see, there are many benefits to creating and building a die-hard community. But what makes a strong community? What’s the difference between a community that crumbles, and one that thrives for decades or centuries?
An enduring community is…
- Rooted in deeply held values and is not simply a fad or quickly passing trend.
- About moving toward something bigger than any one individual’s goal in the group.
- Founded on creating major change in the world, or centered on a deeply shared passion.
- Led not for self-interest, but for the highest good of the community as a whole.
- Nourished by a sense of meaning and living out a common purpose.
So, how do you actually do it? How do you create a thriving tribe from the ground up? Well, it all begins with you.
Step 1: Why your vision is the most critical ingredient to a cult-like community
In order to build and lead a strong tribe, you need to have a vision for yourself and others to rally around.
Others come to you for your vision because they either don’t have one, or because they believe in the compelling vision you stand for. Remember: The people in your community can only be as passionate about your cause as you are.
My vision for this community is to create a world where people freely live and work on their own terms. One where work is not simply required to live, but is a vehicle for self-expression, service and deep joy. Without this vision, it would be unlikely that many people would rally behind what we’re creating. They would go somewhere else or do their own thing. Your vision, while important, has little to nothing to do with you.
So the first step is to create a compelling vision as it relates to your passion. Please note that while it’s up to you to supply the vision, it has little to nothing to do with you. It’s about something bigger than you, and that is precisely why it fosters community.
By putting a stake in the ground for what you believe in, you fashion a space for others to bond and connect around your core mission.
Step 2: Introducing the Shared Purpose (and a not-so hidden enemy)
Perhaps the most uniting quality of your community is the shared purpose; what you are working toward as a whole, what you’re moving toward and what you stand for. While this isn’t as dramatic as a revolution or supplanting a regime, it is vital and absolutely necessary. Without it you have nothing more than a hollow destination; a summit with no underpinning why for climbing to that endpoint.
People don’t buy into arbitrary goals or purely self-centered pursuits (well, sometimes they do). People rally behind ideas, causes and missions they believe in. And underlying the “what you do” is a deeply seated sense of purpose. It’s the essential and Deep Why behind every milestone and leg of the journey. What’s your “Deep Why” behind what you do? Can you turn it into a shared purpose?
Without it you have nothing more than a jumbled pile of information and disjointed ideas. A common purpose, or why, is the web-like fabric that interlaces and connects all of what you do under a unifying theme. It gives context and meaning to each action. Even miniscule or mundane tasks can be seen as important and vital when connected to the contribution made to the bigger mission.
Within this community, the shared purpose is to opt-out of template following and create work on our own terms. To create a new paradigm (as dramatic as that sounds) where work is seen as joy and the creation of legacy. We call that getting paid to be who you are, or working on your own terms.
However, that’s not the whole story. It’s only half of the battlefield.
On the other side stands the shared enemy: Working to survive. Grinding it out, paying the bills and going through the motions. This is a stale, energy draining paradigm — conceived by the factory line model of work — where work is simply a means to an end; a boring, lifeless means to survive.
In stark contrast to the Shared Purpose of getting paid to be who you are lies the status quo of working to earn your joy at some undisclosed date that never arrives. It involves separation and dissection of work and life, whereas getting paid to be who you are involves total integration of the two.
This is our Shared Purpose and Shared Enemy. Every great community has at its core these two competing forces. Can you identify the basic elements of yours? Once you do that, it’s time to…
Step 3: Create a Core Identity within your tribe
Every great community has identifiers that signify membership or alliance within it.
Your community or tribe is no different.
Probably the best illustration of this comes from the sports world. In soccer, fans commonly identify with the team of their respective country. When their team wins, they take credit and brag about their team’s victory. In the same way, when their team loses, they themselves feel a sense of defeat and loss.
When their team wins, they win. When their team loses, they lose.
Your community in similar ways is a team, a band of brothers and sisters united around a mission, passion or idea. They feel invested in the successes and failures of the community.
The key here is to create a language and adoptable identity that the members of your tribe can assume. Around here, our flagship community is Trailblazer.
The people in our program identify themselves as trailblazers because of their investment in the shared principles we stand behind. Being a trailblazer is about getting paid to exist. It’s about forging your own way and creating a path you’d never want to stop walking.
The word trailblazer encompasses all of those qualities in a single word. The language we use in our tribe is specific, unique and speaks to the background and personality of the people we love connecting with and the community we want to cultivate.
We also use phases like “creating a no-end path,” “becoming an anti-authority,” and “identifying your active seeker.” All of these expressions tie together to create a lexicon in our community. You can do the same for your tribe.
For instance, my friends at Gold Medal Bodies call the members of their community the “Posse.” Emilie from Puttylike calls her people the “Puttytribe.”
What are the unique and core expressions of your community? How can you create a Core Identity and lexicon around your mission that others can adopt and espouse?
Step 4: Identifying the ideal members of your tribe
Identifying and recruiting exemplar members of your community is critical. A community starts with a leader, but is defined by the people in it.
These people are the lifeblood of your tribe. Without them, you have nothing more than an empty room.
Specifically, there are three different types of people you need to enroll and mobilize.
These vital members make up the bedrock and core of your tribe. They do the important grassroots work of getting your message out there.
These are the champions and die-hard members of your community. They’ll stop at nothing to support the platform you’re creating. You can usually spot ambassadors easily. They will naturally rise to the top. They’re commonly the people that share all of your stuff, buy all of your products and will do whatever it takes to support you and the tribe.
These are the influencers and leaders in your broader market. They’re often people that have more clout and authority then you do. But if you can ally them to your cause, they will be huge supporters and vital members of your community. They’re the people that give you leverage. They’re people with existing platforms you can borrow.
The final, and never-ending leg: cultivating and creating a culture of engagement
The final leg of the journey is to create and cultivate a culture of engagement.
A vision is nothing without forward motion and continual resolution to furthering the cause. In order to keep your community strong and thriving, you need to build a strong foundation built on perpetual interaction.
Here are some fundamental rules for creating a culture of engagement and build an enduring, unshakeable tribe:
- Set the stage. Be vocal to your community about the importance of your message and that you need their help sharing it. Make it centered on the shared purpose, and not about you and your ego. Drive home that this is something bigger than just you, and make them feel like they’re doing something good by contributing to the cause.
- Regularly brief your tribe. Regularly update your tribe on new happenings in the community. What’s coming next? What milestones have you reached? If you have any shared goals, are you reaching them? Have you brought someone new onto the team? Being transparent about what’s happening “behind the scenes” with your business or project helps people feel involved and like they’re getting an inside view.
- Share the spotlight. Highlight ambassadors and create a narrative around those who invest in the community. Have certain people been with your community or joined your program at the very beginning? How can you make them feel special (by giving them status for instance) and share that story with the public?
- Encourage engagement. Reward those that are highly active and engaged. Give shoutouts in blog posts, on Twitter, or in weekly videos to the most frequent commenters on your blog or the most active members of your community. The more you make people feel like their efforts are recognized, the more it encourages other to contribute as well.
- Teach via example. Set up expectations of engagement from the beginning, and continually reinforce them. On your about page, can you highlight and share stories about people in your community that are highly engaged and dedicated? How about in your welcome email when someone signs up to your newsletter? In as many places as possible, try to both set up the expectation for engagement and continually reinforce that in blog posts, tweets and other places.
- Get them invested. Make people feel a part of the key decisions that are made in your community. Make them feel involved in the origin story and the ongoing unfolding of your story. This could be as big as cocreating a product with your audience, or as small as having people vote on a new logo for your website. People support things they feel like they’ve contributed to.
Perhaps the most effective way to learn how to build a great community is to immerse yourself in them.
Joining and participating in communities can serve as valuable experiences for creating your own.
Of course, no tribe is built overnight. It takes dedication, hard work and long-term commitment to build anything truly great.
Joel Zaslofsky says
Great stuff this morning Jonathan. I’m actively trying to build my tribe and create a community around the value of a simplified and organized life. I’m glad you gave a mention to Emilie at Puttylike because she’s awesome at exactly what you’re talking about (and do a fine job yourself of course).
I’m still in the infancy of executing the blueprint for my/our community on Value of Simple but I notice the seeds growing already. I’m definitely using some of the methods out of your playbook – like sharing the spotlight – but I could do others much better.
Thanks for such a great template for future awesomeness! And way to go on putting your new platform all together. Looks like your megaphone just got even bigger.
Thank you for the FREE MESSAGE that allowed me to OPEN UP and SHARE
Ryan Hanley says
Dude… Jonathan… This is so quickly becoming one of very favorite blogs to read. I was actually excited when I saw I had an email from you that there was new content.
And your blog design is intoxicating and engaging. Not to bash Corbett but out of Chase’s two new projects I think you are the clear winner (if there needs to be a winner ThinkTraffic looks great too).
As far as this post… I like that you used the term “never-ending” because the blogger/audience/community relationship is a never ending journey of discovery and growth and I’m glad to be part of that with you.
Ooh! I like how you’ve found a way to help spread your message by having people tweet or facebook to get the free goodie. It takes the squeeze page concept to a whole new level. Awesome job! I’ve tweeted (which also hits my facebook page anyway) and ready to take a look at that workbook. Thanks for your passion, Jonathan. It’s truly making a huge difference in my life and I don’t mind passing it forward.
Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills says
Amazingly concise article J. Every single section prompted me to examine own my situation and think about ways to implement your pointers. You’re on fire bro. and it’s contagious!
Always happy to pass the torch.
Time for a change in life, thank you Jonathan. Time for a change in who I am hanging around with, thank you Jonathan. Time to finish my project today, thank you Jonathan.
Seriously, if I haven’t said it already, thank you. It is always a perfect time to begin.
Absolutely Fantastic !
It feels like with your transformation to new brand and site design, your posts have just become more awesome.
Keep on Blazing Jonathan :)
Thanks Milt. Our intention wasn’t just to put up a shiny new design, but to really take the content to a new level. Glad that it shows.
Dave Everitt says
I signed up yesterday, and wanted to let you know that after reading this I sent out a message to a core of friends who have shown an interest in my music, so I can share rough mixes of songs for my first album and they can feed back their opinions as to what they’d like to hear. At the moment, that’s the only tribe I can think of, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with my previous (software-based) startup/bootstrap ideas. But it *is* the first thing that came to mind after reading the article.
Dustin Lee says
Awesome post! This is one of the most inspiring posts for building a community that I’ve read in a long time.
What an amazing post Jonathan. Thanks for sharing such fantastic content on building tribes. This is what I was looking for.
I’m working on building a tribe/movement centered around giving disadvantaged children an opportunity to lead lives of joy and empowerment through music. By bringing free classical music education to impoverished communities around the world, children will not only learn how to play an instrument found in an orchestra, but they will raise their self-confidence, self-esteem, strengthen their social skills and discipline, and enhance their intellectual development.
Your post is such a great resource. I’ll book mark it and come back to it often. Thanks Jonathan and congrats on your new site. It Rocks!
Awesome English in this article! Was quite inspiring to read this! Help others reach their destination and you will be closer to reaching yours. This kind of approach is used in network marketing.
Too bad a lot of people are doing it based on greed only.
Hey Jonathan, thanks for the mention.
Community building is one of the most important areas of focus for any new (or old, for that matter) business or site. Instead of looking at each interaction as an individual occurrence, seeing how relationships begin and grow allows your work to take on a life of its own.
The key in what you’ve written here is that it doesn’t just start with “be nice to people,” or “reply to every comment.” That’s visitor retention. Creating a tribe has to begin with a shared vision or you’ll never develop a group identity. Taking the visible actions won’t create a tribe without that foundation, and a lot of people who are “doing everything right” still get confused as to why they don’t get the engagement they expect.
In a lot of ways, I think it’s essential to know yourself and really understand your vision. Spending some serious time in introspection will result in more effective interaction with others as you build a community of collaborators and supporters.
Thanks for stopping by here Andy and contributing your thoughts. You’ve always been a big inspiration. I think what you’re doing with GMB is a great example of how to do it right.
Likewise on the inspiration and doing it right.
Killer post! This helps me with creating my own sensual community. Thank you, honey. xx
Thank you so much. I waited a long time because I didn’t think people would rally around the kind of love I champion, but they’re there, and slowly, I am building the community. I also was worried about a legal/ethical conflict with my previous profession/training. Very much looking forward to digging deep into the workbook, so I can better rally the cause.
Keep staying persistent and give people ridiculous value and you will succeed. I wholeheartedly believe that.
Just found this site from a ThinkTraffic email and guess it is my lucky day! Right now we are working on gathering a community of people who are willing to start a simple revolution and there is much truth to what you wrote about. Engage the readers, work together and things will start to take shape. Thanks!
john Falchetto says
I love tribes, perhaps I spent too much time with real, small, off-line ones.
The part I really shook my head and said Amen! is how you look at the tribe hierarchy, there is no other way for a tribe to grow and be effective without one.
Every large tribe in the world has these sub-groups and it’s critical to identify the captains, ambassadors and recruiters.
Great points and something we need to read more about.
Carla Moss says
Great post on building a tribe, Jonathan! Very helpful guide for me as I begin to frame out my niche market (tribe) for my health coaching practice. I really like the new site and the backpack! Looking forward to more great content.
Turndog Millionaire says
What a superb post. Some great things in here which has me thinking.
It’s all about relationships, and if one day I can have a thriving community, well, this is what it’s all about
Thanks for the inspiring words
Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)
Gemma D Lou says
Thanks for the post. I was intrigued by what you said about a shared purpose and a shared enemy, because there’s potential for every upcoming community to build and use this. Now, I’m going to focus on what that means for the project I’m working on.
The Dame Intl says
Fantastic post! My hand hurts now from taking all these notes!
Personally, I want to create a tribe of likeminded strong and independent women who lead by example outside of the status quo. A community that includes those of us that feel patronized by “women’s magazines”. Women like me, who blaze their own trail, live life on their own terms and are unapologetic for who they are and what they like. A place where those just discovering their own mind and abilities can be encouraged and inspired.
Sufian Chaudhary says
This is a seriously amazing post. I love how your blog articles put all kinds of really inspiring and practical thoughts into my mind about developing a better world around me. I am going to work on creating a much more involved tribe which supports my cause and works together to achieve our overall goals. This post is awesome! I just realized that the missing link on my website is a dedicated tribe with die-hard goals to achieve a powerful form of self-realization.
That’s what keeps me coming back here. I don’t read but about 5-6 blogs consistently, Seth Godin, Jon Acuff, Michael Hyatt, Chris Brogan, and You! You should feel really proud that your content is equivalent to theirs. Thanks for sharing this article. Look forward to implementing it.
Great stuff, man.
Very good post, very valid points almost like a checklist on how to build a tribe.
Devi Clark says
I love this. It captures lots of stuff I have been working on, but in a clear and step by step way that means I can see the wood for the trees. I have just found this website, but can see myself becoming an ambassador!
Glad you enjoyed it Devi.
The first post I have from you dates back from 11/2009. You can still surprise me with your throughout approach and showing me always new perspectives that I haven’t thought about to improve my dream. Thanks my friend. Keep Blazing.
I am building my tribe (in Spanish.) We all want to be the masters of our lives. We want also be able to finance the life of our dreams. Even if English is not my native language, I take part of your tribe too. Thanks Jonathan for all the inspiration you provide. And this post is amazing advice!
Steve eMailSmith says
Very similar to building a CULT, after all, isn’t it, Jonathan? :)
Brilliant post, mate!
I just discovered your blog, but I will surely come back to read more…
Steve ? Master eMailSmith ? Lorenzo
Chief Editor # eMail Tips Daily Newsletter
Billy Murphy says
Great post. I think most people fail to do #2 well(myself included). Have seen some good success stories from people who just focused on getting that right.
Carleigh Kaiser says
What kind of tribe do I want to build? That’s just the question I want to answer.
Right now, I am trying to start up an art website in order to sell art to fund traveling. It seems basically 100% self-centered.
As I think about it though, I am really passionate about sharing art to bless others. I want it to move them, bring them peace, bring them hope, inspire them. Back when I taught dance classes and now with my art, I’ve always longed to give away my stuff for free. I never make my prices fixed.
In terms of being paid to exist, this seems like a rather unfortunate passion to have.
There is the idea that if something is priced too low it seems worthless and if it is priced to high it seems worth less. What if there is no price at all and people get to choose how much they pay? Would anyone get on board with that?
Thinking aloud here, I feel like the common enemy could be giving specific worth to something that is priceless…or price in general. The common goal or ideal? I’ll have to think about it.
Thanks for jump starting a really important stream of thoughts. So good!
THIS WILL BE GOOD! Do you want to know why there can never be a manual on how to live life? I can show you in two examples. When Anthony Robbins started becoming really famous in the early 90’s I was a year or two older than him and I tested what he said mathematically. I said to myself…”Let’s see…. If we have 6 billion people on earth(At the time)and half of them looked, acted and had the brains ,the good heart and the drive of Anthony Robbins (Yeah, yeah, i mention him a lot. He did change my life and no, I won’t tell you how. Too bad. lol ) and the other half had the looks, brains, good heart,etc of his wife Becky Robbins how would this work out. We need billions of people to work for below minimum wage at crap jobs toiling away in the hot sun so the corporations we buy stock in can keep going up in stock price and we can tweak it a bit and call that “Global Growth”We also have another couple of hundred million people whose parents are going to just abandon them somewhere and they will have no choice but to become a criminal or starve and die. We will then have another 80% of the world that is dying of malnutrition, aids, dirty water and total irresponsibilty of their employers to clean up the toxic waste that finds its way into their food. This will happen whether these billions of people read the book Awaken the Giant Within”….or not! You are also going to have millions of people who are going to go into the hospital for a minor surgery or testing, and due to the doctors incometance, will never leave there alive. (And maybe they were even reading one of Tonys books while they were planning their future but their future was planning them!) So this leaves 123 people that are left to follow their dreams, ninety nine who just so happen to be born in America to even have access to the book! I guess what I am saying is, no matter how brilliant you are, and no matter how wonderful, friendly,charismatic and gifted you are, we still need a lot more people to mop the floor than to be the chef. We need(and this is my field) 100 stable boys or grooms to shovel shit all day for every person who glamorously rides his horse into the winners circle. We need 1000 people to get cheated on the Internet out of their life savings before Law enforcement finds out what the scam is and puts together a task force to save the last 150. We need 500 people to drop out of law school for every person who gets to be the Judge. In other words…being in the right place at the right time is half of the battle and the other half is discussing if we can do anything about altering that outcome…while at the same time tellling your landlady who has been patiently waiting by the door with her hand out and youre trying to figure out why she would care that you didnt finish Tonys book you but when you do……….will she be lucky to have had you as a tenant!
Now the other side of the coin. We have Tony Robbins as heads, lets make Jean Niditch tails. Who is that, you ask? Exactly. Jean was a woman who had no particular aspirations other than being a good housewife and mother when she came out with a system to color code the food you eat and put them on flash cards so when you run out of cards…you cant eat anymore for the day. Isn’t that fun? Then her friends all saw these cards and they all wanted them. Until finally Jeans lawyer saw the cards himself and said, Jean…this is not a hobby, this is a business. And Weight Watchers was born. I believe when it went public,Jeans shares of stock were worth around 200 million dollars. That was like 30 years ago. So here we have one woman just goofing around and making her friends smile and probably talking about how great those cute colorful cards worked all day long day after day until they came up with another idea………….lets hold weekly meetings to be accountable for our results and actions! Sounds awful to me. (smile) And what I dont uinderstand is, Jean ddint read The Secret, never heard of Anthony Robbins, probably didnt meditate or think of herself as whole, fat maybe, but not whole, and then you have 4/5ths of the world that if they were given any self help book, they would still have to be shoveling shit at the stable. And today, if you are a woman and born in most parts of the middle east, you could read self help books all day long, you can never take your facial coverings off. Period. End of discussion. That to leak something out is something I’d love groups to start forming for, to free THOSE women so they can choose whether to be baby factories or productive in other ways. But slavery should have ended long, long ago. America is happy as long as they can stay on the Internet 12-16 hrs a day and no one takes “their rights to surf the net away. After all, we are all whole, action has already been taken on another dimension. (Eyes roll) And just because I am breaking through 50 years old does not mean I would not have felt so, so much happier getting involved with a wonderfully positive group like A.R. 25 yrs sooner!!! But, I am whole…or I am one for waiting so long. Either way, it’s all good, right? LOL
I’m really impressed at the “conceptualness” of this blog..if that makes any sense. All of these ideas are very specific, thorough, and completely innovative. Just joined the mailing list. Soon to be ‘paid to exist’ :p
Jenny Sansouci says
This is such a freaking cool resource. This is one of those posts that I’m gonna re-visit often. Now, off to go ponder my DEEP WHY….
Thank you. :)
It is a paradigm shifting mentally to go from just sharing your thoughts to cultivating a tribe. To bring it full circle from the Playbook, I think you would say the tribe already exists you just have to engage them.
Saad Asad says
I have always known the importance of having like minded people around me but I guess there some part of me that taught that I don’t need other people. That has changed along with a lot of other things. Now I am consciously trying to find more people that share similar interests and values and this article and the workbook with it will definitely allow me to actively build my own tribe. Thank you so much for the amazing value you provide Jonathan :)
Great article, thanks for posting. Your purpose/mission definitely resonates with me. I can’t wait to start building my own tribe and this post will definitely be a resource for that. Until then, it is certainly a pleasure to be a member of yours.
You are doing such a wonderful job of engaging me – I genuinely look forward to your emails and appreciate your integrity and willingness to tell the whole story – even the stuff that doesn’t “look pretty.” Thank you!
Jason - KAC says
Your emphasis on ‘valuing your tribe’ is so important. It’s easy to forget that is the individuals you meet/help/inspire that elevate you to where you are, and can potentially have you reach that next goal of where you want to be.
There are potential ‘tribe’ members in all you meet, if you give them a chance. One thing I’m aware of is the only way you’ll get followers is to let people share your journey, and experience your ups and downs. Bottling it all up inside, or keeping your head down and bum up without smelling the roses, can have you withholding the opportunity of a tribe to exist.
I know I’m still working on this vital point. It seems all so foreign to most people you meet who are focused on fitting into the 9-5 mould…
Joshua Lisec says
Thank you for sharing this beautifully crafted piece! So much of what you see out there on this topic of audience-building is based on generic advice like, “Go where your target audience is and get them to subscribe to your stuff.”
How are you supposed to act on advice like that without being completely sleazy?
And then here you are, “starting with why,” and laying out a how-to formula — with no step skipped.
Do have a Q for you: how do you ensure overlap between your purpose and the purpose of your future community members? What I mean is, let’s say that your passion is using sustainable materials to hand-knit custom men’s neckwear.
That’s all well and good, but how do you know (1) if there are enough people passionate about that to make your purpose profitable, and (2) how do you find people who share your passion without having to stand on the street corner wearing a sandwich board?
Thanks again Jonathan!
Solid advice and hopefully I can take some learnings from it. Tribe building here we come.
Appreciate the post.ave
prasad mali says
I have been very fascinated by the idea of building a tribe since I heard it first from Seth Godin.
I feel like the foremost step to creating a tribe is to have an idea that like-minded people would like to talk about. Because people love to talk and if you give them something to talk about related to their interest then they’ll become your raving fan.