Using a social media framework to grow your tribe

It takes two things to have tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

When you gather people together with a shared passion and give them the tools to communicate – amazing things will happen. People are incredibly inventive and you’ll be surprised and delighted by what occurs when you just give people a way to connect.

The tendency is to focus on leveraging the tribe to make it grow. But I’ve found that giving the tribe ways to turn their shared interests into passionate goals and providing them the tools to tighten their communications are the most effective ways to strengthen the tribe.

The following framework has been very helpful to me when working with clients on a social media strategy to help them build and grow their tribe.

(My original inspiration for this framework came from Chris Brogan’s post here. Chris is a rock star and if you don’t read his blog already, you should.)

I describe a social media framework as having four main components. A listening station, passports, embassies and a home base.

Listening Station
The listening station is where everything starts. First you have to know what is being said about you throughout the web. A well equipped professional listening station will include tools from companies like Radian6 and Scoutlabs. The truth is you can get pretty much everything you need with free tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and Google Alerts.

Example:
Currently, I have google alerts letting me know every time someone posts something about me online and I use PeopleBrowsr to for real time monitoring for mentions on twitter, YouTube and facebook.

Passports
Passports are profiles you’ll want to have so that you can easily take part in conversations that you may pick up on with your listening station. You want to have passports in place for all the major social networking sites, even if you don’t think you’re going to engage in all of them. You want to make sure that if a conversation starts that you would want
to be part of, you already have your profile in place. Later, we’ll talk about how your fans can use their passports to help spread the word about your tribe. And sometimes you’ll decide to turn passports into embassies.

Example:  Even though Seth doesn’t use twitter actively, he does control@sethgodin.

Embassies
Embassies are microsites on  social networks where you are actively engaged. Just like a country does business in embassies located in other countries, you will fully engage in conversations in your embassies on other networks. The most obvious examples of an embassy is a Facebook fan page. Increasingly my clients are setting up full fledged embassies on Twitter as well. Your interactions in your embassy will be split between actively engaging people and gently nudging them towards your home base.

Example: AT&T engages actively with customers, answering questions and providing support on their facebook fan page.

Home Base
Your home base is where your true fans gather. For some people like Seth and myself, this is a blog. But many of my clients are taking this to the next step and have a full featured community for their fans to engage in.

Example: Dan Miller’s fans connect with Dan and each other at 48 Days.

The free prize
Once you’ve got a tight tribe you’ll find that with very little encouragement the members will take their own passports and go out and become evangelists sharing your message with their sphere of influence.

Example: Justin (someone I don’t know personally, but would like to consider a member of my tribe) sent a post of mine to his friend Maureen (another person I do not know, yet a potential future tribe member).  Maureen then posted a link to my blog on her blog/home base: maureencrisp.blogspot.com

Added bonus of the social media framework

Having this framework in place makes it much easier to know what to do when a new social network appears.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.radian6.com David Alston

    Hey there Jon,
    A very cool way of describing the processes many of us go through but probably have never stopped to think about how it’s framed up. Very happy the process starts with listening (but hey I’m biased – and thanks for the shout out too btw). I love the names you’ve come up for for the two in between steps that people often forget to think of – passports and embassies. So true that it’s important to snap up your personal or company brand passports on the various networks while they are still available.
    Cheers.
    @davidalston
    Radian6

  • http://www.thomasnelson.com Lindsey Nobles

    Sad I was on vacation when you met with the Thomas Nelson team. @michaelhyatt said it was extraordinary.

  • http://www.jessegiglio.com Jesse Giglio

    Great post Jon, love the simplicty and utilization of real examples. Thanks.

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff

    Great blog, Jon!

  • http://twitter.com/jgrubbs @jgrubbs

    Jon,
    Great article!! I already use PeopleBrowsr and Google Alerts, and have started testing Trackle. Have you tried Trackle? I started using during their twitter contest, it’s pretty neat: http://www.trackle.com/

  • http://www.proworks.com/blog Loyan

    Reading Leo Laporte’s post regarding social media at http://leoville.com/buzz-kill reminded me of how important “Home Base” is. Seems it should not only be a central gathering place for fans but also a single place to collect important content that may be published on different networks or channels.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jondale Jon Dale

    Great point. I agree.  Thanks for reading.
    Jon

  • http://www.whatsleftout.com Austin L. Church

    Jon, I really like the metaphors that you use to think about social media. I might change ‚Äúfree prize‚Äù to ‚Äúcultural artifact.‚Äù Great content in a particular tribe is always more than words, information, or pictures. It will also carry the personality, dialect, or art of the tribe. A tribe’s ambassadors may speak other languages, but their lingo and inflection and facial expressions and body language will always trace back to their roots. I’m a Southerner. People always hear it in my voice. The culture produces unique artifacts. Sweet tea, anyone? The artifacts are alluring because they allow us to enter and ‚Äútouch‚Äù a strange tribe. We all want more than a prize or souvenir. We want authentic experiences.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jondale Jon Dale

    Thanks Austin.  I like Cultural Artifact, I may start using that.  Free Prize is of course, Seth Godins term.
    Thanks for reading and commenting.
    Jon