Ignore the Crowds, Connect With Tribes

Listening to current marketing principles today, one can easily become distracted in the multitude of social media channels and where the real value lies. One basic principle that is being adopted more is “crowd sourcing” or “marketing to crowds,” when in fact the validity of this argument is actually very weak.

Listening to current marketing principles today; one can easily
become distracted in the multitude of social media channels and where
the real value lies. One basic principle we’ve seen promoted and more
often adopted is “crowd sourcing” or “marketing to crowds” when in fact
the validity of this argument is actually very weak.


The merits of a crowd–as defined by most dictionaries define it as
“a collection of people.” Now although the logic behind communicating
to a large volume of people is clear, it’s simply not a clear and
effective strategy when your objective is to create change (I mean real
change–like the stuff that wins you big markets). Crowds are not
binded by a collective cause OR are they led by any individual member.
So in fact the crowd simply has location and one interest which brings
them together. It’s like attending a major sporting event where you’ll
see families, teenagers, professionals and more all cheering for the
same team. Now would you assume they will listen to the same message?
Would you assume they are all communicating regularly with each other?

A very close friend of the “CROWD” is the “TRIBE.” The word TRIBE
immediately invokes a sense or pride, commitment and influence. A tribe
has a leader. It has a common cause and a sense of purpose. Tribes
are also very big, just like crowds–in fact likely to be bigger. The
challenge a marketer tackles is “How to align YOUR objectives with a
TRIBE to create a connection?”

Organisations invest in new markets such as the AFL with the
expansion in Greater Western Sydney, Major League Baseball expand
through China and the NFL are now committed to a Latina market in the
United States. Each with a commitment to connect their sport with a
populous market. Those markets have existing (and successful)
alternative sporting codes already in adoption; most likely with good
history. So in fact it’s not a matter of offering a product to sell,
it’s more about creating a movement for long term adoption and change.

A clear communication message is critical to wining acceptance and a open sense of mind. The USA Senator Bill Bradley defines a movement as having the following basic elements:

1. A story that tells what you are and the future you are trying to build

2. A connection between and among the leader and the tribe (community)


3. Provide something to do–to participate (with fewer limits the better)

Crowds can become tribes, and tribes can become connected to your
movement. To ensure you are well equipped to support such a movement
you at a minimum must have the following in play:

> A shared interest–with your organisation and the tribe

> A effective way for members to communicate (hence community websites)

I am a big fan of Seth Godin who comments YOUR organisation can increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by:

  • Transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change;
  • Providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications; and
  • Leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members.

Typically organisations focus on the third outcome. Which although
may bring short lived success; will remain distant from creating any
real change.


How much of your communication strategy is winning over tribes in your key markets?


About the author

Andrew Collins, the Founder & CEO of a multi-award winning social media and technology group Mailman. Based in Shanghai, Mailman has pioneered a dozen online initiatives including a Hollywood entertainment portal for China, Chinese social media management platforms, online sports networks, applications and more