Build a Tribe for Your Photography

First came the Web. Then came blogs and podcasts and Facebook and Twitter.

Most of us think of these innovations as new ways to communicate. But we should also think of them as new opportunities to lead.

Using Online Communities to Lead

In 2008, Seth Godin published Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. Godin has written about being a change agent in his previous books, including Purple Cow and The Dip. In Tribes, Godin helps us to understand how online communities foster the rise of leaders.

Godin shows that it is easier today, because of the Web, to find others who think like you. We can build upon these strong connections with others to create and mobilize our own “tribes.”

A “crowd” is comprised of many weak connections between people. “Tribes,” on the other hand, have strong connections.

As an illustration of the power of the tribe, Godin gives the example of Scott Beale of Laughing Squid, who has used all the online tools at his disposal to market himself — and build a tribe.

AltaVista Party at Ginger Man

Beale was able to leverage his tribe at a conference in 2008. Writes Godin:

…he got tired of waiting to get into the Google party. He found a deserted bar down the street, grabbed some tables in the back and fired up his cell phone. Using Twitter, he announced: ‘AltaVista Party at Ginger Man.’ Within a few minutes eight people showed up, then it was fifty. Soon there was a line out the door.

Godin makes clear that Beale didn’t simply sign up for Twitter, tweet a message and produce an instant party. Beale’s party took four years of marketing to produce. But the results were very real; Beale’s tribe showed up for him.

Online communities present the same kinds of opportunities for your photography business. I have friends who use social networks to drum up attendance at workshops, sell self-published books, and in many other ways. They are successful to the extent they lead tribes — as opposed to communicate to crowds.

A Numbers Game

Of course, networking was around long before the computer. Marketing 101 teaches that if you talk to 1,000 people, perhaps 100 will be interested in your idea. Of those 100, only 10 might buy. And to convert those 10, you will need to get your name in front of them repeatedly — perhaps six to eight times before the deal is sealed.

The marketing challenge has always been to reach enough people, often enough, to find those who will buy.

The Web puts this entire networking game at your fingertips. It allows you to find an audience, build that audience, and to touch that audience regularly — on a daily or even minute-by-minute basis if you like.

Build a tribe, and serve that tribe, and you will create what the authors Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles call “raving fans,” in the book of the same name. These are customers and associates who are not just satisfied with what you do — but excited enough to tell the world about it.

And guess what? They will use tools like blogs, podcasts, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word faster and more broadly than ever before, helping your tribe to continue to grow.

2 Responses to “Build a Tribe for Your Photography”

  1. My uncle, a photographer, forwarded your post to me. Very well done. I love your reference to networking and marketing 101. Plus you define the use of social networks in terms of real value. I will be recommending your article to non-photographer social networking beginners.

  2. Wow this is such a great post. This really explains the benefit of social media in a motivating way. Im defs gonna start concentrating on it...Cheers

Leave a Reply