We On A Mission

So as I mentioned yesterday, there's a way around the problem of wanting to be around people who don't want to be around you, and that is to solicit volunteers.

Remember when you started up your list, so you could talk to your people? This is the other side of that, where you create a space for your people to talk to each other. This is the core of a tribe: they need to have a reason to communicate, and a means of communication.

There are dozens of ways to set this up. Forum software. Skype groups. Facebook groups. Fan pages and social networks and Twitter lists and who knows what else. But the key element - the thing that sets this apart from a cult of personality, like a blog - is that the people are here to talk to each other. They post comments to talk to you. They join your list for you to talk to them. But they join your tribe so they can talk to other people in it.

That's the scary thing about all this for the control freaks out there (like me). When you get people together and let them talk to one another, well, anything can happen. Someone else can come in and say "hey, I'm better than the schmuck who leads this group, let's all bugger off and do my thing instead." Or maybe they just pike their own shit all the time, and it's annoying. Or you release some new product and people respond by saying "hey, you can get that same information for free right over there."

So on some level, you have to be okay with this. We're living in a world where people are increasingly unconcerned with not shitting where you eat. Oh, sure, they don't shit where they themselves eat. We're not that stupid yet. But they will sure as hell shit all over where you eat in a second, if they think there's something in it for them.

Dog-brains, you see. They want to be in the pack, but only so they can watch for their turn to be the alpha dog. And that's okay. Because in your tribe, you always get to be the alpha dog, so when they make their play they actively take people away from your tribe.

Which is good. Thank fucking God and good riddance, because those people didn't really want to be here anyway. There are a few fundamental realities of any tribe which you'll have to get used to.

First of all, about 90% of the people in your audience don't want to be in your tribe. They may sign up or register or whatever, but they don't really give a shit. And the rest are divided into basically three groups.

The dog-brain group is either panting and grinning and fetching the ball whenever you throw it, or trying to carve their own pack out of yours.

The monkey-brain group is working within your tribe to create a tribe of their own, without leading it away. These people end up being "royalty" on most discussion forums; they don't have any real position or authority, but they have their following and they have their enemies.

FInally, you have the last two brain types which I haven't discussed yet (but will be over the next two weeks). They actually get it, and are actively participating in the tribe as a tribe instead of as a place to build their own.

Beyond a certain size threshold, you don't have a single community, but a series of subcommunities. These subcommunities usually run from 150 to 250 members, which is about what most of us find "comfortable" for a community size, so they first start to show up somewhere around the 300+ mark. (Well, really the 3,000+ mark because some 90% of the people "in" your community aren't really there.) So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to let those communities form and define themselves.

Of course, you also want to get people rallied around a central concept, and it can be somewhat hard to define that if you're just writing a gradually-evolving blog that started with one subject and turned into another and now it's becoming something else entirely.

So you need some way to get those people rallied, and if you have a product you're selling that might be one way to do it, but people do not tend to rally around the idea of something on the internet.

We'll talk about the clear answer to this tomorrow.