Everyone needs a support system. That’s why humans maintain family connections. In the social media ecosphere this translates to building a tribe. While Chris Brogan, Brian Clarke (aka Copyblogger), Darren Rowse (aka Problogger) or Trey Pennington make tribe building look easy, the reality is that it takes hard work over time to build relationships. You can’t just step onto the social media stage, announce, “Here I am” and expect anyone to care.
While you might argue that Hollywood personalities and sports stars have managed to do this, bear in mind that you’re talking about fan-magnets who already have a well established personal brand. The reality is that these stars, notably LeBron James and Ashton Kutcher, are mainly interested in creating another channel for broadcasting their messages and achieving their personal goals.
In case you aren’t already a major celebrity, here are seven pointers to set you on the path to growing your social media clan of like-minded individuals.
- Provide social currency. In today’s socially connected world, everyone’s looking for ways to improve their positioning with colleagues and followers. Make it easy for them by sharing strong content, whether it’s information that you’ve created or have found and sourced from other sites. Make sure that you give credit where appropriate to show that you’re a team player.
- Be generous without always thinking WIIFM (What’s in it for me). This means “pay it forward.” Consider how what you’re sharing can help other people, not what you’ll get in return. Think like Juliette when she first fell in love with Romeo, my love is bountiful, the more I give, the more I get. The same holds true for social media sharing.
- Write guest posts where appropriate. Help others build their blogs and media entities. Give them your best stuff to entice their readers to come visit your blog or website. Your goal is make them look good for having asked you to share your knowledge with their audience. Don’t worry about whether how many their readers come immediately to your site.
- Socialize online. Find online forums where you can participate and contribute. There’re a wide variety of options such as Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and specialized social media platforms. Alternatively, you can provide an offline group with an online platform through the use of Yahoo Groups or a similar offering. Many not-for-profit groups use a free service like this to communicate online. Another alternative is Twitter chats. For example, Mack Collier has gathered a sizable group of bloggers for his fast moving Sunday evening BlogChats and TheSocialCMO curates a talk on Mondays called MMChat.
- Join an organization. Put some thought into which organizations you want to be associated with and how you want to engage with their members. Ideally, it should provide both online and offline events where you can interact with members. For example, Lisa Petrilli (whose ability to build her blogging tribe is discussed here) heads an organization called MENG, the Marketing Executives Networking Group, which hosts an active online forum, has online training and live meetings across the US. This puts Lisa at the center of a very connected group of individuals. (Disclaimer-I’ve been a member of MENG since 2001.)
- Find a cause. Often people looking to expand their networks have gotten involved in not-for-profit organizations and social. Using social media, Chase Bank has connected with a broad base of customers and prospects by asking them to determine how they should distribute $5 million to the community. Another great example is Tweetsgiving, the creative brainchild of Likeable Media’s Carrie Kerpen who used Twitter to attract funds for schools in Africa. On a smaller scale, individuals can have an impact. For example, upset by a Rutgers student who committed suicide as a result of his social media interactions, Marjorie Clayman gathered friends online for the Social Media Safety (#SMSafety) Twitter Chat to make social media and the Internet safer.
- Get out and meet people in real life. Participate in live events to build real world connections with some of the people you are networking with virtually. Meeting people face-to-face gives you an extra feeling of connection. There’s a real person behind the avatar with a personality that you have already engaged with. This doesn’t mean that you should continue to send people endless emails once they give you their business card. The goal is to personalize your communications and build on the exchanges you’ve already had. Among the many options to consider are Meetups, classes, conferences and boot camps.
Regardless of which of these steps you take, what’s important is to understand that you’re part of a community that works best when everyone has something of value to bring to the party. It takes time and effort to build strong relationships but at the end of the day, it’s well worth the investment.
If you’ve got additional suggestions about how to expand your tribe, please add them to in the comments section.
Photo credit: Mike Baird via Flickr