Harnessing the Disruptive Power of the Tribe

Following my last blog post, I have been thinking about online tribes and how the tribal nature of social media, and wondering if online tribes really have that much power. One of my clients refers to the navel gazing on Twitter, and I know that my own social media efforts tend to keep me in a circle of like-minded tribe members, which doesn’t necessarily engender fresh thinking, or fresh contacts that can build your brand.

Then I saw this video by cultural thinker Seth Godin on TED about the power of the tribes we lead. Godin’s argument is that all of us have a mission, whether we acknowledge it or not, to change the world around us. He also argues that we are on the cusp of changing the way ideas are exchanged. All of us are in positions of leadership, and the power of the Web and social networking plays a huge role here.

Godin’s argument is that you change the world through connections. We all belong to different tribes, and you can seek out like-minded tribe members, and when the tribe becomes big enough, you suddenly have a movement. The Obama election campaign is a prime example. This may have been the first presidential election won via the web because it became a tribal movement. The trick is to find the true believers who will carry your message to the next set of believers, and suddenly it goes viral.

So once again, it’s about expressing your passion and finding a way to express that passion to your tribe, so they can carry the word. Suddenly, my insular world of like-minded network connections takes on a greater importance. If you can find a way to lead them, you can effect change.

As a PR professional, I was particularly interested in Godin’s diagram of what drives change. It starts with telling a story. The story lets you connect with the tribe, from which you can lead a movement and effect change. But it all starts with a story, which is something that PR professionals traditionally do well.

So the power of social media is in the potential to build a tribe. The question is if you are up to the challenge to become a tribal leader.

Check out the video and post comments on what you think.

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