"Blogs and other social media are a brilliant way to build a 'tribe' around your point of view, but at what point does that become a business?"
This was the question raised by Sonia Simone, CMO of Copyblogger, and Chris Garrett, Online Business Coach during their session at the Blogworld Expo. During their session, "What is the Difference Between a Tribe and a Business", the duo discussed the joys, challenges, and pitfalls of building a business around a tribe.
If you're unfamiliar with the term "tribe", Simone stated, for her, a tribe was unified by one thing - passion. Essentially anything people can get fanatic about / excited about, there is a tribe for that. She states, "We are complete internet marketing geeks. there are fitness tribes. celeb gossip tribes. there are tribes around SEO. Anything people are really jazzed about. there is a fountain pen tribe. 'those people are whacked'."
If you're interested in creating a tribe, they suggest you start with something free: blog comments, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Any free place where people can discuss similar things. Garrett goes on to say:
"It's getting harder and harder to have a free community where you can keep all the bad guys out. if you have just a one dollar fee, it's amazing the difference it makes. It can become a full time job just taking the crap out. there's a huge tone difference when you raise the barrier for entry. As soon as you charge, people have some investment in getting some value out of it. Free is awesome, great for attention, but you can't build a business around it until you start charging."
If you find your tribe is gaining popularity, you need to ask yourself... when does a tribe become a business? Simone and Garrett lay out some tips on what people would be willing to pay for.
- Increased access
- A way to escape the trolls
- Advanced training
- A better format for the tribe
Transitioning from a free platform to a paid service can be quite daunting, and there are numerous up-hill battles you'll have to face. But, if you tell your audience where you're going, and are up front with them, then you'll get less backlash. Anticipate the drama, "it's not all unicorns and rainbows", as Garrett but put it. Certain people will always be a pain in your ass, no matter how you handle matters. You must step up and be the Sheriff, and take control... you are the rule maker, and be clear about that.
Three things to remember when thinking about your tribe:
1.) Your tribe starts with you, your passion and how you go about framing that passion. Don't overshare anything, especially anything that could be construed as "stupid stuff".
2.) You are the leader, so act like it. Set the ground rules that will support your tribe. (Roadhouse Rule: Be nice until it's time to not be nice.)
3.) You CAN move from free to paid, when you find out what your tribe is willing to pay for.
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