Finding Your Tribe: Sage Advice from Blogging Chieftain Seth Godin

September 30, 2015
 / 32 comments

finding your tribe

Do you feel pressured to create a tribe?

By “tribe” I mean a group of people who read your blog, become fans of what you produce, and remain loyal followers, loving and respecting you along the way.

In other words, a large internet following.

I know I did (big time) when I first started blogging for income back in 2012.

Because that’s what all the chieftains were telling me to do.

If you want to earn income with your blogging, you should feel a burn to build a tribe.

Just don’t focus on it.

Huh?

Let me explain…

Once I started roaming the internet plains in search of knowledge, I soon noticed there were many programs on “how to build a tribe”.

I visited the campsites of every online medicine man (influencer) in my niche that I could find, and they all beat the same drum…

Become a Tribal Leader!  (For Only $972)

Guru. Rockstar. Ninja. Most use these monikers instead of “Chieftain.” Even today.

Side note: Anyone who calls themselves a Ninja, Rockstar, Sherpa or Guru is probably not actually one.

Doesn’t matter what they go by. Most still have this mentality…

“Do XYZ, and you will get to join me at the campfire and smoke the peace pipe, because I’m a guru and I said to do it.”

They tell us what to do and we do it, without questioning it.

Who wouldn’t love throngs of folks doing what you say without question?

Well, me. I don’t want that.

Now If we’re honest, becoming an online guru that people respect and want to emulate is a seductive thing to chase. I once chased it myself.

Because nobody want’s only 20 people on their email list. They would trade that for 20,000 in a heartbeat.

Unless you don’t care who reads what you write. In that case, you live in a blessed era, because now you can easily do that for less than $45 bucks a year.

But most of us want the outward signs of success along with inner satisfaction. Metaphorically speaking, we want to wear a “headdress” like other internet chieftains wear.

You see them proudly show off their tribal garb and, truth be told, we would too if we owned a dazzling Sagamore display filled with these colorful feathers:

•Selfies in Exotic Locations
•Photos of their Latest Toys
•Social Media Followers in the hundreds of thousands
•NY Times Bestselling Books
•Various “Awards” (you have never heard of before)
•How much money they made last month (of course it’s a HUGE figure)

Now who wouldn’t want to have feathers like these in their cap?

Let’s be real, many folks blog because they crave a huge following that leads to material wealth and fame, which is a normal human desire.

To reach blogging success, the key is to channel our vain desires properly.

So if you yearn to become some variation of an internet sachem, that’s normal and a noble goal, because most of you reading this want to ultimately be a source of (good) change in this world, and your blog niche is YOUR vehicle to do that.

So how do you get there? That’s my point to this post: let’s pause and consider how to best go about “building a tribe.” If you want to lead a tribe, what’s the real way to get there?

This is a question I think every new blogger with big dreams and high ambitions should examine.

And to find some answers, let’s now consider something Seth Godin said. His quote boils down to the one simple truth that could change your life.

Wise Words From a Reluctant Mega Rockstar Ninja Guru

If you don’t know who Seth Godin is, he happens to be one of the biggest online marketing GURUS on the planet.

What makes him different is the fact that he doesn’t want to be known as a guru, and he likes it when people he meets don’t know who he is. I’ve heard him say straight out that fame does not do anything to make his life better.

Yet he is famous (to many. Fame is relative, for sure.)…famous enough to have over a millions subscribers to his blog. Several NY Times Bestsellers. Keynote speaking at huge industry conferences.

finding your tribe
Seth Signing by Peter Bromberg: Flickr CC

The more I listen to Seth Godin share advice, the more enlightened I become to what works and doesn’t work in the pursuit of online success.

For example, earlier in the year, Godin was interviewed by Jeff Goins on his Portfolio Life podcast.

I want to share something Godin said about online tribal leaders and his preferred method to building an internet following…

Here’s an excerpt taken from the conversation between Goins and Godin:

Goins: “Seth, you once said to me that you’re trying very hard to not be a guru. And yet, this is the way that I hear a lot of people still refer to you as a marketing guru, and if we look at your career, at least the public part of it that I’ve watched and still continue to see, it seems that at times, you’re sort of being thrust into the limelight or on stage and I don’t think you’re afraid of that, but you’re always finding subversive ways to avoid celebrity.

For example, kind of bypassing the bookstores, your book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, isn’t even on Amazon. Although I did see some copies that somebody was selling. You know, so you’re bypassing some of those channels and going directly to the fans and, you know, when Yahoo acquired YoYo Dine you became the VP of Marketing There, and then you left after a year…Talk about that. When do we, when we want to make things better and change and impact the culture, when do you kind of lean in to your influence and when and why do you find different ways of connect with people?”

Godin: “Well let me clarify one thing: I was never the VP of Marketing. I was VP of Direct Marketing. I don’t want to take more credit than I should.

The guru thing works like this: Guru say, “You should do this because I’m a guru.” That’s really seductive, because if people buy in to it, they’re more likely to do it. And then you get the credit and you make change happen. It’s dangerous because you’re asking people not to think for themselves. And I’m willing to sacrifice the amount of change I make and I’m willing to sacrifice the number of things I sell because I don’t keep track of how much I sell, because in exchange for never ever saying to people, “Don’t think for yourself.”

Because, I think the only scalable way that we’re going to heal the problems around us and reach our potential is if we can educate each other and trust people to think for themselves. And most of the things I see wrong in our culture is because tribes, selfish tribal leaders have insisted that their followers do something that is not in their long-term interest, and they do it for selfish reasons, and if we can get past that by undermining the top down, do what I say because I’m in charge mindset, I think we’re all going to be better off. But I would be a hypocrite if I said to people, “Do it because I said so.” So that’s why I’ve tried to resist that idea of “I’m a guru, here’s what I say.” And I’ve tried to defend my concepts and ideas with examples and stories and open up the thinking so that other people can think for themselves and if they come up with a different approach…that’s sort of the philosophy.

And in terms of being “famous”, I’m delighted that I’m not famous, almost no one  I meet knows who I am, which is perfect. And, I have no hope or desire to be more famous. It doesn’t make my life better.”

Goins: “Fame seems seductive for those who want to influence and make the world better. How does influence differ from fame (I’m sort of stacking questions here but I’d like for you to unpack that briefly).”

Godin: “We live in a culture where people want to buy stuff from famous people. They want to go to a restaurant where the chef has been on television. So I guess the question is, what’s your goal when you open a restaurant. What’s your goal when you run for office or work in a government agency. And, you can certainly rationalize becoming famous as a way to achieve your goal, but I think we have plenty of history to show there are many many changes made by people in the world who are not famous.”

Goins: “Well said.”

The Secret to Finding Your Tribe is…

Empower others.

That’s it.

How? By serving those who want to connect.

But you must put yourself out there first.

That’s the core of Seth Godin’s message throughout all his talks and books.

In our pursuit of blogging success, if we focus on becoming a tribal leader, we slow down our growth. Thinking about our own status causes us to focus on trying to impress people, which is not serving them. It is annoying and off-putting. This retards progress, because your blog visitor has their own needs, and they hope your blog will provide some sort of solution.

If you aren’t serving something useful, and are instead trying to impress, your website visitors will be gone in less than 60 seconds.

Because here’s the thing, you don’t have to be famous to be a happy blogger that makes money.

There are many unknown people quietly killing it out here in the blogosphere. People who don’t get recognized at Wal-Mart. Funny but it’s true, they don’t even get recognized at their industry conferences.

They just silently crush it.

3 Closing Thoughts

1. Becoming an authoritative expert (guru) takes time and experience, and the only way to get there is to serve people.

2. Finding your tribe does not involve chasing colorful feathers blowing in the wind, so you can glue together an impressive looking headdress.

3. Better to serve others in anonymity while generating solid income than to be a chief with no (loyal) tribe.

Agree? Let me know in the comments below what you think.

Author Bio:

Matthew Kaboomis Loomis is the owner of Build Your Own Blog. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter

Photo Credit: Seth Signing by Peter Bromberg  CC BY-SA 2.0

32 comments

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  1. Dr. Rin Porter says:    •   4 years

    It’s certainly true that it is better to give than to receive, and that to truly succeed we must put ourselves aside and help others. Seeking recognition is not the way to earn respect.

    But the American Indian themed analogies made in this post are offensive to me. I wish you had used some other analogy. I get that you were picking up on Seth Godin’s language, but he should not have used that language either.

    Among the Northern Plains Indian tribes that I have known, a chief is one who serves others and is respected by everyone, not someone who orders others around. In former times, the chief was the one who lived in the poorest tipi and gave away his belongings to those who needed them.

    Anyone who is working in the social media world gets respect by helping others, as you have done so often and so successfully, and seeks to serve, rather than to be served.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Hi Dr. Rin,

      When I think of tribes, my viewpoint is international. Tribes have and still are on every continent, and they all fit the few general analogies here. “Tribe” is a term that’s been used by online professionals for many years now. I have never come across anyone saying they were offended by it. I’m sad that you were offended by it. When I hear “tribes”, I think about the Celtic tribes and Germanic tribes of Europe. I also think of other places.

      Godin is not the first or only one to use the term “tribes” in this context. People seem to resonate with it. But you’re right, I’m using it here because people before me have used it.

      Maybe new terminology will emerge. We shall see.

    2. Sgt. Mac says:    •   4 years

      Leave it to the first commenter to be offended, No matter what analogy he used, someone in this day and age, would be offended.Come on, just enjoy the passion and try to learn something.

  2. Odiah Azu says:    •   4 years

    Empower others… that’s something that will probably never leave me. If I ever decide to start a blog–start a tribe–, that will be its core.
    Thanks Matthew, I appreciate the enlightenment.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Hi Odiah,

      Glad you found this enlightening, Odiah.

      Those two words are a powerful “core” to tribe building. That’s what Seth is all about. Empowering others.

      That’s my goal for this website.

      Cheers,

      Matthew

  3. Joan says:    •   4 years

    As a teacher I encouraged students to challenge the mainstream/textbook thinking. Bottom line, it’s still very important to empower others to think for themselves, to help themselves. “Feed a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” It goes something like that. That’s empowerment. Unfortunately, or fortunately for those looking for the label that gives them status as the expert, many people just want the fish and would rather the expert do the fishing…that’s not for me. I rejoice when I see how others take their own lives in their hands and contribute to the greater good.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Hi Joan,

      It sounds like we live by the same philosophy…I live out this empowering others principle as congruently as I can through all areas of life: Personal, Relational, Political, Spiritual.

      I have no interest in controlling others.

      You sound like a great teacher.

      Cheers to your success,

      Matthew

  4. Sierra Mays says:    •   4 years

    That is an awesome statement, to empower your readers rather than yourself. I’m glad I read this, now I feel like starting my own blog. But really Matthew, the thought of empowering my readers over myself is something I never would have considered, so I think this was an awesome project. Thanks!

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Love your comment, Sierra!

      I’m happy to hear you say this. 🙂

      I know starting out I was more focused on empowering myself, and that slowed my progress. Thanks to a few people I look up to, like Seth, I was able to make the adjustment.

      You picked this up right off that bat, which is awesome!

      Keep in touch,

      Matthew

  5. Zya Blu says:    •   4 years

    I have always believed in empowering others and giving. This hits home to me in so many ways and confirms the core values that I have always embraced. Although I am Native American, there is no offense taken with the analogy that was given for one who really reads and absorbs this with an open mind would see that the context is symbolic of diversity and the common language of exchange – growth, giving, selflessness and empowerment. In my varied career, I have held “many-a-title” but was never moved by one, nor did I allow it to place me above anyone in my charge. It’s never been about title or being a guru but doing what you must to make things happen, as a team. As a matter of fact, one of my traits – remaining humble- has served me well. An awesome read. Thank you. Now, where are the implementation and execution plans? LOL

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Zya,

      I’m so happy you did not find the “tribal leader” analogy to be offensive.

      You sound like an amazing person, someone I would want to work for if I was in a job setting with you.

      As for the “implementation and execution plans”, start with Step 1. 😉

      Let me know if you need anything.

      Matthew

    2. Helen M. Freeman says:    •   4 years

      I’m with you Zya!
      Where are the implementation and execution plans?
      Xylyne!!

  6. Jonathan Acabo says:    •   4 years

    Hi Sir Mathew,

    I love that last 3 thoughts you summed up, but this one struck me: “Becoming an authoritative expert (guru) takes time and experience, and the only way to get there is to serve people.” While it is realistic that becoming in expert takes times and experience, by mentioning experience it is by following the footsteps of the experts. It means that we should take considerably the constructive criticisms of the experts towards our outputs, for example. In that way, we will grow.

    This is my point of view as a novice. 😀

    Thank you.

    Jon

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Hi Jonathan,

      For sure, mate! Any constructive criticism we can get personally from an expert is like gold. As long as the “expert” really is one and has done it.

      Thanks for adding that point to our dialogue here.

      See you around,

      Matthew

      1. Jonathan Acabo says:    •   4 years

        I’m thrilled about the announcement of the winner. I just cant wait, Sir!
        😀 I pray and I wish, I dream!…

  7. Deb Palmer says:    •   4 years

    I love that this post could have been written by a modern day Paul speaking to the Colossians, via internet. The rewards of serving others quietly are tremendous. I, too, have great respect for those who give without expectation of a return.
    My gifts to others are small, especially when compared to the delight I receive when my words bring a grin, a chuckle or a tear.
    Thanks for a thought provoking and encouraging post.
    Deb

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Hi Deb,

      Hope you had a great weekend. 🙂

      Spot on analogy there! Colossians definitely captures the spirit of empowering others.

      That’s great how you are grateful for every small gesture you receive back when helping others.

      Talk soon,

      Matthew

  8. Phoenicia says:    •   4 years

    A lot of information and suggestions.in this post.

    I like the saying;
    “Give a man fish and feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Hi Phoenicia,

      That is certainly a powerful saying that I first heard around the turn of the century…still applies to blogging in 2015.

      Good to see you again.

      Have an empowering week,

      Matthew

    2. Jonathan Acabo says:    •   4 years

      Yes, I love the philosophy!

  9. Tony says:    •   4 years

    Great article Matthew. I had to stop blogging on my site because I just didn’t know where to go with it.
    Yes, I was comparing myself with the “Gurus” and thought “I’m never going to be able to match what they do”.
    I don’t have a product to offer, just some of my life experience. But you do sometimes feel as though you are talking to yourself when you get no response to your posts.
    I’ll start again soon.
    Thanks for your constant support and articles.

  10. Vincent Ottey says:    •   4 years

    This was good for me I needed a push and Seth was it. Thank you Matthew,keep the the information coming.

  11. Diane Dahli says:    •   4 years

    Hey, Matthew, I’ve been following you through various links on other bloggers’ sites, and have used your inspirational ideas to begin my own blog 4 months ago. I’ve been up and running for a few weeks, and wish I had started years ago. My blog relates to people around my age, and I hope to use my looong life experience to empower them to live fully and use their influence to create more good in the world. Lofty goals, I know. But not impossible. Thank you for your help so far. Check out my blog, if you wish.

  12. Danny D says:    •   4 years

    My blog is about responsible pet parenting and providing dogs with an optimal lifestyle and nutrition. I get a lot of g+1’s but I never really seem to get replies in my postings by readers. My traffic has been increasing and I have 23 followers in google +. I would rather provide regular content to a small group who will actually value my writing rather than a large group who just gloss over my posts without any real interest.

    One of my reader tactics is to post in google communities that relate to what my website is about. Every time I update my blog with a new post, I share it in all of the communities I’ve joined with.

  13. Mwamba says:    •   4 years

    I totally agree with the philosophy of empowering others and teaching them to think independently. In my home country, like in many countries in Africa, tribal chiefs still a have a strong influence on their subjects. So I kind of relate to your analogy – a guru telling his loyal followers to”do xyz” just because he says so. I think you should give people enough credible reasons to follow you while allowing them the freedom to make their own choices.
    Great work Matthew! Reading this article has been of great benefit.

  14. Annamarie says:    •   4 years

    Yes I’m with you, love Seth Godin, have all but the latest one of his books. The way to entice people to think for themselves is right down my alley. Sort of the way I have been brought up as a European.
    I also love your style Matthew, but that does not mean I would like to copy either of you. I simply like reading that type of blog.
    Love Annamarie

  15. Dan Crofts says:    •   4 years

    Matthew,

    Thank you for this — this is good, solid advice. Currently, I am in the process of trying to start my own for-profit blog. At this stage, my focus is mainly on gathering around me a small community of people who: 1) Know me already; and 2) Have a personal interest in the topic I intend to explore. Please wish me luck!

    Best,

    -Dan

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Hey Dan,

      I do wish you lots of luck….wait. I don’t believe in luck. 🙂 I wish you lots of perseverance, creativity and knowledge.

      I’m glad this post was helpful!

      Keep in touch,

      Matthew

  16. Kevin Carlton says:    •   4 years

    Hi Matthew

    I’m not sure whether it’s just me, but I actually crave influence far more than money.

    Maybe this comes from a lack of parental attention in my childhood. Maybe it’s genetic or maybe it’s a basic human instinct in everyone – although some people seem much more interested in money and fame.

    Once you’re dead and gone, people remember you for the impact you had on their lives NOT how much money you made or how well known you were.

    And when I mean influence, I mean it in just the way Seth describes it. That is helping others through your own knowledge and experience rather being followed by lemmings.

    1. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

      Hi Kevin,

      Craving influence over money is a good place for our heart to be.
      Good question on where that desire comes from, or why some have it and others don’t….maybe it boils down to selfishness vs. servanthood? Why someone chooses one over another can vary and be quite complicated, I’m sure, based on many factors. I don’t think there’s one simple answer.

      Is altruism intrinsically selfish? Or is there something spiritual going on?

      Seeing who is a servant leader and who craves money is pretty easy to spot by their fruits. Yet, we all struggle between the two at times in life. Sometimes we foolishly choose to follow a wolf dressed as a sheep because we crave the lifestyle they flaunt in their marketing tactics.

      The more I listen to Seth, the more amazed I am at his simple wisdom. No wonder people want to call him a “guru”, because he is wise. And likable. And someone people want to follow. His track record over time convinces me to keep listening to him.

      Many people are “lemmings” and don’t even know it. (I love the word “lemmings.”)

      Matthew

  17. Sofía Villarreal says:    •   4 years

    Hello Matt!

    This is truly helpful, thank you for sharing!

    I have definitely thought that while I share pieces of what’s on my mind through my blog, I hope for the readers to find something on their own, as if it was written for them,, although, to be honest even though there’s more traffic now and I know I’m quite new, I still don’t recognize a loyal tribe. I guess I’m on the right track though… After reading this.

    Thanks again Matt, great post, as always

    Sofía

  18. Matthew Loomis says:    •   4 years Author

    Hi Sofia,

    How are you doing lately?

    Sounds like your audience continues to grow, which is awesome to hear.

    As your audience becomes more clear to you, you will better know how to best serve their needs.

    Yes, I would say you’re on the right track. Continue producing blog posts that people want, and stay in touch with them by building an email list along the way.

    You will have a tangible tribe eventually.

    Good to hear from you and I hope you’ll drop by more often.

    Matthew