What am I calling a tribe and why should I care? If you own a business or work for a business – it’s critical for you to understand tribal behavior in today’s socially connected world.
Definition.com offers this definition for the word tribe: “a class or set of persons, esp. one with strong common traits or interests.” People are tribal in nature – we need to connect with other people who share our interests. Need proof? Think of a few “odd” interests and search Google for a forum or site dedicated to that interest and bringing together people who share that interest. Take a look at this unique tribe.
When someone cares enough about one of her personal interests - such that she’s motivated to take action to connect with other people who share that interest – she’s exhibiting “tribal behavior”. This action could be as simple as asking a friend about a product or as complex as creating an internet forum to discuss it. Ten years ago this tribal behavior would have been severely limited as overcoming its barriers wasn’t worth the effort. Today’s social media makes it easy.
In a similar way, people have a need to identify themselves with other people – regardless of action. This is tribal behavior.
Why call them tribes – aren’t they just groups? No! People in groups don’t necessarily share an interest that motivates them to action or to identify themselves with the group – people in tribes do. Pick 20 people at random and you have a group of people –not a tribe.
Tribes always have insiders and outsiders – a line between those who are in the tribe and those who aren’t. Often, the line isn’t formally recognized but it’s always there.
Want some examples of modern day tribes?
Employees, customers, sports fans, marketers, hunters, nurses, physicians, Obama supporters and Palin fans are all examples of people who belong to tribes and there’s millions more.