What’s the difference between a tribe and a community? The short answer? Passion. Tribe leaders are very passionate about “something.” Their passion is contagious, drawing followers into their tribes.
Tribe members are passionate as well - at least passionate enough to care about something and take action. It’s this passion that draws the members of the tribe together with tribe leaders.
Communities are more of a “gathering place”, they’re sort of stagnant. Communities are formed from common interests of community members. Great tribes are in motion, looking to accomplish or prove something. It’s true that online tribes need a place to gather, but they’re usually on a mission. Often, you’ll find tribes within communities. In fact, it could be argued that most online tribes come from within communities. But, not everyone in the community will be a tribe member.
In Oklahoma, you’ll find two distinct sports tribes - Oklahoma Sooner fans and Oklahoma State Cowboy fans. These two tribes have been at war, both on the sports field and off, for nearly a century. The most passionate fans are out to prove their teams (programs) are best. Many of the tribe members degrade and ridicule one another.
What makes these people tribe members is the passion they share for the success of their sports programs. They wear their schools colors and logos with pride. Make no mistake, these people are serious. When an O-State fan ventures into the hangout of the Sooner tribe (i.e. OUHoops) - they’re often treated quite poorly. Same goes for Sooner fans venturing into O-State tribal territory (i.e. Orangepower).
What’s the takeaway? Look for tribes within communities, but don't assume that a community is a tribe. Great tribes are formed by people with expertise, desire and passion, but don't place too much emphasis on expertise.