Early Signs Of Tribal Activity

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” – Jane Howard

While I was PD in San Francisco I had a Corvette. Not just any Corvette, but a ’67 427 cu in, 435 hp with Tri-Power. The kind that makes guys make man sounds.

But that’s not the story. When I started driving it around other Vette drivers would give me the cool hand wave from the steering wheel. Soon I felt like part of an elite group of drivers who communed with each other. I’ve never seen Honda Accord drivers waving to each other. While not knowing the term for it, I was the member of a tribe.

Looking around there are lots of tribal signs. The little aligators on shirts to radio stickers on cars to generational “markings.” The need to affiliate is a strong one…and an important one for radio stations.

We’ve probably hurt the potential in some areas, by cutting back on what engages and involves listeners, but still, the tribal urge is strong, especially for formats like Country, rock, and Christian AC. Those formats communicate and reflect the values and beliefs of the listeners.

So by now you’re wondering, “Why is this important?”

Your tribes, composed of listener evangelists, P1’s, fans- whatever you call them- want to help you succeed. With very little motivation they’ll spread the word about you, maintain fan pages on Facebook, and provide you with extraordinary support.

If you’ve read Seth Godin’s book “Tribes,” you know that the greatest opportunity, and greatest failures, is in tribal leadership. Your station may have a tribe of rabid fans, but until you step up to lead them, they’re not much more than a friendly crowd.

Those who are stepping up are often trying to lead in traditional ways, asking them to jump through contest hoops by listening all afternoon for the secret song. That’s been the main way radio has interacted and engaged with listeners forever, except for the request line, and we’d better not go there.

Leading a tribe is very different. It has much more to do with conversing, equipping and motivating than it does ordering people around.

Your radio tribe is the greatest opportunity you have now. No promotion, contest, slogan, song rotation or Tweet has the power of a radio tribe. It’s one of the foundational parts of radios move into the future.

Ready to put “tribal knowledge” (thanks John Moore) to work?