The Faithful Tribe

What tribes are, is a very simple concept that goes back 50 million years. It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas. And it’s something that people have wanted forever. –  Seth Godin



And it turns out that tribes, not money, not factories, that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will. But because they wanted to connect. – Seth Godin

Someone told me a joke recently, that God is a Chicago Cubs fan, but said to them, “Don’t do anything until I get back.” Well, I was at a Cubs game a few months ago, and at Wrigley I saw a good game, and supportive, screaming fans – the Cubs tribe.

No doubt the Cubs fans in Chicago, and elsewhere, support their team win or lose. They’re almost proud of their record of never giving up. When your fans are organized into a tribe, there’s no stopping you.

The same is true of your fans. They’ll be the first to be critical when you lose, and the first to defend you from others not in the tribe. Unfortunately most of us have forgotten the second part of the Seth Godin book – We need you to lead us. Without leadership the tribe wanders and becomes disjointed. Leadership means uniting them online and offline, giving them a story, and NOT trying to use them to buy something unrelated to the tribe or try.

It’s called community…and it’s in your future.

There’s nothing casual about commitment

“If the fans don’t come out to the ball park, you can’t stop them.” – Yogi Berra

More interesting, thought provoking observations from Seth Godin:

“A good preacher ought to be able to get 70% of the people who showed up on Sunday to make a donation.

A teeny bop rock group might convert 20% of concert goers to buy a shirt or souvenir.

A great street magician can get 10% of the people who watch his show to throw a dollar in the hat.

Direct marketers used to shoot for 2% conversion from a good list, but now, that’s a long shot.

A blogger might convert 2% of readers to buy a book. (I’m aghast at this).

And a twitter user with a lot of fans will be lucky to get one out of a thousand to click a link and buy something. (.1%)

Likes, friendlies and hits are all fast-growing numbers that require little commitment. And commitment is the essence of conversion. The problem with commitment is that it’s frightening (for both sides). And so it’s easy to avoid. We just click and move on.

I think there’s a transparent wall, an ever bigger one, between digital spectators and direct interaction or transaction. The faster the train is moving, the harder it is to pay attention, open the window and do business. If all you’re doing is increasing the number of digital spectators to your work, you’re unlikely to earn the conversion you deserve.”

Your listeners may like you, and express it, but that doesn’t mean they’re committed to you enough to support you. We so enjoy hearing listeners tell us how much they like us that we mistake it for commitment. We also overlook the difference between being a committed fan and those who consider us their favorite out of a set of choices. That explains why PPM is showing that 58% of P1’s become P1 to another station in the next week. There are far fewer committed fans in your cume than you think.

Godin says “Likes, friendliest and hits (cume) are all fast-growing numbers that require little commitment.” We focus on the growth in cume as if it were the key factor. We so like hearing listeners tell us how much they like us that we mistake it for commitment. So, as long as we concentrate on our version of the digital speculators we’re really ignoring the steps that bring about conversion.

Think of it on a personal level. If I throw a party a lot of friends would come and have a good time. If I developed a drug problem and needed someone to help me to the toilet as I detox, how many would show up? Probably not as many as I’d like to think.

People who like us make up the vast proportion of our audience, but it’s fans, those who have been converted to commitment, that cause the kind of support that you require for success. Make sure you know the difference, and make sure you know how conversion comes about. All listeners aren’t created equally, and you should treat the committed ones as you would your best friends.

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?