If building a tribe is so difficult, why is everyone obsessed with it?

From Instagram influencers to A-list celebrities and the world’s top entrepreneurs — everyone’s picked up on the idea of building a tribe.

In the entertainment world, having a strong tribe is necessary to generate sales and garner mass appeal. But it’s not just celebrities and tech millionaires who can benefit from having an engaged support network; every one of us should strive to build our own tribe, a place where we belong.

What is a tribe?

Ever wondered what building a tribe actually means?

The desire to belong is one of the few fundamental needs every human possesses. As we’re growing up, our family and close friends make up our tribe. Generally, these are the people who shower us with unconditional love, support us through tough times, believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves, and drive us forward.

When we step into the adult world, however, we have to work really hard — and often suffer many disappointments — to build that kind of network on our own. And it’s incredibly important that we do. A tribe is a bunch of people who just get us, who share our values and interests and genuinely care about us. It’s that feeling of having a backup, no matter what, that gives us the courage to go out into the world and own it.

One of the best-known examples of a tribe comes from the iconic sitcom Friends. Think about those six characters who went through life hand in hand and were always there for each other. In real life, of course, you may not spend every evening on a friend’s sofa, but you should feel confident that the sofa will be there if you need it.

If this sounds simple, it’s not. Finding your people can be one heck of a journey, but it’s worth every second. If you haven’t found your tribe yet, that’s alright. These meaningful adjustments in your life should open up all kinds of doors for new connections. And if you’ve started building a tribe, then use these tips to continue adding amazing people to your tribe.

Define your personal brand

What do Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuk, Elon Musk, and Oprah Winfrey have in common? (Aside from the fact that they’re all crazy rich.)

It’s their personal brand.

A personal brand is one of those elusive concepts, akin to social selling, ethical marketing, and the like. There is no one thing you can do to pinpoint your personal brand — it’s a consistent, genuine effort you put out over a long period of time that eventually translates into a brand that defines you.

personal branding
Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

The funny thing is, personal branding isn’t reserved for business moguls. Everyone has a personal brand, even if they don’t realize it. Everything we do and say on a daily basis shapes people’s perceptions of us, which, in turn, determines the type of people and opportunities that come our way. If you’re not consciously building your brand, you’re not controlling the narrative. You let other people decide what they think about you when you’re not around, and that’s a dangerous thing.

But building a personal brand isn’t just about the outward image you’re sending to the world. It’s also an exercise that forces you to crystallize your personal values and the things that matter most to you. Once you’re sure about the direction you want to go, it’s much easier to avoid distractions and overcome hurdles. It’s also more likely you’ll meet people who understand you and pursue similar goals in life.

Defining your personal brand is the first step to understanding what kind of people you need in your tribe.

Know what your tribe will stand for

Your tribe needs a clear mission statement. Standing for something that’s bigger than your own ambition will help you find people who are connected to the same cause or purpose. Friendships built on common values, interests, and beliefs are the ones that can stand the test of time. And if you want people to join your tribe, you need to make sure your message is aligned with your personal values.

It can also be useful to think about the qualities you want your tribe members to have or the qualities that you can’t tolerate. For instance, you may want to seek out people who love reading or people who are running small businesses. Similarly, you may want to stay away from overly negative folks or those with an inflated sense of ego. It’s your tribe — you make the rules — but make sure you’ve figured out those rules before you start making connections.

What will it take to build your tribe?

It’s important to understand that your tribe will change as you do. It’s not something you do once, tick the box, and move on from. As you morph through different stages in your life, your perspectives and interests will shift. Even if you can keep the old tribe members around, you will still need to find new people to expand your pack.

building tribe
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

So what does it take to find the right people?

Be who you are

This is an obvious requirement but one that’s easy to push aside. You cannot build your tribe on pretend values. That might get you into a few circles of people who you really like, but it’s not a sustainable strategy.

The whole purpose of building your tribe is to find folks who like you for who you are and can help you unleash your true potential. If you go around showing off your passion for cooking but can’t get your macaroni and cheese right, the truth will come out sooner or later. Plus, people are extremely good at spotting those who aren’t authentic.

Think about others as much as you think about yourself

One of the best ways to create deep connections with like-minded people is to offer your help. Whether that’s sharing advice, recommending literature, making introductions, or providing feedback, helping other people achieve their goals will give you enormous satisfaction and boost your personal brand.

The rule of reciprocation — the universal human need to repay kindness — is one of the most powerful and compelling impulses in people from all cultures. If you make other people feel like you care, they will return the favor.

Engage, don’t interrupt

We live in an always-connected world. There’s an abundance of information flying at us every second of our 12-hour work days. And everyone’s trying to be heard by shouting louder than the next guy. It’s overwhelming and unhealthy. You won’t attract the right people if you focus on getting the message out, rather than engaging in conversations.

A good example can be found in any conference setting. There will be people who buzz around their stands looking for someone to pitch to and people who give out free muffins — no strings attached. The rule of reciprocation kicks in here again: When people get something valuable, they are much more inclined to pay that back in whatever way they can — by sharing, buying, promoting, or advocating. It’s the same with building a tribe.

Communicate with purpose

This point ties back to defining your personal brand. It’s easy to forget that every message we send out into the world, no matter how insignificant, is like a feather in our cap. Communicating with purpose ensures our content and actions align with our values and represent who we really are. Are you the same person at events as you are on your blog?

Communicating with purpose
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

There is a fine line between communicating your message in the right way to the right people and shaping your message to fit the audience’s expectations. You shouldn’t be afraid of carrying your own flag; other people will join in.

Develop a rhythm

When it comes to developing a personal brand or building a tribe, consistency is key. This means consistency in terms of your messaging, its frequency, and the value it creates for other people.

Take Arianna Huffington, for example. She constantly puts out remarkable content exploring the topics of sleep, work-life balance, and finding your true path. If you think about regaining balance in life, you’ll probably think about her or her new media outlet Thrive Global. That’s consistency. In the physical world, it could also mean developing rituals for your tribe — having regular lunches together, playing board games, or going on hikes — that help you stick to a certain routine and keep the energy high.

Final thoughts

According to Yuval Noah Harari, author of a bestselling book, Sapiens, “It takes a tribe to raise a human.” As we all know, you can’t select the tribe that raises you but you can choose the tribe that will make you grow and reach your full potential.

Chad is VP of Marketing and Communications at JotForm. He’s also a frequent contributor to various tech and business publications, and an absolute wizard with a Vitamix. He holds a master’s degree in communication and resides with his girlfriend and cats in Oakland, California. You can reach Chad through his contact form.

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