Finding Your Tribe May Be the Hardest Thing You Do

Chris Brogan is unfollowing 100,000 people on Twitter to find his. Carlos Whittaker is doing the opposite to find his. My friend, Kyle, is meeting people over coffee to find his. And I wrote a manifesto to find mine.

Photo credit: Kheel Center (Creative Commons)

We are all looking for a tribe.

Our 1000 true fans. A place to belong. We want to be heard and known, to actually make a difference. We know we need community.

So why can’t we agree on how to build it?

Some say it’s a numbers game. Others say it’s all about relationship. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Maybe everyone.

The paradox of building a tribe: A fable

There once was a man who had 10 good friends. These men would do anything for him, even die. But this was not enough. He wanted more.

So he campaigned and lobbied and raised support so that he could become famous.

Soon, he had a hundred friends. Then, a thousand. Pretty soon the man was a rock star, with millions of adoring fans, following every move he made.

At first, the attention was nice. But soon he found that there were expectations associated with his new-found status. People asked for favors and handouts, wanting special attention. They made demands he couldn’t meet.

He felt trapped, overwhelmed, and confused. Isn’t this what he wanted? Why was he so discontent?

Not knowing where to turn, the man went in search of his true fans.

He weeded through the crowds of countless admirers and “yes men,” looking for a few, dedicated followers. Finally, he found 10 people. They were his original true friends. Turns out that was all he ever needed.

Together, they went and changed the world.

The irony of it all

My friend Annie manages a social media account that reaches over 300,000 people. I once asked her what it was like to be able to speak to so many people every day. She shrugged off the question.

I don’t know. As with anything, you’re really just speaking to your tribe.

She was communicating with over a quarter of a million people every day, and it didn’t matter. There were only hundreds (or maybe thousands, on a good day) who were really tuned in. For the rest, it was just noise.

The irony is thick here, is it not? We build our fame to reach a lot of people so that we can influence a few.

Can’t we just skip the in-between part? If you’re reaching whom you need to reach now, why not forget all the marketing hype and go deep?

Intentionality is key

Last night, my friend Laura was lamenting how hard it is to respond to every Twitter mention she gets. She’s gotten so big that it’s no longer scalable to be available to all 2000 followers like she was before.

This may be inevitable. But the problem is that some marketers, leaders, and entrepreneurs see this as a foregone conclusion.

They assume they have to attain “rock star” status to succeed. And nothing could be farther from the truth.

Before you begin growing your brand and building your tribe, take a moment and decide: When will you be happy? What’s success look like? Is it a book deal? Someone hiring you? A million visitors to your website?

You must choose and commit to a path.

Don’t leave it nebulous. If you do, you’ll chase opportunities, enamored with the promise of fame, and never be satisfied. You’ll end up with a million fans and no friends.

If all you’re looking for is a tribe of committed followers, consider the possibility that you may have already found it. What would change if that were true? Would you stop campaigning and just get to work?

Maybe that’s exactly what you need to do.

You have to find your own way

Whatever you do, I hope you do it your way.

And I hope you’re intentional, so you know when to stop building and start doing.

And please, don’t give in to the pressure of what other people are doing. What works for them may not work for you. And it shouldn’t. You have to find your own way.

Your tribe is waiting. However, the trail to find it must be blazed by you and you alone.

(By the way, if you like this post, you may consider being a part of the tribe that is being built here. A good way to begin is to sign up for the weekly newsletter.)

Have you found your tribe yet? Tell me about it in the comments.

175 thoughts on “Finding Your Tribe May Be the Hardest Thing You Do

  1. I needed to hear this Jeff. My gut has been telling me the same thing. My joy comes from conversations with people. I like to pick their brains, figure them out, see where I fit. I was getting overwhelmed with the thought that that wouldn’t be possible and that feelings would get hurt. I’m such a girl! But that’s how I relate to people. Great post!

  2. Excellent advice, Jeff, as always.  I would add to the question “When will you be happy?” …”Why would that make you happy?”   We can waste time and energy seeking “happiness” from the wrong places and in the wrong direction. 

  3. “If you’re reaching who you need to reach now, why not forget all the marketing hype and go deep?” Great point. Sometimes I tend to get frustrated by the growth of my tribe, wondering if anything I say makes a difference. Then, I’ll get an email from someone saying one of my posts was written just for them. If it only touches one, then it was worth it. 

  4. Love this Jeff! I was DM’ing yesterday with someone about the whole idea of social media relationships and we came to pretty much this same conclusion. 

    There’s something nice about writing a piece that gets shared a lot or one that gets a lot of positive (or even negative) feedback, but when my husband says, “By the way, great post today” or my best friend posts it up on her facebook page – those are the people whose opinion matters most to me because they know me better than anyone else and if it resonates with them, I know that I’m on the right track even if the piece itself isn’t popular.

    If I ever stop getting feedback from people close to me about my writing, I’ll know that I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing. Great post!

  5. Jeff,

    Good thoughts. 

    I said in my blog the other day that people that follow to be followed aren’t really interested in engaging with their followers, they are just collecting followers. It saddens me to see these people because they are the rock star in your parable. Without a lot of filtering, their twitter timeline is just too busy to really use. With filtering, well, then they really aren’t following most of those people, they are just pretending to. IMHO, they are missing the point – and the fun – of twitter.

    When I joined twitter, I made the decision that I would only follow the people I was interested in, not just blindly autofollow. It has made building my twitter followers much more difficult because the autofollow thing really does work. However, the people I follow are people that I am interested in and want to engage with.

    Thanks for the great post!

  6. Love this post.  Couldn’t agree more.  I am still thinking about the sprinklers and vacuums and this just affirms what I was already thinking and gives me more to ponder.  Thanks for all you give to us every day.  It makes a difference in my world!

  7. Beautiful post Jeff!

    Yes indeed, we are all in the rat race and not knowing where we are heading, just to find our tribe, as you so rightly put it! However, we are loosing out so much on the way, not realizing that what works for others may not work for us, in-fact it never does. If someone has a large fan following, doesn’t mean you need that or would benefit from it either. 

    At the end of the day, we need to work at our own pace, suit ourselves and judge for ourselves to find out own path!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. I always love your posts because you keep it real and grant me some clarity! Being relatively new to twitter I have to say I was shocked by the follow/unfollow strategy. And even more shocked that I have seen it reommended. Suddenly abandoned, I thought this was an indication that I had done something wrong. I would then frantically search my posts to find the offending culprit, to no avail. Confused, I would then reach back and ask for feedback and get no response. Ultimately, i suppose it matters not! I guess they simply weren’t “my tribe!”

  9. Thank you for telling me it’s okay to swim upstream! With all the push to build your platform, collect the followers or you won’t find a publisher, mentality, I can’t help thinking, “But yes, I follow 100 blogs but I only truly read a few daily. I don’t have time to read any more. So who is actually reading me?”

    1. it’s a tough question, and the unfortunate reality is that numbers do matter to publishers. the trick is to provide some “social proof” while still understanding who your tribe is (this is who you should be writing to).

  10. This is exactly what I needed to hear… Your thoughts are both convicting and inspiring. 

    That story about the man with the 10 true friends really resonated with me. When you wrote that “He felt trapped, overwhelmed, and confused. Isn’t this what he wanted? Why was he so discontent?” I realized that I’ve been asking those same questions, but never fully understood how important it is to find the answers.

    I also realized that I couldn’t answer these questions:
    “When will you be happy?” “What’s success?” “If all you’re looking for is a tribe of committed followers, consider the possibility that you may have already found it. What would change if that were true? Would you stop campaigning and get to work?”

    You’ve given me a lot to think about. And maybe a lot to change. So, thank you. 🙂

  11. I found my blogging tribe at It’s a great network with built-in support and information about blogging. I’ve written quite a few posts for them and I’m glad to be part of the team. It was founded by Jen of

  12. Ah, see, I thought it was just me. lol.

    I’ve run into this with LinkedIn. There have been several cases where I was looking for a contact at a specific organization, and saw that they were “connected” to one of my LinkedIn connections. Every single time – I kid you not – I asked that person if they wouldn’t mind putting me touch with that other person, the response was: sorry, that’s just a random connection, don’t really have a personal contact wtih that person.

    Which makes me wonder: what’s the freaking point?

    So many people make social media a numbers game. But if you don’t utilize those connections, what’s the point?  I’m extremely picky about who I let in on LinkedIn and Facebook. On LinkedIn, if I can’t recall how I met someone or why I connected with them…DELETE. Even on Facebook I have to do some occassional pruning.

    I would much, MUCH, rather have 10 quality tribe members than 900 “friends.”

    1. I love this question, Andrew: What’s the point?

      If the point is to be a celebrity and broadcast your message to millions, then by all means, BUILD. There truly is nothing wrong with that. But if you want to do something else — and many people do — define what that is before building. Many aspire to simply sell enough widgets to make a living or connect with the RIGHT people. You don’t need celebrity status to do those things and the numbers game can actually be a distraction from that.

      1. Jeff, yep. A friend of mine is a well-known media person. Her goal on twitter/Facebook is to build her platform. The numbers game works for her.

        I didn’t “get” twitter until I sat down and really thought about what I wanted to do. I thought twitter was useless and dumb. Then, I found Tweetdeck. Even then, I had to say, Ok, what do I want to do? Who do I want to connect with? I decided I wanted to connect with writers and other sports fans. It works for me.

  13. Very insightful post.  For me, still on the trail of finding my tribe. There have been several wonderful connections that have happened, and they have dovetailed into joint projects. Still, there is much work to do. There reality there will alway be work to do in building and developing your tribe. Ensuring it is meaningful and enjoyable work will be the essential, and necessary, ingredients. Thanks, Jeff.  Jon

  14. Nice post, Jeff. You did a great job recapping our conversation from last night. You’re right – it is a paradox. As our tribe grows larger (which is what people THINK they want), the engagement grows thinner. So, you really have to decide if you’d rather go deep or wide. It’s hard to do both and you’ll kill yourself trying.

    As with anything, you really have to determine your strategy and what works best for YOU. That’s what I preach to my clients and readers all of the time. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach out there. Determine you goals and then build your strategy around what will help you get there. You might find that you need to adjust your efforts once you do that.

    1. Hi Laura, I know “deep or wide” is likely short-hand, but your words prompted me to think this: the bravest work out there – rich in authenticity and vulnerability – goes deep by definition.  If it doesn’t also go wide, that’s only because the majority of folks aren’t comfortable with true intimacy (even within themselves). I know I’m grossly generalizing. Thanks for giving me something to ponder (and go deep over).

      1. Interesting thought. I think there’s a lot of value in going deep, however, going wide shouldn’t necessarily be discounted. Oftentimes, it’s far more profitable (and scalable) to go wide.

  15. Great thoughts, Jeff!  I do have a small, loyal following that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  The hard part for me is differentiating between tribe (which I’ve got) and platform (which I need to further development, since publication is a goal.)  Is there a way to balance both?  Or do you focus on your tribe and hope it will impact others along the way?

  16. I’m working on it. But my #1 goal for my blog is to finish the project (blog through every chapter of the Bible.) I am trying to make a quality blog that grows and attracts new readers, but it isn’t the main goal.

    Sometimes it gets hard to remember that.

  17. Wow, I’ve never realized quite how much the idea of a tribe meant to me until now.  It makes sense as I look back over my Twitter and Facebook activity.  My personality keeps me striving for fans, but that doesn’t leave me satisfied at the end of the day.  You know that Mumford lyric from “White Blank Page?”  “You desired my attention but denied my affections.”  If I don’t slow down and feel the need for a quality tribe, I can get too wrapped up in the attention I receive when really I’m just looking for friends.  So perhaps I do have my tribe already . . . those few true fans.  Great reminder!

  18. “There once was a man who had ten good friends. These men would do anything for him, even die for him. But this was not enough. The man wanted more.”

    My question would be, “Why would he want more, and exactly what is his purpose in reaching people?”

    I find myself, all the time, asking “Why do people tweet?” Possibly because they think they have something to say and want others to hear. On twitter only your followers see what you tweet, so if you want to reach more people, you need more followers, which brings up something else you said,

    “At first, the attention was nice. But soon he found that there were expectations associated with his new-found status. People asked for favors and handouts, wanting special attention. They made demands he couldn’t meet.
    He felt trapped, overwhelmed, and confused. Isn’t this what he wanted? Why was he so discontent?”

    I’ve never understood those that do something to be heard (tweet, write a book, blog), but yet want no interaction with those they are trying to reach. Yes, some people(obsessive fans) carry things too far and want things in return, but I find that most people just want to be acknowledged. I’ve never thought that a simple “thank you” or some response in return is too much to ask of those that are looking for, as you put it, “a tribe”.

    Have we gotten to the point that we want only the accolades, but not the interaction. We want the attention, but not the relationship. We want people to follow us, but we don’t want to follow in return. We want people to think we have something important to say, but we treat them like they have nothing to offer us. Isn’t that an attitude of “look at me, I’m special, but you aren’t”?

    I’m not any different than the next person. I want to live my life in a way, and be able to say things that will enhance other’s lives, but I also know that they will also enhance mine. I do most of the social media, facebook, google+, twitter, but in all of those areas I have only 1 person that responds to everything that is sent their way. They are what you would call, famous in their field, so they have many followers. They choose to respond to everything sent to them because they appreciate and never take for granted the support they receive through prayers, encouragement, thankfulness, and yes the purchase of their CDs. I never know how they manage to respond to everything and everybody, but they do. Then I see many that never respond to anything. These are people also big in their fields, famous, but yet act like they don’t care about those that they are trying to reach.

    I just don’t get it! Why would people reach out with something to say, but then slam the door in the face of the one they want to reach, and then expect that same person to continue to follow and listen to them? Why do we want the affirmation, but not the interaction?

    Sorry Jeff, guess I am ranting? Thanks for giving us that outlet and for bringing up many questions that are thought provoking! that’s why I always enjoy your blogs. You always give me something to think about!

  19. great thoughts Jeff. I definitely feel the tension between trying to grow my audience bigger and trying to connect deeper with my true fans/friends. It’s definitely different for everyone, especially when you consider that everyone has different motives. Some are trying to connect more, some are trying to put bread on the table, and some are trying to build up a business to replace their current line of work. But in the end it really is all about quality relationships.

  20. I really liked what you had to say.  We’re all unique which means that we’re all very different.  I’ve recently been writing about this very thing (about being yourself and not copying others) and I actually had hate mail over it.

    I’m all for blazing a trail and going against the status quo.  I mean, who wants to just be average anways?  Who wants to be just like everyone else? I know that I don’t.

  21. Thanks for this post, Jeff.  A few months ago, when I knew I wanted to leave my former career and become a full time artist (with my focus being writing), I got clear about my main desire. As long as I can write and have unlimited access to what I have written, I will be a happy writer. The rest (and I do love readers, and especially readers who like what I do) is extra. Because my biggest joy comes from rereading paragraphs I had forgotten composing.  I’m incredibly grateful that the work feels so good.  Thanks for reminding me of this.

  22. Honestly Jeff, I am struggling with this very issue right now. I am trying to balance wanting to develop myself and have more success on a professional level, reaching more people, and wanting to be true to what I am called to be and to share. In fact, reading your posts and going to Greenbelt is leaving me reflecting on who it is I am meant to be reaching – I have an interest in theology, but I don’t feel like I’m an academic as such, I love writing and discussing on issues of theology, culture, philosophy, church and practical discipleship, and yet I don’t feel like I’m meant to be writing academic books or posts – I want to teach people about the way of Jesus, and what that looks like in practice, in language and with methods that people can relate to, understand and engage with, but at the same time a way that stimulates discussion. My writing is more memoir-theology, telling my story but making important points and initating discussion too, and interpreting the Bible in language in a fresh way that challenges people but which they understand. If this sounds confused, that’s becuase, to be honest, I am right now. I love writing, and I want to share my gift with people, I want to create stuff and share it with people. Would I love to make a living out of it, and go speak all over the world about the things I write, to help people? Yes of course. I don’t want to do anything out of selfish ambition however. I feel really conflicted, but at the same time, deep down I probably know what I’m meant to write – certainly I know what I want to do in terms of writing books – but in terms of how my blog fits into that, and what I do with it – and how I increase my 1700 per year – yes per year (man I feel a complete failure saying that), well that’s a whole different ball game. Thanks for sharing this post, it is what I needed to hear, but would appreciate any more advice you can share. Thanks again.

    1. James, I appreciate and understand your struggle. The short answer (and I hope this doesn’t sound disingenuous) is to start now. Be a resource. Give, give, give. People will follow. That’s what I’ve found anyway, and that’s coming from a dude who wrote memoir-theology blog posts for four years, remaining in relative obscurity.

      1. Thanks Jeff, really encouraging and helpful. My passion in writing is to give – to use what I have been given to serve others. Don Miller does memoir theology well and my former life coach compared my style with his (not sure if you have read any of my stuff yet). I am intersed really in comminicating deeper truths in a simple way – like Bell and Miller I guess. One thing I know is important though is I find my own voice and own space. I have a lot of ideas for books and creative projects, but not the resources or standing to do them all, though I am writing a book.

        Anyhow, thanks for the support, I will bear your advice in mind and simply keep giving. Thanks so much, really do appreciate it.

  23. Brilliant! Brilliant! Well written. This is food at the perfect time for so many people I know and as I can see by all the comments …that many people needed to read this. It was a nice reminder to me too! 🙂 Thanks Jeff! 

  24. brilliant post.  I’m a fan!  I’m a Jeff Gions tribe member!  I feel this tension as well.  Even in daily relationships of wanting to live open armed and inclusive.  How many people can I really invest in?  How many will love me for me? Quirks and weaknesses and all!   How much time and energy do I spend on social media trying to find my niche market (aka tribe)?   This has given me a ton to chew on as I work towards my own writing goals, finding my market and staying grounded.  You are appreciated 🙂

    1.  I know. I was supposed to write a chapter yesterday, and, instead, spent over two hours promoting my free Ebook at Amazon.

  25. Outstanding post – your observation about having “…a million fans and no friends…” is sobering regarding my tribal chase – but I’m trying to find a balance. Thanks for blazing a path forward.

  26. Thank you!! I have a handful of loyal readers of my literary blog based on my favorite author, Louisa May Alcott (and a bunch that don’t necessarily comment) and growth is a little slow, but it is growing. Beyond posting links on Twitter and Facebook, I concentrate mainly on content. My purpose in creating my blog was to find a community of like-minded people and actually, in a year, I’ve succeeded beyond my expectations. The coolest thrill is reading a great book and then getting to talk to the author about it. Authors are pretty easy to reach and as a result, I’ve met some wonderful people.

    It’s also building my confidence to the point where I’m beginning to embrace the idea of writing. I still need to find my specific voice, but my little tribe has been pretty supportive! 🙂

  27. Jeff,
    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, “go deep.”  It’s easy to keep looking further out for a broader voice, but I  think it was Don Miller who said he finally realized he could only really love twenty-five people, well.  Your post was spot-on.  Thank you.

  28. Great thoughts, a philosophy to which I already subscribe. I usually feel like I’ve found my tribe, but occasionally I feel like I have to increase my audience (read, stats) to get the attention of certain people, brands, organizations. But I do believe in working smarter, not necessarily longer, and I’ve intentionally turned down some opportunities that didn’t align with my values and mission. 

    The real key, I think, lies in having a crystal clear vision/mission. I’m not quite there yet. 

  29. I thought I knew who my tribe was but I was wrong because I approached things in the aspect of making money as the number one motivator. I think now I will find that tribe because I’m dedicating myself to spread the message that you can do a job you love! If the money follows that’s great, but if it doesn’t my only hope is to help people change their lives.

  30. I wrote a comment recently on another blog that it is better to be respected than loved when it comes to most of our relationships. Truly, a tribe is based not on fickle sentiment but on hard fought values that are shared. I may never be a rockstar and I am OK with that. I am happy to know that I influence a couple dozen who are better than I am anyway and who will reach more than I ever will alone. 

    My first tribe is my own family. Too often it is tempting to forget to influence and love those you should be committed to anyway. I am humbled to know my family sees me behind the avatar and still loves and forgives. 

    A tribe is not a machine. It is not an army. It is not a group I dispense content to each day via social media. A tribe is my flesh and blood, values-bonded friends who with me are about a greater purpose we all share–together. It’s less about me, and more about “us”. So, to a tribe I submit, give and sacrifice. This pretty much weeds out more than twitter followers you think?

  31. “Do what works for you” and “don’t worry about what others are doing.” Those are the two key points that stand out for me. 

    Have I found my tribe? Here and there, yes. My whole goal, day-in and day-out, is to be helpful. If I’ve helped someone today, I’m happy. And I keep that connection. 

  32. jeff–your words are so true. I, like many, wrestle with this.  How do I stay true to what I’m gifted at & still make an effort for tending to the people who want to be apart of my tribe?  There is so much to be said about marketing, doing more, networking, etc.  My husband asked me just last week, “Who is your clientele?  You can make it whoever you want.  Cut it down to your A, B, & C list.”  It got me thinking about who I want to target, but more…who is already cheering me on.  

    So, have I found my “tribe” yet?  Not completely, but that’s part of this journey.  I’m narrowing it down, figuring out me & what I’m about to KNOW who my tribe is.  I guess, it’s the people I feel most encouraged after interacting with them.  I think it happens to be the person I rub shoulders with at the gym, or the friend of a friend.  

  33. It’s cool to hear someone with a decent amount of followers talk about the issue of “tribes” and the delicate balance between personal connection and numbers. In my pursuit of growth I definitely don’t want to lose that ever-important aim of personal connection and impact, so blaze away this trail I must!

  34. I have a handful of faithful. A very faitful tribe. I only seek those that I can help along the way. Some that are teachable. Counter to what the world says, I’m trying to be at peace with this;
    Less is more. Simplify. The idea is easy, but not act is not simple.

      1. Yeah hear what you’re saying. Friends aren’t gold or copper. They’re not a product that we buy for selfish gain. Some do. And that’s the problem. Thus where the metaphor breaks down.

        But I used the word “commodity” purposefully because  if we’re talking “tribes”, talking “fans” or “friends”, we’re having a discussion about long-term value.  What’s going to be gold and what’s going to be soybeans.

        And while heaping up a massive pile of soybeans will definitely have some serious short-term gains, in the long run give me those few nuggets of gold. 

        So yeah, friends are the most valuable commodity anyone can ever have.

  35. Beautiful, inspiring post Jeff which also highlights the madness that is social media. Too much confusion, too much mad grabbing, too many covert ways to build numbers rather than true readers.

    I often wonder where it will all end and I like to think that people can sort the wheat from the chafe, they can see through the cloaks and mirrors and connect with the people who truly have something to say.

    Seems like that’s the case here. What a great community and thought-provoking comments.

  36. Tansi! I have to admit when I saw the blog title I thought of my husband and his aboriginal roots, his real tribe of nation and culture.  Then I read it and realized that we are all looking for that – here, there and everywhere.  Amazing how it comes together when you understand what it is all about! Good food for thought here! Ekosi!

  37. needed to hear this. I’ve been worrying a bit b/c I’m too active, then not active enough, not providing intellectual fodder, etc.  Why? I don’t have a goal. Other than to share my (oh so random) thoughts on twitter & the adventures of my family on facebook with my extended relatives. And you know what. I’m good with that. I don’t have to be all “quality”. My quality is good enough for me. And if they don’t like it? They can unfollow. A bit relieved to read this.

    1. good for you. when i’m honest, a lot of the time, i don’t have a goal, either. i want to more intentional. in a way, i wrote this to myself. thanks for reading, ellyn!

  38. Great post!  It IS all about relationships…  I could drop out off the Social Media scene tomorrow, stop blogging and Tweeting, and it is unlikely that anyone would come searching for me.  They are ‘friends’ as long as I’m giving and sharing.

    I’m thankful that I do have FRIENDS that will pursue me if I’m quiet (which I can tend to be) and will speak truth into my life, and ask me the hard questions.

    I’m not about to abandon my network of acquaintances but I will invest more in friendships. 

    PS Thanks for the comment on my post on Time for a Friendectomy
    ( )

  39. I loved this post. To the point I actually got teary eyed because it hit home so much. The question “when will you be happy?” resonates so strongly with me. It’s a simple question I can’t answer and that scares the shit out of me. This post was a good reminder I need to take an honest look at myself before I venture out on this quest of finding a following. I need to find me first and then inspire others. Thanks so much for this.

  40. You can count me among your “true fans.”  Thanks for another thoughtful (and thought-provoking) message.

  41. This was refreshing…I’ve been reading about finding your brand, building your platform, etc, etc. Kind of makes my head spin, but your article made me take a step back to re-evaluate what my tribe should look like?  Thanks! 

  42. I’ve seen this in the church we started a few years ago. We’ve realised over time and increases and decreases in attendance that more is not better for us. We can’t connect with and care for more than about 80 ppl and so have realised that if our main priority is having real relationships with people then our expectations of attendance have to match reality. It’s been a good lesson to learn. 

  43. Well said Jeff.  Thank you for helping to change the conversation and the focus of what it means to build a tribe.  The point you made about defining success is critical and a step that many, including myself, have skipped in the past.

  44. Probably not many in this discussion can remember Martin Buber, a Jewish writer from fifty years ago. His most famous book was “I and Thou”. For a while, Martin Buber was a mystic.  He spent much of his time in Hasidic visions or fantastic illusions (which you choose depends on your point of view). Anyway, one day after spending the morning drifting around the outer limits, a friend came to him to talk about why there might be any reason to go on with life and work, and after the conversation, the friend, who was young, went out and killed himself.

    That was the beginning of a new kind of engagement, for Martin Buber, with the people who were right there in front of him. He said that he would never again mistake another world for the world here and now. He would never again go looking for people.  He had found his “tribe”.  He just had to engage with them.

    I think the poet who pointed me at this blog, Jeff, was the one who not too long ago wrote a piece titled “Throw away the Marketing Plan, and Start a Real Conversation”.  I’ve taken that to heart, and even in this weird world where we talk to people thousands of miles away, whom we’ll probably never meet, I try to have real conversations.

      1. Martin Buber is my absolute favorite to read and has been so for years. The strange thing is that I thought about him and “Who is really interested in him nowadays?” “Where is my tribe that would like me writing about his thoughts that could be applied in so many different way for the benefits of others?” And then I read your comment… so surprised! 🙂 /Eva

  45. Great post, Jeff!

    I was joking with a friend recently that I was going to write a post called, “You’re not Chris Brogan or Michael Hyatt.”

    The great thing about friends and fans is that they are not mutually exclusive. You can have both, nurture both and appreciate both. Depending on what you’re trying to create, chances are good that you will need both.

    Chris Brogan and Michael Hyatt are great people who used certain strategies to develop and grow both groups. They’ve hit a place in their business and lives where they can stop utilizing certain strategies – and I applaud them for that. Most of the rest of us have not yet hit that point and might inadvertently harm our businesses should we choose to follow their example.

    It would be equivalent to a new business rationalizing a $1 billion advertising budget because that’s what Coca-Cola spends. Nobody would recommend that as a smart strategy and I don’t believe that either Chris or Mike would necessarily recommend that others follow they’re lead (in fact, I believe they’ve both said as much).

    As someone who follows over 30k people on Twitter, I do it to enlarge both groups because I have a message I’m trying to get out to a larger world and, despite what people believe, just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. You have to promote your ideas and/or yourself and this is one of the methods I use to promote. As a result, it’s grown both my friends and fans and allowed me to impact the lives of more people. This, in turn, has grown my business and helped my family.

    I’m sure that my strategy may change one day, but today isn’t that day.

    Keep up the great posts!

    -Travis Robertson

  46. although many may disagree with me i have learned that building a tribe is less about them and more about you as a person. the stronger the sense that you have about who you are the more attractive you become as someone to be followed.

    1. i think you’re right, john. a lot of times people don’t know what they want. i’ve found that people follow those who are courageous enough to choose.

  47. This is epic. Probably my new favorite article for 2011, which replaces Morrow; that’s saying something. 

    You’ve fingered a sensitive spot. Everyone wants more numbers, but at what cost! 

    Of course, a business can’t sustain itself from ten customers. It takes more. So not all your customers are your true tribe. 

    Man, you’ve got me thinking hard now …

  48. Okay, I wended my way through Twitter and found this post which speaks to me on a number of levels. I spent the better part of the morning responding to DMs and mentions on Twitter and caught myself thinking: do you think people realize I go through each one of their messages, look at their profiles and blogs? This brought the inevitable question up in my mind: does it matter?

    Does it? 

    After reading your blog, I can easily list those ten friends that support my work–evangelize my books. Maybe, part of the message is this: we all need to stop counting and assess what we really want and acknowledge what, ultimately, really makes us happy; right? 

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. 

  49. Thank you for this great post.  It helped me affirm my first instincts are correct. I only launched my blog (and soon to be coaching business) a month ago.  I am taking the slow and steady approach so that each person who finds my blog, likes my facebook page etc is someone who genuinely wants to be a part of what I am creating.  It does hurt when I watch others have their numbers rise faster, but I am staying true to my end goal and trusting I will get there in the end.  Why have 1000 “likers” who never say a word – how does the conversation happen with taking that path?

    1. Debra, great question. Slowly and intentionally. How slow? Well, that just depends. Don’t try to rush or push it, though. Different communities grow at different rates. Be true to your tribe, and you’ll find some true followers.

  50. Hopefully not… not entirely at least, but I have to stop and thank you for this: 

    “We build our fame to reach a lot of people so that we can influence a few. Um, can’t we just skip the in-between? If you’re reaching who you need to reach now, why not forget all the marketing hype and go deep?”

    Not for giving permission, but for the reminder.  Many of us blog or create or speak or whatever because it’s whats in us, it’s what we’ve felt led/gifted/inspired to do.  And maybe, sometimes, that’s all it has to be until it’s more.  Because the chase for bigger and better can certainly lessen the deeper impact on the few, IMHO. 

    Thanks again for the post, and the reminder. 

  51. The thing I ponder at this point; is the Tribe a critical mass or a workable mass? In an ideal world each tribe member has their own 1000 tribespeople. In terms of influence, how well you can market your idea to your tribe will determine it’s succes by it being spread to other tribes.

  52. Very succinctly explained Jeff. Thanks!

    In the email marketing game, I am constantly dissuading customers from renting or purchasing email lists. Smaller, more targeted, in-house permission-based lists will always outperform mega-lists any day.

    My Tribe
    (an impromptu for you)

    I want a tribe. I think I really do
    1000, 100? No thanks, just a few!
    Actually, with none I’d really get relief
    I don’t want any that would have me as their chief.

  53. In his book “Quitter” Jon Acuff has a chapter on the blessings of invisibility.  The time when no one knows who you are, when you can practice, experiment and make mistakes.  The time when you don’t worry about keeping fans is the time you can be dangerous and reckless and free.

  54. Hey Jeff,

    I enjoyed your thoughts on this topic. I had over 1100 friends on Facebook, and I un-friended about 800 of them with whom I didn’t really have a relationship. I kept only friends I cared about – my personal tribe.

    In terms of attracting your tribe, Simon Sinek’s talk at TED is very interesting:

    He basically suggests that great leaders inspire action through their “WHY”, their purpose.

    Interesting post – I shared it on Facebook and Twitter.

  55. Great post. I think this is a more effective way of looking at social media than thinking of it as a means to spam people. 

  56. This is great, and a well-honed point. Isn’t this a story across genres? The major religiou prophets and leaders of the world all have a “tribe”. Jesus had twelve diciples who all gave their life for him in the end. Isn’t that what we are all looking for? Groupies who adore us so much they can help spread the word?

    Thanks for the tips. I like your writing. Perhaps I’ll become a groupie myself.

  57. A friend of a friend had a saying, “You will never be happy until you find your tribe.”  I still haven’t found mine, so I feel lonely and strong at the same time.

  58. Okay, I admit it, I am 47 and have been a ‘closet’ writer for many, many years and although I understand the allure of facebook, I despise it; but that’s another story all together.  My question is why must we be a part of social media?  Is it truly the only way to get recognized and perhaps paid for what we do?  I’ll admit, I never really tried to get a paying gig…until now that is.  The hard part?  Technology is very time consuming for my ADD brain to wrap around (I’m the pen and paper type), and very intimidating! After all, I’m not even sure this is going to get to a place where it can be read and possibly receive a reply.  Even if there is a reply, where do I find it?  I’m not even 100% sure how I got here (To this site, I mean.  I know  how I came into being. Don’t be silly!)  Okay, so anyway, thank you for a reply if one is forthcoming.  Thank you for your information, it is inspiring and much needed.  Oh, and congrats to you and yours on the birth of your son!

    1. You might be interested in Michael Alvear’s Ebook entitled “Make a Killing on Kindle” ( without social networking) I think for less than $3 he tells you how. I’m getting some good pointers out of it, like SEO’s and ‘Before You Go’.

      1. Rhonda…I feel the same way…I feel my words can be very intimidating…Have you found your tribe yet…?

  59. Do I find the tribe or does the tribe find me?   As I have commented before, I am finding the balance between writing what I need to say and writing what others need to hear.  The one truth I know is whether I have no readers or 1000 readers, I need to write everyday, because that’s what writers do, and that is what is helpful and necessary for me.  

  60. Jeff, I am IN.. for this tribe… love your book and your great ideas. I love how you talk about how we can all SHARE things, ideas etc… with each other.. and we all have STORIES to bring GOD all the Glory! 

  61. I just want to write. Figuring out who reads my work distracts me from that. When I write I feel the most inspired, alive and connected to the world – and every time I spend time thinking about building an audience I feel deflated, disconnected and confused. So, Jeff, this is a great reminder of this. The audience will find me if my message is relevant and my writing compelling enough. We’ve seen it happen time and time again.

  62. Great post about fame. I think we don’t realize the weight and solitude that come with fame. My sister was on a TV show in South Korean for three years and became so famous that she couldn’t go outside without being asked for pictures or authographs. She found it flattering at first, but soon came to find it difficult to manage.

  63. That’s a good post. I am just starting out but I know I am interested in two specific topics, traveling and blogging. It does seem daunting to find my tribe or in this case, tribes. In the end, it seems to me it depends on where you want to end up.

  64. Awesome post, I am a beginning blogger but I do feel like we all should stick to our “own ways”. I love reading all these blogs it really shows what people are like.

  65. Thanks so much for this post. It is timely and brings tears to my eyes as I embark at finding my own way in a noisy world. Thank you for this inspiration to step out and do something rather unconventional to rally a tribe.

  66. I appreciated this post, Jeff! We all want to feel like we belong and contribute something of value. It helps to be clear on our own definition of success. Keep doing it!

  67. Great post Jeff,

    I’m in the beginning phase of my own business. I’m still in the process of building an audience or “tribe.” It can be discouraging because it’s a lot of work without instant payoff, but reading this enccourages me.

    If someone who already has over 100,000 still has a need to find his tribe, then maybe I’m still on the right track. Thanks for writing this!

  68. I enjoyed your post. I must say, I am beginning to think I don’t have a tribe. I just write into the abyss.

  69. My way might be really weird, but I agree, the hype is not for me. I’ve decided to start working again.
    There is no better tribe than being part of a great working team. I won’t expect them to read my stuff or even become friends, but working, for me, is to love…to make life a little bit easier for someone else…and that gives meaning to me.
    My moto: To work is to love.
    This time I hope that I won’t be exploited the way I’ve been. At least I can write about anything…even to deal with fear to trust.
    It’s a painful thing to trust, but there is no other way to be happy.

  70. Great post, Jeff. Always enjoy seeing your work here and on Medium. BTW, I’m linking it to a blog post that’s publishing this morning:

    BTW think I’ve found my tribe. Ironically I totally quit Twitter (and Facebook 8 yrs before that) just recently so I could focus more on work (rather than building) and going deeper into the best stuff. It occurs to me that social media can be a real toxin to creatives. I’d urge moderation when using. More output, less input.

    Thanks again and cheers, Mike

  71. Hi Jeff! I found this post because I’m searching for help in finding my tribe online. When I started my most recent blog last fall, I thought I new who I was talking to. I was wrong. It turns out that I’m speaking to a different demographic than I originally planned, and so I’m trying to find out where those folks hang out. But your post has provided me with food for thought. I had not considered the pursuit of my tribe in quite the way in which you’ve presented it here. I appreciate the unique perspective. Thanks for sharing.

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