How to Build Community and Grow Your Tribe Online

Many entrepreneurs don’t realize it, but there’s a subtle difference between your audience and your tribe. Your audience is comprised of readers, followers, and fans who are interested in your work, but may prefer to observe it from the sidelines. Your tribe includes both dedicated superfans and like-minded colleagues who are deeply invested in supporting and participating in your offerings. While clever tools like lead magnets and strategies like online launches may draw a few valuable folks into your tribe, they’re more suited to building your audience. To grow your tribe, you’ve got to dig a little deeper, get a little more personal, and be willing to engage. Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is. But the payoff will be a band of raving fans who amplify, support, and promote everything you do.

How to find and grow your online tribe

So just how do you find and recruit these amazing people, and ensure they stick around once you’ve caught their attention?

Join (or start) relevant groups: The quickest shortcut to gathering a group around yourself is to frequent existing groups that focus on your areas of interest. Naturally, if you concentrate on yoga for flexibility, you’ll want to spend your energy interacting with groups whose expertise overlaps with your own. (Yoga or flexibility or both.) But suss out more general groups, too, including any with an entrepreneurial bent. You don’t need to limit tribe membership to people who mimic your exact work philosophy, since some of your most ardent supporters may do work that’s merely adjacent to your own.

What kinds of groups, you ask? Facebook Groups, Instagram pods, and LinkedIn groups can all help you connect with potential tribe members.

Don’t see a group that’s doing exactly what you want? Start one yourself! Doing this will help you attract supporters and position you as a thought leader. As Seth Godin has famously pointed out, “Tribes make our lives better. And leading a tribe is the best life of all.”

Engage and support others: Tribe-building is community-building, so you’ve got to be willing to give as much as you take. And that means reading, commenting on, and promoting content from folks you want to join your tribe. It means tagging people you admire and retweeting smart commentary from people whose work you support. If someone has become a frequent commenter on your social media posts or blog, take the time to check out their work and repay the kindness. You’re not trying to become a guru or cult leader who just soaks up adoration from the devoted masses. You’re building a family of smart, connected people who look out for one another. So be prepared to praise, boost, and repost your little heart out.

Be your authentic self: We know, we know, “authenticity” is the buzziest of buzzwords. But it’s a concept that really should be central to all of your client-facing activities. Refusing to be vulnerable while you’re trying to amass a dedicated tribe will result in growing a group of people who don’t understand who you truly are. When you post, be authoritative and honest. When you interact, be transparent and caring. When you create any content at all, make sure it truly reflects your beliefs and philosophy. People are drawn to experts they know to be genuine and passionate, so make sure your uniquely genuine passion shines through.

Create collaborative offerings: Guest posting on the blogs of like-minded experts might result in a minor bump in traffic, but if you’re seeking loyal tribe members try something more interactive. Join forces with someone whose work complements your own to create a webinar, live Q&A, or online course. You’ll both get priceless cross-pollination between your existing audiences, generate a valuable product that followers will appreciate, and build a mutually beneficial work partnership in the process.

Keep utility top-of-mind: Want to attract a group of people who appreciate and advocate for you? Make sure that everything you do keeps their benefit in mind. Don’t promote a friend’s work if her offering won’t help your people, don’t create empty clickbait to drive traffic to your site, and don’t build new classes around trendy topics just to rake in some cash. Talk to your community, understand their needs, and tailor your actions and offerings to them. You’ll build loyalty and trust, two great traits in tribe members.

Try live interaction: Limiting your online presence to static, pre-written content can make followers feel distant. Between Facebook Live, Insta Stories, and Google Hangouts, you’ve got access to three über-powerful, 100% free tools for connecting with potential tribe members. Pre-recording your Namastream classes means you can hone and perfect them, and you’d never want your students to think they’re paying to see a thrown-together rough cut. But also offering them the chance to interact with you live, ask off-the-cuff questions, and see you in your daily life will cement them as lifelong tribe members.

What an online tribe can do for you

Starting to warm to the idea, but still unsure why you should pour a bunch of time and energy into cultivating your tribe? Here are seven solid reasons this is a worthwhile business-building tactic:

  • Built-in beta testers: Gearing up for a new offering? Ask your tribe to help you work out the kinks before you start selling.
  • Launch support: Any time you roll out a new product, these people will be the first to buy it and tell all their friends and followers to do the same.
  • Sounding boards: You might not want to hit up your general audience when you need advice, but your peers, colleagues, and most loyal students and clients can offer support and insight when you’re feeling stuck.
  • Crowdsourcing: Well, yes, this could mean Kickstarter or GoFundMe if you’ve got a big project that needs upfront cash… but we’re also talking smaller asks. Need a great web designer or marketing genius? Wondering which fitness clothing lines your people prefer? Looking to partner with a brand and curious to know about others’ experiences? Want help naming your signature offering or pricing your next online course? Ask your tribe for input.
  • Honest feedback: Sometimes you’ll screw up. Your tribe will be there to hold you accountable, and help you manage the emotional fallout. (Remember that failure is part of the journey.)
  • Ego boosts: On the flip side, these people will be the ones who cheer their heads off when they see you doing great things.
  • Seamless networking: Being connected to a hive of compatible minds will inevitably lead to meaningful partnerships. Engaged tribe members who have your best interests at heart will organically introduce you to others in their networks with compatible philosophies. Beautiful partnerships are formed this way.

There are dozens of effective and creative ways to grow your online business, and even more that will help boost your follower count. But if you’re looking for ongoing support from dedicated fans and compatible colleagues, what you need is a tribe. And implementing any of the steps we’ve outlined here will help you find and connect with them!

If you found this post helpful, you should check out our Soulful MBA Resource Library — where we have more free tutorials, workbooks, and trainings to help you prepare to launch your online teaching business.

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