Seth Godin’s most recent book, Tribes has made it easier for me to speak with my clients. The term is easily relatable, as everyone is a member of some group of like-minded individuals. If you really want to make a meaningful connection with a person, just ask about their tribes. They’ll open up faster than a ripe banana.
Friday, I spoke with tribal leader (although it says Alumni Relations Officer on her business card) Christina Doherty of Merrimack College. I first noticed Christina’s name when she sent a message to the Merrimack College Alumni Facebook Group, celebrating the fact that the group had just passed 1000 members. Of course your New Media Evangelist couldn’t let this communique go unnoticed, so I contacted Christina to learn more about her use of Facebook.
Christina’s job is “…to engage with the young Alumni…those who’ve graduated in the past 10-15 years.” The term made me wince, because I graduated from Merrimack 23 years ago, and therefore by definition I must be part of the “old Alumni.” But I digress. As a tribal leader, she sought to find a place online for her tribe to gather. A Facebook Group seemed like a natural fit.
When creating the group, Christina noticed that other Merrimack-related Facebook Groups also existed, evidently created by former Merrimackans seeking to connect with past classmates, yet had nowhere else to go.That’s when Christina did something extraordinary, something that all organizations can learn from.
Instead of putting the Merrimack College Alumni Facebook Group out there to “compete” with these other groups, she reached out to them, suggesting that they pool their resources and unify into one. She explained her role at the college, and offered to take over the work necessary for maintaining the groups. Because of her offer, Merrimack Alumni now have a much more robust online community. Christina duplicated the process when creating a Linked-In group, essentially unifying disparate profiles into a single Merrimack Linked-In Group.
Is your company trying to build online tribes that support your organization? Are these corporate-sponsored online communities competing with or supporting existing ones? Does it make sense to share resources for the greater good of the tribe? Or what if you find a very large and thriving group? Would you, or more importantly, your boss, be willing to take a support role instead of a lead role for the betterment of the group?
Companies looking to form online spaces for their tribes need to take a lesson from Christina Doherty. Find your online tribes. Then, reach out and take care of them.