Day 16: Tribes

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Day 16: Tribes

We’re all searching for a sense of belonging. This could be in the small sense like finding a friend or a wider sense by finding a group of like minded people to work with. Belonging is really important to people. Even in a bigger picture knowing yourself and feeling comfortable with who you are is a sense of belonging.

I bring it up because I’ve been thinking more and more about finding your audience as a performer. The artists I feel most connected to are the ones who make me feel connected to them, their vision and most importantly… their fans.

Other fans are a really good asset for anyone in the arts. You can chat about the creator, or things around what they make and it gives a sense of community and connection which I think some of the internet has forgot. 

Before social media sites we would use forums (if you’re too young to remember a world before social media, just trust me on this one). You’d go to the forum, not because it had the best advert or was the top of the search results, but because it had the best content and likeminded people in it who you could share your thoughts, feelings and opinions with.

Now we have Facebook Pages. A thing which doesn’t let all your fans see the posts so that they can charge you for exposure. It’s become an advert-led model which is shooting itself in the foot in the longterm. When I started my podcast I had a Facebook page. Very quickly I deleted it and made it again as a group. Why? Well, the first reason is the “Reach” problem. For those of you reading this who do not work in social media, please be aware that until about 6 months ago Facebook posts would just appear on the timeline of your fans. It didn’t mean they all saw it, but it did mean that more people potentially saw it. Facebook changed its model of making money towards adverts and now, they do not have as much reach unless you pay for it. 

The next (and more important) reason I went for a group is because it allows community in a way pages do not. Pages let me post out to you and you can reply and comment, but the most recent stuff stays on top and all the community comments / input are wasted or lost. Which is a shame. 

Online we gravitate towards the content which suits are interests. Everyone is getting more and more niche with their subject matter to try and find their own angle to attract an audience. This is a very very good thing. But it does mean that we are hunting for a tribe to below to. An online identity which means that if someone searches our name they’ll find out all about us in a specific way that we want them to. 

Do to this level of obsessing over this idea (and a general obsession with Seth Godin) I’ve just purchased his book Tribes: We need you to lead us. I found out that approximately 1% of every community actually makes content. Around 10% engage and the rest watch / like to observe and maybe donate / help when a big project comes up. 1%. If your community is 100 people the only person making content is you (probably). If you get to 1000 people 9 of them might make random fan art from time to time or help you create images for blogs.

Knowing this, we (as performers and artists) are in a great position. The fact that so few people are willing to make stuff and that so many people are willing to view and engage with stuff means that if we (you / I) start making stuff, you’re ahead of the game. (Aside, making “stuff” means good stuff… not just any old stuff). 

When I think back to my childhood we had Pokemon cards. I remember unconsciously talking to the other people who played the game. They were “my people”. I connected with them because we shared an idea and identity. It’s engrained into our minds as people who have only got this far through community.

The most interesting part of communities and tribes is how little we understand / embrace ones we don’t belong to. We can only belong to limited number of tribes. We don’t have the time or energy to  belong to all of them. So we pick and choose as carefully as we can. 

Bronies are adult men who enjoy the TV show My Little Pony. This “fandom” is a community I don’t understand. But the idea of it I do. These dudes don’t fit in with the target market of the show, but love it anyway. They have created their own place to talk and connect and feel more of an affinity with the show. 

Basically what I am saying is three things – 

  1. Knowing people hunt for specific content to them but rarely have the motivation / knowledge / energy / time to make it is important.
  2. Having an active interest in anything will mean that someone else will and it’s likely you can find an audience for it.
  3. Combining those two ideas means that you can create a community around something you want to make and find friends, fans and supporters who love both your work, and also the niche (which does not mean small) angle you come at it from.

And with that… I’m off to make something. 

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Simon Caine is a comedian, author, podcaster, writer and social media manager. He's the host of the Ask The Industry Podcast (iTunes link) , writer of jokes for Twitter and teller of gags on the London comedy scene. He's also the person writing this and it is taking all his willpower not to make a "Simon Says" joke.
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