In the early days of The Influence Expert, I’ve been putting some time and thought into building up a community of people who are interested in what I do and in the idea of growing their influence to increase the impact they have on the world. I’m starting to grow my tribe.
I’ve already shared an article about Why Tribes Matter.
In that article I cover what a tribe is, why it matters and how to build one. I say:
It is easier to build a tribe in the modern world than ever before. There are more people out there who think like you, (and are waiting for you to contact them and lead them) and (especially via the power of the Internet), more ways to get to them.
I have some experience of building tribes in the past. In particular I have built up a community of people interested in the issue of getting more people on charity boards (I set up the organisation Young Charity Trustees). I was also the Chief Executive of a charity with more than 6000 members. Of course, I’ve also been part of many other people’s tribes and have learned greatly from what they do.
But I’d say this is the first time I’ve set something up and from the beginning tried to be strategic in terms of creating a tribe.
In this article, I will explain:
- How I laid some of the groundwork before I officially launched my business
- What I did to start building my tribe
- What my tribe has taught me so far
- The failures I had and what I learned from them
- What I plan to do next
It is still early days. I launched my business at the end of February this year and it is evolving over time, so I’m not drawing too many firm conclusions yet. However, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the lessons so far with you.
Laying the groundwork
In November last year I published a post on LinkedIn called Five Key Ways You Can Have Greater Influence
I made sure that in the article, I said
If you have your own examples of increasing your influence, or, if you can identify areas that you would like to work on, please leave them in the comments below- I would love to hear them.
…because I wanted to hear what was important to people. I also wanted to make sure that the topic I was interested in was something that other people were interested in too. Otherwise I wouldn’t even have the beginnings of a business!
I promoted the article to my existing networks and made sure that I got a decent amount of views (currently more than 2000) and comments.
In the article I made it clear from the start that while this is an area I know a lot about, it doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. I wanted people to feel that they could disagree with me and to point out alternatives to my views and to the observations I had come to.
The LinkedIn post and my thinking that stemmed from it, formed the basis of my core model, The LEAPS Model. I’m developing the Model into the core of how my business is going to try to help people.
In the run up to launch I used my existing following and networks to encourage people to take an interest in my new business and to become part of my new tribe.
I already had a decent network- (important, as I’m calling myself The Influence Expert!) and I started to engage them in what I was doing, getting some feedback and also some encouragement.
I did a lot of research around creating tribes- I love Seth Godin’s book on the subject- and I tried to learn from other businesses and how they make me, or try to make me, part of what they are doing.
I created a manifesto for the website that I hoped people would start to coalesce around:
I am on the path to growing my influence.
I know I have the unique opportunity to make a difference.
Others may put me down or belittle my efforts.
They can’t see, as I can, the impact I’m going to have.
Just watch out, world!
Starting building my tribe
After launch, I did a few specific things to try to build my tribe.
I ran a competition where the prize was to win some free consulting with me. Working with the winner taught me a lot about the best ways that I can help. The prize attracted people to my email list who were really interested in the subject that I’m teaching about.
I decided on a name, the Influencer Tribe. I tried to think carefully about the tone of blogs and emails, keeping them professional but trying to make them a bit conversational too. I still have a lot to learn but am confident I’ll improve over time. I wanted to try to be authentic and give a few insights into my life as I believe authenticity is such a crucial part of growing your influence- it would be hypocritical if I didn’t at least try to practice it myself.
I also thought quite a lot about how I can best teach my tribe. I have teaching experience in several countries, both voluntary and paid- and one thing that has definitely stuck with me is that people like to consume information in different ways.
I tried to give my tribe different ways to get to know me. Aside from blog posts and emails I have tried:
Live broadcasting– A weekly show on Periscope called ‘The 4 Influence Show’ and a similar but less regular presentation using Facebook Live
Podcasts– Such as here
Social Media– The Influence Expert Twitter account, LinkedIn Company Page, Facebook Page and Instagram account.
I hope that trying a variety of methods has meant that:
- my tribe gets to know more about me in the way they prefer to learn
- I am demonstrating good practice in showing people different things that you can use to grow your influence
- it has made me think a lot more about certain topics- for example I find that shooting a video helps me to think differently about a subject than writing a blog would.
- through things like live broadcasts they get to see a (mostly) unscripted version of me.
I encouraged members of my growing tribe to contact me directly and answer any questions they might have. I also asked for some feedback about things like what they thought of the emails I sent out – and widely shared a survey finding out about people’s interest in the subject of influence.
I tried to make sure that even by the time of launch there was a little bit of social proof for what I was doing- some followers for The Influence Expert on social media account, for example, and over time I have continued to build that up and reach out to people online in different ways. I have also started to collect some recommendations from my tribe that I will be able to use in my marketing.
After selecting a winner for the competition, I made the decision to do something a bit different. I wanted my tribe to know that I cared about them and I was frustrated that I hadn’t had an easy way to interact with lots of people on an individual basis. Regarding the second point, that is one of the frustrations of a modern, online business. It isn’t as easy to meet your supporters and potential customers face to face.
So, I decided to make an offer of free consultancy to people who replied by a certain date.
This was the relevant part of the email I sent:
I hope you’ve had a good week so far. First, I wanted to let you know that I selected the launch competition winner and he’s happy for me to share his name- Rhys Morgan (who was the 86th person to sign up). You can find out about his work here and on Twitter here. I will be working with Rhys in the next few weeks to help him grow his influence.
Sorry to those of you who missed out on the prize- so, everyone apart from Rhys (!)- but I do have something exciting for you- completely for free.
If you get in touch with me in the next week- before I send you my next email on the 14th- I will give you either:
a) A one page paper listing ways I think you can improve your LinkedIn profile- or
b) A one page exercise to help you get clarity about why you want to have more influence- or
c) A one-page assessment of what your online personal brand is telling me right now- and areas for possible improvement
When you get in touch please tell me if you are interested in a) b) or c) and then I’ll make arrangements to help.
If a lot of people ask me it might take me some time to do, but I promise I will do it for anyone that asks. This free, one-time offer is exclusively for people on my list at this point to thank you for being ‘early adopters’ and signing up. Please don’t pass this offer on to anyone else, it is only for you!
It felt like a gamble to do this for three reasons:
1- If I didn’t hear back from anyone it wouldn’t do my confidence much good that people were really interested in the subject of influence!
2- If I did hear back from a decent amount of people I might struggle to help everyone to a high standard
3- It was so important to me not to let my tribe down when they were just getting to know me
However, that decision was probably the best one I have taken in the life of my business so far.
The response was brilliant- more than 20 people wanted my help.
Even better than that, they sounded so excited (and grateful) that I was asking and the content of their emails suggested that it would be a really great opportunity to build a bit of a conversation with them. A further bonus was that it was an interesting piece of market research to learn what the most popular free consulting option was.
Their response was the first time that my business felt truly alive. I knew I had something potentially powerful that was connecting with real people and tapping into some of the things that were important to them.
It was an absolute pleasure to fulfil the task.
Firstly, when I started to review some of the personal brands of my tribe, I was so impressed. I was impressed at the amount of control many of them had over their brands- though, in every case, there was something that I could help them with. I was also impressed at the amazing things that members of my tribe had done- my methods were clearly attracting the calibre of people I was hoping for. I particularly want people as part of my tribe who are prepared to work hard and who don’t expect me to do all the work for them.
On the ‘Start Here’ page of my website, I say:
In my training, courses, publications and 1-1 work, I will explain this model in depth. I think it and all of the insights I will share with you have the potential to make a huge difference to your career and ultimately to your whole life.
That’s the exciting part. But, before you sign up to this adventure with me, one note of caution.
This website is not for people who want to dabble in influence. It is for people who are prepared to make a proper commitment. Not everyone will be willing to put in the work, not everyone cares enough, not everyone is that bothered about making a difference. I am hoping that you are one of the select group who will and the fact you have read up to this point suggests that you are.
If you are, please come on this journey with me by signing up to my email list and having a look at the other support I can provide you with.
My tribe has so far shown me that they are the sort of people that are prepared to do the work.
One of the most exciting things for me was that while doing the work, I experienced flow. I am sure many of you are familiar with it, if you would like to learn more, see this TED Talk.
Essentially, when I was doing the work, the world stopped around me. It felt like I was born to do it. That was a powerful signal that I was on the right track with my business. Of course, just enjoying a piece of work doesn’t mean you have a viable business, but some people never love their job, so it’s a start!
Also, I just learned so much by helping people. As with most things, it works best if you learn by doing, and it has to be real situations. I was helping people with a variety of real situations, many of whom I might never have communicated with had I not started The Influence Expert.
I am thrilled with my tribe and so excited to get to know them better. Part of my job now is to let them get to know each other a bit (which I’ll discuss below)
Of course what really mattered was whether the advice actually helped my tribe.
Early signs are yes! People are already making changes to the way that they present their brand online.
I also got some kind recommends like:
“I approached Alex looking for help with my personal brand while I was looking for a new job. He gave me practical suggestions which I could implement straight away, mixed with some very positive comments which built my confidence and encouraged me to continue working on my personal brand across social media in particular. I found him very easy to work with, and really benefit from continued support through his regular emails and videos.” Kirsten Hogg
In terms of letting my tribe get to know each other better….
I recently published the first Influencer Tribe Interview, it’s had a brilliant response. I am now encouraging other members of the Influencer Tribe to get involved. This explains more about the series. The second interview is coming out soon.
I am also starting a new series- beginning next week- where I take questions that members of the Influencer Tribe have asked me and answer them publicly.
The point of both is to:
- Continue to foster a sense of community
- Make sure that members of the Tribe get to know about other members, not just me
- Show that I’m interested in people getting involved
- Give members of the Tribe a wider range of people to learn from.
This latter point also relates to a different interview series I’ve started, which seeks to introduce my tribe to influential people we can all learn from.
In the case of the Influencer Tribe interviews, it also gives the participants a chance to build their influence through the interviews themselves- putting their brand in front of a new audience.
What my tribe has taught me so far
As well as helping me understand how I can better serve them, my tribe has taught me some common problems they share.
- People are not sure what their brand is
- People are not sure how to take their influence to the next level
- People are not taking full advantage of platforms like LinkedIn
Also, they have shown me common areas where they lack confidence. Things like:
- Taking the next step in their work and life
- People are worried about ‘bragging’ when it comes to their brand
From feedback, it was particularly good to make the free offer to people. Why?
- Gets me closer to my tribe
- Helps them to trust me
- Helps me know what people want
- Helps me solve real problems and put some of my ideas into action
I’ve only scratched the surface of ways that I can help my tribe, but I’m pleased with my progress so far.
Failures and my learning
How did I fail in supporting and building my tribe so far?
- My main failure was that I took too long to fulfil some of the free consultancy requests. A move to another country and internet problems set me back a bit. However, I made sure that I was apologetic! Also, when I did fulfil requests, I tried to over-deliver on the value I gave people. Still, this is a failure I need to learn from- I should have found a way to make it happen sooner.
- I would say that my other biggest failure is that I haven’t spent enough concerted time doing things to grow my email list- the list is my main way to communicate with my tribe and get to know them better. This is of course something I’m keen to spend a lot more time on in the future and I hope the lessons I have learned so far will stand me in good stead for when things get bigger!
I think that a key piece of learning I’ve had is that in order to learn from my tribe I have had to make myself vulnerable to them in some way. This is a difficult balance for anyone starting out as you want your tribe to think you are impressive.
But at the same time:
- they have to know you are a real person and you fail too
- they have to know you can’t do this without them
- they need to find you believable- authenticity is a key part of the LEAPS model
- you have to learn what they really want, so you can serve them
- only if you show that you truly need their help can they give you their wisdom
One of my failings generally is that I’m not always open enough with other people, so this has been a challenge for me, but the rewards have been great.
My immediate plans are to get my two interview series and my questions series established.
I want to get more people to the YouTube Channel for The Influence Expert as I think video is a really good way to get people engaged and to trust me. I’m making lots of small improvements including a new channel video: watch it below to hear me introduce the channel including my two main video series about influence:
I want to continue to get feedback from my tribe about how I can improve and what content around the subject of influence would most help them.
After that I have two main aims:
- to bring more people into the Influencer Tribe
- to find new ways to connect with them and help them
I’m looking forward to the journey ahead and the adventures we’re going to have over the years together. I know it will be a lot of work, but I am sure it will be rewarding.
If you have any experiences of building a tribe or any comments in general, I’d love to hear from you below…