Maybe you want to build a like-minded community. Maybe you want to sell. Either way, you need to know how to find your tribe!
Why? Because LONELINESS beats out obesity, smoking, and even drinking booze when it comes to things that shorten your lifespan, ya’ll.
Doesn’t matter how much you work out.
Or if you sip turmeric lattes everyday.
Even if you are a chain-smoking alcoholic!
LONELINESS is the biggest threat to your health, believe it or not!
(And no, your cat doesn’t count as company.)
You’ve got to find your tribe if you haven’t already, not only for your business or social media goals, but for your mental and physical health as well! Watch this fascinating TED talk by Lissa Rankin to hear about all the studies that have shown this to be so:
So, I want to share some of these methods I’ve learned over the years and show you the massive benefits I’ve reaped from the results.
So what if you’re an extremely shy, introverted, solitary-loving creative type like I use to be?
And just a bit borderline people-hating?
I grew up an isolated, politically progressive teenager in a fundamentalist Christian, suburban, Disney bubble with no social skills (practically a mute, I was so shy). My only friend was my high-school boyfriend who had come out when we were 18. I made some friends here or there, but even among them I rarely felt a close kinship of spirit.
My hobbies then were writing novels and making jewelry. I spent a lot of time alone, and I liked it. But I was still lonely.
And the worse kind of loneliness you can feel is when you find yourself surrounded by people you have very little in common with, and who make you feel more lonely the more time you spend with them.
Then along came the internet. The world wide web made easier to find other Japanese anime lovers, introverts, and creative types like myself. By my third year at university I finally came out of my shell a bit thanks to a part-time job as a waitress and part sheer determination. I made more like-minded friends and even dated a few guys I met online through chat forums. All this was before Facebook ever existed!
Fast forward to 2008 when I started my gothic burlesque handmade jewelry business.
An extremely niche business choice, to say the least!
But this niche was very familiar to me by then as I’d built my entire lifestyle around the goth and burlesque sub-cultures. All thanks to being able to find other people online who also loved The Creatures, dressing in velvet and lace, and being able to learn where they went to dance together so I could meet them in person.
Just the fact that I was targeting a niche within a sub-culture gave me experience in finding and reaching out to an extremely small market when it came to business. My ideal customer was someone just like myself, so I felt the more I marketed my business, the more I felt an increasing sense of connection to more and more people who were like me.
I found forums, groups, and entire websites based around common interests. Those led to in-person meet-ups, which then led to more and more friendships and business opportunities. I had found my tribe, and I thrived in every way.
But how exactly do you find your tribe online as things are today? How can you zero in on the kind of people you want to befriend or that would make your ideal customer?
The following steps are what I recommend for both personal social enrichment and for business owners. Do each step in order.
How to Find Your Tribe Online:
1. Become the person you want to attract.
You must reflect back the kind of person you want to attract so that your kindred spirit or ideal customer can recognize you as one of their own.
This means learning the codes of the tribe you’re attracted to and modeling yourself on them. Learn their language, what words they use, what they love and what they loath. Of course you should stay true to yourself, but without a minimal investment in reflecting the established codes of your desired tribe, you won’t get recognized.
This is not just a practice for angsty teenagers. Humans will continue to size each other up with quick decisions at every age until the end of time. It’s human behavior. To ignore it is to relinquish a bit of personal power.
On a personal level, you can see people reflecting codes with hairstyle choices, clothing style, and music choices, for example.
With businesses, you’ll find it with the specific brand archetypes and sales messages. Kay Putman, my favorite branding expert, has a fabulous quiz that you can take to find out what your personal or business brand archetype should be and how to harness it.
Put into practice online, what we’re talking about here are mainly your personal and business profiles on all social media platforms. It can also be thumbnails, forum name handles, and anywhere else you’ve left your digital footprint.
2) Research the keywords your tribe is using online.
Just about every social and selling platform organizes itself with keywords, so knowing which ones your tribe is using is critical.
I first started learning about keywords while selling my jewelry on Etsy. I discovered goth girls were using not only, ‘goth’ and ‘gothic’ to describe their style of jewelry, but also, ‘Victorian’, ‘Edwardian’, ‘Trad-goth’, ‘Spooky’ and even ‘Halloween.’
To find your tribe using keyword research, start by making a list of words to describe yourself, your brand, your product, and your interests. Then expand on that to think about what other interests and products people interested in those things might also be into. You should be able to create lots of connected bubbles of interests. Keep doing this until you exhaust every idea that comes to you. Then start the research process around every single word you’ve written and write down every new word that you uncover online.
Here are eight ways to research keywords. With all of these, be sure you type one similar word in the search bar and pause to read what other suggestions pop up below. (And yep, I’ve shamelessly linked to all my own pages on these platforms to get you there, cause why not!)
- Google – search bar and the Google keyword tool
- Etsy – search bar and what competitors are using to tag their products
- Pinterest – search bar, board descriptions, and pin descriptions
- Instagram – hashtags
- Facebook – search bar
- Facebook groups – search bar within the group
- Ubersuggest – SEO expert Neil Patel’s own keyword research tool
- Keywords Everywhere – my personal fave tool which is a FREE chrome extension which shows you keywords right on the SERPS page (that’s techno babble for Search Engine Results Page, a.k.a the page that comes up once you type in a search.)
Once you’ve nailed down heaps of new words that your tribe is using, you can easily find the personal profiles of the people using them and connect with them on social media. Yes, it’s a little snoopy, but good research skills require good snoop skills!
3) Find your tribe on forums and in Meet-Up groups
Next, since online activity alone is not going to cure loneliness and will limit your business success, you’ve got to use your profiles and keywords to scope out where people truly engage with each other. Then you’ve got to suggest offline meet-ups or attend group events.
Here’s a great example of how I made friends online that then became real friendships offline:
In my keyword research to sell my jewelry I found a lot of goths were using the term ‘gothabilly’, which is a niche of goth subculture to describe a dark pin-up, retro rockabilly style. So I went on Google and typed,
FORUM + GOTHABILLY
And guess what I found? An entire website of pin-up models from all around the world with sub-forums for each country. Then within another sub-forum, I found a Melbourne group of women all into pin-up style, rockabilly, and gothabilly. I ended up meeting a few of them at local events and had one model my jewelry for me at another event.
I found all kinds of forums online this way. An Etsy sellers group just for goth craftspeople, a goth music forum, buy swap and sell forums, forums just for once a year events, and forums for discussing book genres.
The Facebook search bar, Facebook groups, and Meet-Up are my top choices for quickly and easily finding events around my interests.
I love attending events by myself when I know that I’m going to find myself in a room full of people who are passionate about the exact same things that I’m into. Most recently, I went to a Meet-Up soley about Facebook Ads and totally geeked out on marketing! It’s fun when you feel like you’re speaking a totally different language, yet everyone around you 100% gets what you’re on about.
THAT is being with your tribe!
4) Connect and continue to engage and meet up with the people you meet.
Lastly, you’ve got to keep the ball rolling with your new connections and friendships.
Once-off meet-ups in person won’t do anything to assuage the loneliness in between events.
Real friendships require time to develop, and only having a number of shared, offline experiences together will seal the deal.
Last year I began to feel lonely in business. As in, I already had many wonderful friends but only one of them could speak in marketing gobbledygook. I also had many business acquaintances, but none of them were people I could call up and say,”Let’s meet for drinks at the pub on Friday!”
But I was active in a number of Facebook groups, and one day a member in a copywriting group offered to do a quick website review. Curious to see what he said about each website, I took the time to look at each member’s link. That’s how I found my heavy-metal copywriting ‘copy-rocker’ Singaporean friend, Aliz. He just happened to live less than 10 minutes away from me! We’ve met up several times since then to blab on about copywriting and marketing, and helped each other out heaps of time online.
Sometimes your loneliness is not at all about not having enough friends. You can have lots of friends and still be lonely.
It’s only about needing the right friends to be able to talk about what is most meaningful to you.
Now, are you willing to find your tribe?
Prepare to get vulnerable. Whether you’re seeking kinship or to sell, you will need to put yourself out there. Research, reach out, engage, and then get out and meet people.
Reduce your chances that you won’t find who you’re seeking by getting out repeatedly until you do. No one should be lonely in this day of vast connectivity! If you’re lonely, know that you are never alone in that feeling, you just need to find your tribe.
What ways have you made real friendships from people you first met online?
Tell me your story in the comments below!