LOST and the Digital Tribe?
I used to block off my Thursday nights, my heart racing to hear that eerie tone with those four letters coming in to focus. No phone calls. No talking. Didn’t matter if it was mom or the girlfriend, it could wait. I was hooked. A huge smile would come across my face as I heard those three magical words, “Previously, on LOST.” I was more than a fanatic, more than borderline obsessed, and through this LOST fever, I became a digital tribe member.
I joined conversations online, discussing theories of what could really be going on. Was I Team Sawyer or Team Jack (not to steal Twilight’s allegiance terms)? Who will Kate end up with? And for goodness sake, what is that Black Smoke!? It was all over my online communities and I jumped right in. But this blog post is not about John Locke or why there was a Polar Bear on the island, it’s about making the important distinction between online communities and digital tribes. It’s time to pull out old Webster.
According to Wikipedia, an online community is a social network of individuals who interact through specific media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals – which is different from a digital tribe. Digital tribes are the groups of people who share those similar interests and beliefs. (In an interesting Guardian posting, they categorize digital tribes into 7 types.)
It can be very confusing trying to understand the difference between digital tribes and digital communities, much like when your high school geometry teacher dropped the hammer and did the whole, “A square can be a rectangle but a rectangle can’t be a square” kind of thing. (Wait, what?) So to avoid running in circles, I will use a very familiar channel to make my point.
If you’re like me and about half a billion other people, you’re probably on Facebook. Facebook, as a whole, is a great example of an online community where people can share common interests, what they like, and their own beliefs with selected family and friends.
But the larger Facebook community is divided into smaller tribes. Staying with our television show introduction, I can share pictures, videos and comments with other friends who have an affinity for LOST. This can be as simple as sharing and commenting on individual posts, liking a fan page or even creating a group around the show. Those individuals who engage in this content sharing are an example of a LOST Digital Tribe. We have a common interest and share information with one another (digital tribe), where that exchange takes place, in this case Facebook, serves as the medium for that sharing (online community).
Let’s finish by bringing it together in a fun example. Say you work for ABC and are in charge of marketing their new show, Once Upon a Time. It has a lot of similarities to ABC’s LOST and even some of the same executive producers. You know that LOST had a very strong and loyal Digital Tribe and, in hopes to reach and convert their loyalty to your new show, you have wisely budgeted some of your dollars on digital marketing. After some research you decide that Facebook is one of the online communities you would like to utilize. You create several different types of Facebook ads, all targeting Digital Tribe members who like LOST. The advertising is successful in communicating your message, because of the medium and your focused approach you stayed under budget, and the conversation you created online results in a large initial audience for the premiere. Your boss loves you and, in order to show your appreciation for this incredibly insightful blog post, you invite this writer on set to meet the cast. Everyone lives happily ever after!
But in all seriousness, understanding the difference between these two areas can really help you understand how you can reach your target market. However, when defining a target market and creating a campaign, it should be noted that before you decide to market to a specific digital tribe, you should evaluate 4 important elements: Tribe Loyalty, Tribal Size, Tribal Wealth and Tribal Competitive Landscape. However, that is for my next blog!
SOUND OFF: Do you know who the members of your digital tribe are? How do you target them?