Tribe Behavior in Online Video

I’ve always had a brain crush on Seth Godin, and used to preach his gospel when I worked at an interactive agency pre-bubble burst. But I had lost touch with the author since his Purple Cow book, and was glad to get a dose of his new “tribal marketing” insights last week in NYC.

Here’s a quick summary of Tribes:

  • A tribe is any group of people who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.
  • For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.
  • Now the Internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger.

As I continue to read about budget challenges with online-video advertising, I’m struck with the stark contrast between:

  • ads that surround or interrupt a video (and usually annoy they aren’t ignored).
  • the promotional videos I do (and urge other amateurs to make).

To use an exaggerated example, when Oprah gives away 276 Pontiacs we remember it. When she pimps an author, he becomes a best seller. But name one of the ads that rolled when you were watching Oprah (assuming you didn’t DVR her and zip past ads all together).

If I had time, I would have loved to explain YouTube’s tribe to Seth, and how I saw online video in a new light as I listened to him.

  • In effect, there are lots of different “tribes” in online video. Most top creators are, in effect, tribal leaders by Seth’s definition.
  • My favorite example are the Vlog Brothers. There’s a great pride among the viewers who strongly identify with the term “Nerd Fighters.” They rally, they meet locally, and it gives them a sense of belonging… to rid the world of suck and infuse awesome.
  • A long time YouTube advocate, Renetto, led an exodus to Vloggerheads and many followed. In fact the site is now populated with people who aren’t Renetto fans, and sub tribes have formed (dozens of groups).
  • Gay entertainment reporter Michael Buckley has developed such a regular following with his What the Buck show that even his vlog channel (Peron75) has 65,000 subscribers. His live shows on draw hundreds.

I don’t think of myself as a tribe leader, and I try to entertain — not create a sense of intimacy and belonging among viewers. But there have been times where the community rallied on my behalf (like the time I asked for help to get into YouTube’s partners program with this NAPPY video). That video remains one of the most responded to video of all time.

  • What does this mean to creators? Considering your family of viewers as a “tribe” will probably foster a greater sense of unity and advocacy. This could result in a faster-growing audience, but also carries challenges and responsibilities. It’s like a second family, and some have time and desire for that, while others don’t.
  • What does this mean to advertisers? Despite what you’d hope, most people don’t care about your product or service enough to form a tribe around it (with maybe Mac and cars as exceptions). So your best bet is to join a tribe that exists. But that’s not about advertising in prerolls or even paying the creator to make a paid video. That’s going to involve something far more interesting, that has the tribe see the brand as a welcome member not a self-serving interuption.

39 Replies to “Tribe Behavior in Online Video”

  1. Remember, if something you are talking about is plural, there is no apostrophe before the “s”. Only use the apostrophe when the item you are talking about is possessive – it “owns” something else.

    For example, in your sentence :”To use an exaggerated example, when Oprah gives away 276 Pontiac’s ” the word “Pontiacs” is plural, not possessive. You are talking about more than one Pontiac, not something that belongs to one Pontiac.

  2. Okay- spell check was annoying me because it didn’t like Pontiac’s. After seeing it 3 times, I finally gave in (to avoid seeing the cursed red squiggly line.

  3. Brilliant post (except for the Pontic’s – Marylinn’s right about the spelling as usual). It’s exactly what I’ve been saying all along. People with a product to sell need to tie their product into existing “tribe leaders” instead of trying to become something they’re not. I love Pepsi, but I can’t “see” a single pepsi commercial or video in my head. Your co-hosted PopTub show, however is still vivid in my mind (and hilarious, btw).

    As far as “tribes” go, it’s important to point out that each tribe is not an autonomous group. For example, we’re all part of the very large “YouTube” tribe. But we’re also part of the smaller tribe within YouTube that is Nalts’ channel.

    And of course there are offshoots from tribes. For example, the wvff tribe is more a laterally connected tribe to Nalts on YouTube, since it’s not under the YT umbrella, and since some people here come here from elsewhere.

    It is true, we all want hierarchy, and we all want to belong somewhere. That’s why a lot of successful ad campaigns focus as much or more on the community you join by using their product than the product itself. Listen to all the ads that have phrases like “More than 30,000 people use our product” or “By supporting our cause, you’ll be joining thousands who make a difference…”. Look at all the ads that feature groups of people hanging out enjoying the product. To the consumer, being part of a group is at least as powerful a message in advertisements as sex, probably moreso.

    And once again, this is why advertisers should put their products on the somecallmejim channel. My faithful followers will buy your stuff, or your money back!

  4. “A tribe is any group of people who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.”

    WillVideoForFood commenters are almost a tribe. We are connected to one another, we have a leader (Nalts) – but where is the idea?

    Me, I just hang out here ‘cos it’s fun. But I don’t think that in itself constitutes an idea.

  5. very subtle, I won’t assume what Marilyn already has.

    Fact is, everyone wants to belong, we are social monkeys after all, so I believe Godin is right. The Kazinskis (<–did I use the “s” correctly Maryland?) of the world are a rare thing. There is a balance somewhere. It’s tough to get along with everyone, even an avatar. What I think you’re saying, in your heart of hearts, is you hate in-your-face-and-down-your throat-advertising, that you rather your kids and others to grow up civic rather than corporate.

    Ultimately, there’s the challenge, to put tribal marketing aside, but the tribal leader has to make a living in order to feed his people and he’s willing to get ulcers and yell “free market” to reach that goal. That’s the American way, for now, it’s not unlike a tsunami. Of course, there’s a better way, Is it too late? The battle continues.

    Those who reject that affront are off finding their own little enclaves and adding it to the others they’ve collected; we monkeys like to collect stuff too, even people.. another topic.

    So whether it’s marriage, a bowling league or joining a cold heartless play-by-our-rules-slave corporation it always comes down to which tribe’s tics you want to pick, until you join another tribe that wants freedom from the tribes whose tics you are currently picking.

    Freedom to choose or be chosen is only a matter of degrees and it’s natural freak of nature now for advertisers to rear their ugly heads anywhere they can. Can we all co-exist together? That decision will ultimately be up to Google.

  6. Jesus christ, i haven’t even read it and already I can tell I’m not gonna like this blog post because it’s so loooooooong. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . ..

  7. “If I had time, I would have loved to explain YouTube’s tribe to Seth, and how I saw online video in a new light as I listened to him.”

    Yeah, right. Like he wouldn’t have bolted full speed in the other direction once he saw you headed his way.

  8. Okay let’s say we really are a “tribe” here on this blog. And for the moment, yeah, I’ll assume nalts is the leader. Who are we gonna sacrifice in order to keep the gods from throwing down bolts of fire at us every time we venture out of our caves?

    I vote robnickel.

  9. sukatra good idea! Only thing is no one is willing to commit and go out and catch him; because I am certain he will run, but we could pontificate like politicians and create a make believe story of what it would be like if we did. Then we could self-publish a best seller, make a million – scratch that – a Billion dollars, create a following; a tribe, and start a corporation and then advertise. Or, we could all pick a number and buy a lottery ticket; the latter being so much easier. Wheew! All that made me hungry and we’re having meet balls and ice cream for dinner!

  10. Okay. I’ll be the leader. And here’s my big idea. Let’s find a cliff to jump off, Lemmings. Hey- could be worse. We could be in NYC at the gathering. In the rain.

  11. So that’s why you’re pouting? Keep it up mister and your face will freeze like that. Geeze, the US is about to go Bankrupt, Oklahoma declared sovereignty, India is on its way to the moon and you are pouting over a You Tube Gathering? Where are your priorities man!

    ooo look gum!

  12. It is pouring here, Kevin. Is it not raining in PA? I’m probably closer to NYC than you are, but not by much.

    It is a sucky Saturday night and I am sitting home reading this blog because my friend and I were going to go to the movies (“W.”), but she crapped out on me. We are a couple of old farts and can’t stay up late very often.

    Sukatra, I don’t believe for a minute that if Nalts sent you a hat that you would stop being mean. It is really not in your nature to be too nice.

    But we love you anyway.

  13. @26

    shut up!!!!!!!!

    Damn! I almost had that hat and you had to ruin it!

    Oh, you will pay for this mary had a little lamb.

    Yeah. That’s right. mary had a little lamb, whose fleece was white as snow. Then sukatra came along and butchered it like a hog and that fleece? Not so white anymore.

  14. We’re certainly tribal at VloggerHeads, that’s for sure. Thanks for the mention, Kevin. Interestingly, VloggerHeads launched the same week as Seth’s Triiibes Ning site.

  15. @ 33 Oh shit… I didn’t think you would see my comment! 😉 It’s about time you came to this blog. The people here are in need of some serious mental health treatment. Good thing you’re here.

  16. For the record, while I think Seth is a freakin’ marketing genius (and why wouldn’t I? He agrees completely with my point of view in this area) I also think he bears an uncanny resemblance to Captain Picard on Star Trek TNG, ESPECIALLY in the picture Kevin used above. Does anyone else see that, or is it just me?

  17. I was tempted to comment on that uncanny head, but thought it would be unkind. Obviously somecallmejim doesn’t worry about things like that.

    At the same time, I’m really not in a position to opine about Seth being any kind of genius.

    Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

  18. The weirdest thing about that whole lecture was when Seth offered Kevin the gift of a free “Godin Action figure” and Kevin declined whipping out his own doll mentioning that he likes to carry it around when he travels. Let me tell you those seats weren’t big enough to crawl under, I know ’cause I tried. It was even hard to prevent him from licking the thing! Just kidding. Sorta of.

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