Tribal Communications is hot while Mass Communications is diminishing

In 2008 Seth Godin published his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.  

One of the concepts in the book is creating a tighter tribe and/or “transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change” usually leads to much more impact than trying to make a tribe bigger. I now see this as more about niche markets are where people are going today rather than the mass market communications.

Just today I visited with a missionary couple who are raising their first support to go into missions full time. They had been on staff of a missionary organization that helped “missionaries” with their presentations to churches and their supporters when they came home on furlough every few years.

While these “missionaries” were not doing what we might term mass communications they were mainly using the older mass communication model of communications done at certain times.  America would tune into the news on TV for a very long time at 6 pm and watch one of three networks before the Cable Networks came along.  While CNN was the first to give us round the clock new cast it for the most part was more of the same network news rebroadcast throughout the day.

Since the 1995 when Mosaic popularized the World Wide Web and helped what started out to be the instantaneous news cycle.  February 2004 Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook and then we were all able to create our communities with our “friends.” We could talk with and follow our friends. We shared tips and what we were finding on the web.

Two years later July 2006 Jack Dorsey launched Twitter. The tipping point for Twitter’s popularity was the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. During the event, Twitter usage increased from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000. “The Twitter people cleverly placed two 60-inch plasma screens in the conference hallways, exclusively streaming Twitter messages,” remarked Newsweek’s Steven Levy. “Hundreds of conference-goers kept tabs on each other via constant twitters. Panelists and speakers mentioned the service, and the bloggers in attendance touted it.”

Today the ability of any person to reach out and create content that others with similar interest might be interested in has created a new communications platform for not just the professional communications expert, but anyone who wants to get on a soapbox.

What’s the big difference?

Today people want ongoing communications when they want it and where they are located.  The mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are now creating more demand.

While the mass communication channels are still working the audience for them has shrunk considerable. Meanwhile more specialized magazines exist today than ever.  Authors are self publishing because of e-Books. Bloggers are sitting in their bathrobes in their homes and connecting with the world.


If you are needing to communicate with a constituency, you need to be communicating more often.  Blogging three times a week, putting out a newsletter, tweeting are not something of a fad–this is how your audience is getting their messages daily with things they are interested in. For those missionaries who used to come home every four years and give a slide show to their church and sending out quarterly newsletters they snail mailed are finding their support dwindling.  Those who are connecting with their supporters on a regular basis are flourishing.

Business can do the same things as these missionaries I met with today–telling their stories to keep their customers.

The missionaries noticed something new they didn’t see years ago from their traditional communication–responses. Their supporters are responding immediately when they get an eNewsletter.  They mention what they are doing and the people are excited and want to know when they are doing something so they can pray for them right then.

Businesses are also discovering a raving fan. Their customers are creating blogs about their products and trying to get the scoop on what the company is doing next.

The bottom line is mass communication which was one way communication is being replaced by a dialogue.