Danielle LaPorte once said, “Find your tribe and love them hard.” I live by this motto because I believe it’s the key to a fulfilling personal life and even a successful professional life. But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we can’t seem to find our tribe.
That’s exactly what happened to me when I moved back to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama in 2009. I began searching for a group for female writers and bloggers. I found groups for aspiring novelists, but I specialize in non-fiction. I found groups for journalists, but, even though I’d spent years working for newspapers, I didn’t fit in with these groups either because some of their members scoffed at blogging, which has been a passion of mine since 2007.
After two years of searching for my tribe, in 2011 I decided to build my own. On March 24, 2011, I launched See Jane Write, a networking group for women who write and blog. Seven years later See Jane Write is now an award-winning business and has members across the country. But my goal is that no matter how much See Jane Write grows, it never stops being a community and it never stops being my tribe.
If you’re seeking to build your own tribe, if you’re seeking to build a sense of community around your blog, book, brand or passion project, I believe you need five things: 1) an idea that ignites 2) an event that excites 3) an invitation that intrigues 4) a meeting that sparks a movement and 5) a forum that forges friendships.
An Idea that Ignites
When building a tribe, you must first be clear on your purpose. You must have a mission or a mantra. You must have a cause for people to rally behind. You must have an idea that ignites and unites.
My idea was simple: I wanted to empower and inspire women to write. And I thought women would be more likely to write if they had a community of other women cheering them on. I’ve since written and rewritten fancy mission statements and manifestos, but at its core, my purpose is still what it was in March of 2011.
So what is your idea that unites? What’s your purpose? What’s your mission? What’s your mantra?
Start with just one simple sentence and let it evolve over time.
Here is my current mission statement:
I believe every woman has a story worth sharing, so I want to empower and inspire women to write and live lives worth writing about. I want all women to be the authors of their own lives. I believe they can do this once they learn how to use their words to make money and make a difference.
An Event that Excites
Now, that you’ve clarified the idea on which you will build your squad, it’s time to plan an event to get this party started!
See Jane Write was not a business when I started it and, frankly, I had no plans of it ever becoming a business. So, I had to keep things simple when I first started because I was paying for it all from my personal bank account. For the first event, I just wanted a casual mixer at which the women could mingle, talk about their current writing projects and goals, and discuss what they would want from a women’s writing group. So I reserved a huge table at a local Mexican restaurant, typed up some surveys that I printed on pink paper, and came up with a few icebreakers. And that was it. The first See Jane Write event was planned.
An Invitation that Intrigues
Now, that you’ve clarified the idea on which you will build your squad and planned an event to get things started, it’s time to extend an invitation to your event.
When I came up with the idea to launch See Jane Write I reached out to any and every woman in Birmingham I thought might be interested in such a group. I compiled my list by looking for local bloggers, by checking the bylines of local news stories and noting names on the mastheads of local magazines. I even read through the attendee lists of local events that I thought might attract female writers or bloggers.
After compiling a huge list of names, I used my reporting skills to find email addresses for these women. (If I couldn’t find an email address, I messaged them via Facebook.)
Of course, you will use this email list to invite people to your special event to launch your group, but keep this email list handy for future events and programs. Growing this list should be one of your primary goals as growing this list means growing your tribe.
Start searching for people to invite to your event and start sending emails giving them the who, what, when, where, and why of your event. You should also promote your event via social media, traditional media, and through community event calendars.
A Meeting that Sparks a Movement
During the very first See Jane Write event the women in attendance were already asking for more! They all wanted to know when the next event would be held and even had suggestions on what it should be about. With the first See Jane Write event, I had hosted a meeting that sparked a movement.
After that initial meeting, I kept giving my tribe what they were asking for. The first meeting drew 12 women and they told me they wanted a workshop on Twitter so I hosted one and 40 women showed up. Then I hosted a panel discussion on blogging and 75 women showed up! Clearly, I was on to something.
A Forum that Forges Friendships
After you have planned and hosted your first event for your squad, you must find a way to cultivate community between meetups and one of the best ways to do that is through social media. Hosting a Facebook group was instrumental in the growth of See Jane Write, as it was a great way for female writers and bloggers in my city to connect with one another even if they couldn’t make it out to all of the events. And now that See Jane Write has expanded beyond Birmingham, the group is a good way to keep ladies connected even if they’ve never met in person.
When I started the Facebook group for See Jane Write, the women in the group instantly started building friendships and supporting one another. As a result, this made my movement stronger because it made them eager to attend any See Jane Write event that they could because they wanted to meet their new virtual friends in real life. The group also made the women feel truly connected to See Jane Write. It gave them a sense of ownership. See Jane Write was no longer just my group; it was their group, too.
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