If you've been online for more than a few seconds, you've probably heard the phrase “build your tribe”. These days, it seems like everyone is talking about it. Last summer, Beachbody fitness pro Chalene Johnson even started a podcast around the topic! But what does it really mean? (Prior to talking to Chelsea, I would have assumed that eating yak butter and going to a Crossfit gym were part of the package … I couldn't have been more wrong!) Building your tribe is all about finding like-minded people who will support you in your business while you support them in theirs.
So how do you create an incredible community of women who will encourage you and help you to grow? What do you do once you've assembled? How can you really leverage the strengths that you each bring to the table?
After listening to our interview with Chelsea Coulston of MakingHomeBase.com, I hope you'll take a deep breath and realize that building your tribe is much easier and more enjoyable than you might have guessed. You can aboslutely do this! And your business is counting on you to take the next step.
On the Podcast
01:44 – How a Boat + a Baby Led to a Blog
03:38 – How to Build Your Tribe
06:59 – How to Structure your Tribe
08:23 – The Perfect Number for a Thriving Community
09:44 – Why Varying Strengths = Success
11:42 – Zero Deadbeats?! What's Their Secret?
14:12 – How to Connect with your People
16:05 – Tribe-Building Tips
17:55 – So Many Ways to Collaborate
19:34 – 3 Great Tools for Online Business
21:08 – The Never-Ending Struggle for Balance!
22:42 – 2 Important Ways to Connect and Grow
23:47 – Chelsea's Adorable Mom Moment
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear the Full Interview
How a Boat + a Baby Led to a Blog
When Chelsea and her Navy husband moved to San Diego in 2012, their daughter Peyton was just 6 weeks old. A week after moving in, Chelsea's husband was underway on his new ship. So with a new house, a new baby, and no one around to lend support, Chelsea made it her mission to turn her house into a home base for her family. Her blog, MakingHomeBase.com was born.
As a military family who's gearing up for their 6th move in recent years, Chelsea struggles to find ways to make their rentals feel homey. When you get lost in the world of Pinterest and blogs, it's easy to get discouraged because there are so many great projects and beautiful ideas that you wish you could implement in your own home.
Chelsea's mission to turn even the most temporary living space into a beautiful home has helped so many other people who are in the same situation. She gets emails all the time from folks who move a lot or have to live in a rental for one reason or another, and they're so thankful to have ideas that work for their specific situations.
How to Build Your Tribe
As Chelsea started learning how to grow her blog, she started watching Google hangouts with Becky Farrant of InfarrantlyCreative.net
Becky shared about how crucial tribes were to her success online. A year after blogging, Chelsea reached out to a blogging friend of hers – April Hoff of HousebyHoff.com. They started an annual event called their summer celebration, and right after that Chelsea asked if April would be interested in “going in with her” on creating a tribe.
April and Chelsea both reached out to 3 other bloggers each to see if they'd be interested. Every single one of them said yes, so they hopped on Facebook and created their little tribe of 8 bloggers.
Were they all friends ahead of time?
Nope! A few of the bloggers were women that Chelsea or April had collaborated with before, but many were just people that they admired and wanted to connect with.
Chelsea recommends reaching out to someone who's audience size is similar to yours, but other than that, just pick women who do work that you admire. Pick someone who may bring different strengths to the table.
How to Structure your Tribe
Chelsea's tribe keeps the structure really relaxed. Since it's small, and they all admire each other's work, there's genuine connection that happens in the group. They help each other, collaborate, and give advice.
Other than the more organic ways that they support each other, each week someone in the group starts a few quick threads for social sharing. They create one thread for Google+, one for Facebook, one for Pinterest, etc. Everyone shares links on that thread for what they're doing that week, and as the week goes on they share each other's content on social media to help promote one another. Once you schedule out those posts to share, just hit the like button for that comment on the thread to show that you've shared or scheduled the post.
Chelsea says this method is a great way to share excellent content other than you're own, and since the group is small and selective, everyone in it puts out phenomenal content. You never have to worry about what you're sharing with your readers.
If you miss a week of sharing or promoting others' content, it's not a big deal. No one in the group is there to police the others.
The Perfect Number for a Thriving Community
While the group started out with 8 women, they now have 12 members. Chelsea feels that if the group were any bigger than 12, it would be hard to keep up with the promoting. 10 was also a great number for a group, especially for collaborations. Now, though, with 12, they can still do a great group project even if a few ladies aren't available to participate.
How do you decide who gets in?
As the tribe has grown, they all make the decision to add new members together. Someone in the group will say, “hey do you know this lady from this site, she's awesome, what do you think about adding her to the group?” Then they all decide, “yes she's great – bring her in.”
Again, making decisions as a group and keeping the group small has helped to ensure that every member is an excellent blogger and puts out content that they all feel good about sharing.
Why Varying Strengths = Success
Chelsea shared that this particular group of women is her very favorite group that she's ever been a part of. Each person is an expert in their own right, so there's always someone who has an answer to your question.
Some women are awesome at e-books. Others are great at storytelling and building their brand. And Chelsea shares that one blogger is simply fantastic at photos and always shares what lens she's using and what techniques work best for her.
There are so many little decisions that come up in blogging such as “how much should I charge for this?” or “should I really have a media kit?” The other women are there to lend their experience and expertise to help the others.
Through their incredible group, these twelve women have become true friends. Half of them attended the Haven Conference last year, and they hung out with each other virtually the whole time! It's been incredible for them to take the relationships offline.
Zero Deadbeats?! What's Their Secret?
Sarah and I were both curious about how to handle things if one member of the group wasn't pulling their weight. We were surprised when Chelsea shared that this has never been a problem in their tight-knit group. So what's their secret?
The group is very relaxed. The expectations aren't super high for each person. It's a very positive, supportive group, and they have the mentality of, “if you need us, we're here.”
Most of the tribe members are moms, and they each have peaks and valleys in their lives. They all completely understand if someone has to step away from blogging or the group for a bit. They don't look at the group in terms of being incredibly strict and, “what are you doing for me lately” kind of mentality.
Chelsea has been part of other communities that were there strictly for promoting each others' content. Sometimes it's just too difficult to keep up.
Chelsea's advice if you're feeling overwhelmed with a particular tribe is to just be upfront and honest and say, “I really like you guys but I can't keep up with the promoting” and you can just politely exit from the group. “Not every group will be the right fit for you.”
How to Connect with your People
Facebook is the primary way that Chelsea connects with her 12-person tribe. It's just easier to ask questions and keep the conversation going in a private group there.
However, she's also part of a smaller group with only 3 people, and they do Google Hangouts quite often. They decide on a topic for the week such as affiliate sales, photography, or monetizing their sites. Then they each bring notes and questions to the hangout to discuss. A lot more information can get passed through conversation in a hangout.
Finally, Chelsea was able to connect with some of her people at conferences. It's so fun to be able to meet blogging friends in real life and talk about what's going on with their kids, their lives, and build that friendship offline.
What are best ways to build your tribe? Chelsea shares 4 great tips.
- Find people you admire. Find those women who are in the same niche, perhaps, but don't do things exactly like you do. Find women who continuously put out great content that you'd have no problem sharing or promoting.
- Find people who different skill sets and strengths. If you're awesome at email marketing, you may want to find someone who's great at photography, or someone else who's an amazing writer. You will learn so much more by finding women with varying strengths and skills to bring to the table.
- Look for Similar Size. Chelsea recommends that you pick people who are about the same size as you. Everyone should be able to pull their weight and bring something to the table
- Step outside your comfort zone. There are awesome bloggers you're not working with at the moment. Just introduce yourself and say “Hey I think you're great. I've been reading your blog for a while and I really admire what you're doing. Would you be interested in joining in my tribe so we can work together? I can learn a lot from you.”
Chelsea says that “everyone loves to have a group and belong somewhere.” (So true!)
So Many Ways to Collaborate
Chelsea's tribe works together in so many ways. Below are just a few examples. Hopefully they'll get you thinking about the ways that you and your tribe can grow together!
- Group Home Tours and Online Events. Chelsea's tribe teams up each spring to do a spring home tour. They link back to each other's blogs, so they each see a huge boost in visitors from working together. Plus their readers are way more excited to see 10 or 12 great homes instead of just 1.
- Group Giveaways. It's easy to pull together for a big prize when there are 10 or more bloggers involved, plus the word spreads much faster.
- Promote New Products. If someone in the group creates a new product, the rest of the tribe cheers them on, shouts it from the mountains, and even lets that person take over their blog for a day to get the word out.
- Share Important Sponsored Content. The same is true for important sponsored content. They want that blogger to be successful so the tribe does whatever they can to promote their work.
When you create a tribe built on genuine friendship and connection, everyone is happy for what everyone else is doing. The promotion and cheering each other on just comes naturally!
3 Great Tools for Online Business
- MailChimp. For growing her email list and connecting with her readers.
- Fizzle.co. Abby of JustaGirlandHerBlog.com first told Chelsea about Fizzle, and she likes to watch their videos and get good business advice from them.
- Elite Blogging Academy. Chelsea says that Ruth Soukup's flagship program has some good resources as well. (Grab more blogging advice from Ruth here.)
Blogging could be a 24 hr per day job if you allow it to be. Chelsea thinks that if she had more tools she might spend too much time on her site!
The Never-Ending Struggle for Balance
Chelsea confesses that balance is always a work in progress in her house. (We hear you, sister!)
Chelsea often has days when she's up until 1 AM writing blog posts. She wishes she could be someone who has blog posts scheduled out weeks in advance so she'd feel on top of things but she tends to fly by the seat of her pants. She thinks to herself, “One day when Peyton is in preschool I'll be on top of things,” but in reality, she's not sure that will ever happen for her!
Sometimes she comes up with a great idea for a blog post at 5 PM, so she's scrambling to find some kind of sunlight to take a photo so she can get her post up the next day. That's reality for Chelsea! (Well, clearly it still works, because Chelsea's blog is fantastic! No need to feel guilty for letting inspiration guide you.)
2 Important Ways to Connect and Grow
- Collaborate with other bloggers. Chelsea says that genuine relationships really help you to grow your blog. When it comes to building relationships, it's not about leaving a comment that says, “hey come back and read my blog.” It's about getting to know them, and then when they see your post on Facebook they're thinking, “Hey that's Chelsea. I know her. I want to share her great project.” When you build relationships, you ultimately build your readership because a chain of new eyeballs start to see your stuff.
- Grow your email list. Again, that email list truly comes back to relationships. It's important to build a relationship with your readers and have a consistent way to stay in touch. Building your email list allows you to do that.
Chelsea's Adorable Mom Moment
Chelsea's almost-3-year-old Peyton said the sweetest thing to her the other day! You'll have to tune in to hear her cute story.
Stay in Touch with Chelsea!
Our affiliate link for Fizzle. It's one of our favorite online resources for business too!