Social Media Tribes

In his Ted Talks presentation, researcher Seth Godin proposes the theory that the internet has created and end to mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past:tribes. In evaluating Godin’s brand theory I will discuss related brand concepts. Lastly, I will  share ideas on how tribes are used as a way of leading and connecting people and ideas through social media.

Mass marketing vs. Social marketing

Godin (2009) shares the idea that many other researchers also agree with. The idea that traditional mass marketing is mainly the use of money and power by mass media and corporations to create adds encompassing average ideas to hypnotize consumers into buying an idea. So basically mass marketing telling the masses what to do and what they should want and or need. Social marketing, on the other hand, is more about listening than telling. Social marketing is characterized by guiding social conversations without seeming forceful, being more consumer centric than brand-centric, demonstrating the values of openness, honesty, and customer feedback (Kerpen, 2015).

Brand concept. Traditional mass marketing and social marketing are not only difference processes but they produce very different ways for consumers to experience and differentiate brands. Traditional mass marketing only allowed consumers to create concepts of the brand through experiencing the actual product or service, word of mouth and ads reinforcing traits experienced by the product or service. In addition to the traditional ways of creating brand concept social marketing allows brands to create brand concepts through interactions with consumers and prospects.

Godin’s Brand theory. Godin’s theory is that the internet has created and end to mass marketing and revived tribes, a human social unit from the distant past. I want to break Godin’s theory down into two parts.

The internet has created an end to mass marketing. I can’t say that I totally agree with this statement. I still do think that corporations and mass media still spend loads of money on TV ads, billboards and traditional ways of marketing and yes still to the masses, because I see them all the time. And I believe the word “masses,” in this sense to mean a broad target audience, for example, white males, between the ages of 18-44 living in suburban areas. 

What I do believe has happened is that social media has forced mass media and corporations to make an adjustment in how they interact with the masses. For example, they can no longer talk at consumers because social media has given consumers the power to talk back, mobilize each other and create immense change. So if a brand wants to be successful they must listen and responds to the ideas, comments and needs of their consumers, and participate in an exchange of information.

Social media has also enabled marketers to focus their efforts on very specific target audiences using tactics such as hypertargeting and even nanotargeting. Kerpen (2015, p. 25. Para 1) defines hypertargeting as marketing advertising efforts towards a specific group through an individual’s’ social media profiles, activities, and networks. And nanotargeting is using social media search criteria to “target just one individual among hundreds of millions (Kerpen, 2015, p. 25. Para 2). So marketers can learn  a lot more about the white males, between the ages of 18-44, living in suburban areas and carve out an even more specific target audience. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images John Banagan

The internet has revived tribes, a human social unit from the distant past. The traditional concept of the tribes is that they are “social, economic, political entities including families that are connected by kinship and belonging to the same father or grandfather” (Suwaidi, 2013, p. 12. Para 1). And is this social unit distant and from the past? My answer is no. The traditional concept of tribes still exist today and the internet has not revived them. However what the internet has created is something more on the lines of virtual/digital/electronic/social media (and the like) tribe-like groups.  Tribes on social media are not connected by blood relationships but the internet itself allows Users from all over the world to create groups or “families.” Families that can have members from all over the world whom they share common values, shared interest and objectives and interests (Suwaidi, 2013).

(Social media)Tribes as a way of leading and connecting people and ideas

The idea that Godin (2009 ) shares about tribes are that they are founded on shared ideas and values and give ordinary the power to lead and make change. Also, they are identifiable and create a culture of ways of knowing who’s in them or out (Godin, 2009). Tribes provide the opportunity for leaders, to find a disconnected group and unite them for a common cause. These social media tribe leaders are willing to oppose the status quo and unite a group that shares the same sentiments.  And so social media tribe leaders can rise to the surface by voicing their stance using social media tools. They can blog, post podcasts, Youtube videos, create profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and websites to unite like minds and promote their cause for change.

Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza are what one might call tribal leaders of the movement Black Live Matter. Resolved to address the marginalization of African Americans within the judicial and criminal justice system (and in general), they have united over a 137 thousand Facebook tribal members who share the same value.  Some of the major accomplishments of Black Lives Matter protests was the removal of the confederate battle flag from the South Carolina state house, joining with black trans activists and bringing awareness of 17 murders of African-American trans women via a MSNBC television announcement, and the naming of a street after Sandra Bland an African American female who died while in police custody (Workneh, 2015).

In conclusion, I don’t think that the internet has ended mass marketing. I do believe mass marketing still exist but corporations and mass media realized they had to make some adjustments upon the emergence and democratization of social media. Marketers can no longer talk at consumers but must participate in a give and take conversations. The human social unit of tribes still exist today in many parts of the world and is not just a concept from the distant past. So, of course, social media cannot replace it or revive it. However, what the internet has done is connected people that share common values, interests, and objectives and made it possible for leaders among these groups to emerge and mobilize for change.


Godin, S. (2009, February) The tribes we lead.[Video File] Retrieved from

Kerpen, D. (2015). Likeable social media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be amazing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and more (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Suwaidi, J. S. (2013). From Tribe to Facebook : The Transformational Role of Social Networks. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: ECSSR.

Tybout, A. M., & Calkins, T. (2005). Kellogg on branding: The marketing faculty of the Kellogg School of Management. Hoboken, NJ

Workneh, L. (2015, December 22)11 Big Accomplishments Black Activists Achieved In 2015

Cover photo retrieved from



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s