Is Your Tribe Holding You Down?

Is Your Tribe Holding You Down?

Reader Comments (297)

  1. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for outsourcing. The IM’s can hire the RM’s and everybody wins!

    Well maybe not, but I think there’s a seminar in here somewhere about striking a balance between the two tribes.

  2. Bang on analysis, Simone! I’m a geeky internet marketer type, and I’ve always been slightly mystified about the ‘cool kids’ – how they survive financially and other differences between the cultures.

  3. Great stuff Sonia 🙂 Last night was having a very similar conversation – some times I get the oddest reactions when I say I hang out with SEOs, Bloggers, Affiliate folks, IM’ers, but I think everyone has something to teach us, and I was never one of the popular kids at school so never learned which cliques to associate with anyway 😉

  4. Hmmm. Interesting perspective on this one. I do think you’ve managed to encapsulate the whole issue.

    With that said, I’m not certain which tribe I belong to. Maybe a third tribe is in order: The band from both that’s not making any money. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    Yikes. Cool stuff



  5. This was a great article and sure, there is a way to sidestep all the schmaltz and waltz your way to solid business models which incorporate good solid ethical values that have staying power.
    The way to beat the young broke cool kids and the mature money-making Gekko style gurus is, well, have you ever heard of Aesop’s Fable, The Hare and the Tortoise? That’s the key 🙂

  6. Pipe dream. The IMers tap into a whole bunch of core values that the Cool Kids can’t stand – what’s funny is that the Cool Kids get damned upset at the IMers, and the IMers are just shrugging and saying, “Sorry you feel that way,” while sipping champagne in first class.

    If you’re going to make money, no matter what you do, no matter what your business is, you have to learn to set aside the crap that makes you have knee-jerk reactions and just get with it. Learn from others, no matter who they are, take the good, and leave off what doesn’t work for you.

    As for me, I’m in the middle. Not an IMer, not a Cool Kid. But I’m doing just fine doing what works for me.

    And Sonia? This was one of your best posts. Rock on.

  7. The bubbles aren’t that much different inside. The difference is what’s valued. We need a better way to communicate than with money. Look behind the money to the humanity.


  8. The problem with the Cool Kids seems to be that they’re technically very competent and understand what’s possible in society through social media, but they lack the business and sales background to turn that into profit. That expertise comes through time and experience and learning: something a lot of the IMers have as they’re often much older, and social media tools are pretty easy to understand and pick up if you’re a fast learner.

    As time goes on, the Cool Kids will gain the business acumen and assets of those who are profiting from online businesses – or even blended online/offline businesses and multi-channel retail. Over time the Cool Kids will, I think, rise above the IMers because they will gain the acumen and skills in business. Business hasn’t changed for decades, but the Cool Kids keep trying to say it has – the tools have, the possibilities in communication technology have, but business fundamentals haven’t changed and the Cool Kids just don’t have them.. unless they’ve got VCs of course who usually have the business skills to back it up.

  9. It sounds like a pipe dream to me. Each tribe has a different skill set. IM’ers have the hustle and the Cool Kids have the brains. Maybe one day we’ll be forced together into one tribe like they do on Survivor. That will be a day of reckoning.

  10. Keen observations as always, Simone.

    A new “hybrid” tribe already exists, but membership is very low–or should I say very exclusive at the moment. Someone with the initials ‘B.C.’ is one of the pioneering founders and living proof of the successful results that occur with intelligent tribal cross-pollination.

    I wonder though… does that make him a “Cool IMer” or an “IM Kid?” 🙂

  11. Sonia, great approach to a significant fail. IMHO, Relevant, engaging innovation requires a dynamic collaboration of cool kids and internet marketers. Only it’s like herding cats. But the bigger problem is that few are willing to throw in without a fast forward to the lifestyle upgrades they’ve been fantasizing about (some for years). If you know anyone that wants to build a mighty empire that begins with a rocky road, send them my way.

    Stan Faryna

  12. Sonia – Great post, spot on analysis… now if I only I could figure out which tribe I was in. 🙂

    James – Your 2nd paragraph said exactly what I was going to, learning from others, even if your gut says “NO!” is the only way you can become better. I see myself in the middle too.

  13. Sonia,

    Killer post. Made me laugh on an otherwise crappy Thursday.
    I do think there will be a middle ground as more and more people get into the Social Media game and find ways to monetize. I don’t think all these great web services can be free forever. Maybe the key is a micropayment system that will allow more people to charge for content and get into the game (if you believe in charging for content…I’m on the fence).

    For now though, the cool kids are too busy trying to maintain their coolness, but they are the ones who innovate more than the IMers. But the IMers are probably more likely to take a cool idea, dumb it down, and sell it. Just my .02 Thanks for a great post.


  14. @Mary Anne, I get that a lot, no worries.

    Very interesting that most of the folks who say “can’t happen” have a foot in both tribes. 🙂

    @Russ, I like the survivor idea. That would be a nifty project to put together, actually–Virtual Survivor.

    Of course, the key question, which I didn’t raise in the post, is which tribe are the Jocks and which are the Stoners.

  15. Didn’t see your by-line until the last, but half-way down the page I knew it had to be you, Sonia, just by the quality writing.

    Only one thing I’d quibble about. Your article seems just a little age-ist, and perhaps that IS the reality of the Blog world right now?

    However, there is something to be said for wisdom, and blazing one’s own trail, and marching to a different drummer.

    Why belong to any of these tribes, rather, start your own?

    Something to ponder.


  16. This is fantastic Sonia!

    I think you have hit on a hugely important topic. I never was one of the “cool kids” in high school, more like the one that was friends with a bunch of different groups (the stoners, the jocks, the smarties, the drama people, etc.). I think that we all do a HUGE disservice to ourselves, and to our businesses, by getting dogmatic about having to belong to only one group.

    I have been pushing myself to understand, and embrace, certain principles of the “yellow highlighter” model, minus the Lambo and hot dudes. It feels uncomfortable sometimes since I am really used to talking directly to folks on my blog without testimonial boxes or “buy now” buttons. But I realize that if I want to really spread my message, and help the people I want to help, AND have money to pay my mortgage, and diapers for my kids, that I need to be a businessperson too.

    There isn’t an easy balance. And I don’t have the answer, but am convinced, that there is a way to walk the line between openly sharing information and still creating a sustainable business model without dripping slime. I look forward to learning from this conversation. I need it.

    • I realize this comment is a couple years old. But I can relate.

      I started out nearly twelve years ago, when the only people you *could* learn from were the yellow highlighter and bright red header types. I was very young, but I still couldn’t wrap my mind around that model in a way that could provoke me to embrace it. I wrote ebooks and published them myself. All the while, everyone I knew was telling me the whole thing was silly, that I was wasting my time. Nobody would ever want to read books on a screen, they quipped and taunted relentlessly.

      I rebelled by creating my own sales letter pages that were very cleanly designed and formatted, and I chose to use pinks/purples for headings and very light pastel yellows for highlights. Nobody was doing anything like that back then. They were beautiful and unique, but I still felt sleazy for creating them in the first place because reading the most prominent examples online made me feel a little sick to my stomach.

      So I always ended up taking them down before there was any chance of anybody stumbling upon them. I never sold a thing. It’s likely I still have some of them lurking in the darkest recesses of my backup drives, but it’s unlikely they would fit into the model I’ve been refining for my long overdue relaunch, which, I believe, is tone of the best ideas I’ve had to date.

      I’ve learned a lot more about business since then, and I’ve had opportunities to witness what I consider to be positive forms of social entrepreneurship that resonate deeply with me. But it’s taken me a while to extract myself from the myriad of other things I taught myself that I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as publishing/producing digital media (both words and images). The biggest lesson is to never, ever allow anyone to deter you from following your gut instinct/intuition.

      I can also relate to never fitting into any specific group in school. I spread myself across so many social circles and activities, yet failed miserably at winning full acceptance in any of them. But in the past few years, I’ve been getting so much closer to nailing down my true voice (or, perhaps more appropriately, rediscovering that which had become shrouded) and finding a community of entrepreneurs who resonate with the same types of messages.

      Connecting with (and meeting in person) these inspired people helps you realize that you’re really not as alone as you thought you were, and your way of thinking really isn’t as defective as the world has led you to believe.

      It seems I’ve segued off topic a little bit here. Sorry about that, Pam. I have a feeling you’ll totally *get* what I mean, though. 🙂

  17. Fantastically entertaining post here. Kudos. I’m somewhere in that IM tribe, though I too dislike yellow highlighter – for sure.

  18. This was retweeted twice in the short time it’s been up, further showing me that Twitter can replace Greader.

    I think that the twain can meet somewhere. The IM crowd doesn’t get that some people aren’t money motivated. George Bailey vs. Potter all over again. There is value in a community, I’m part of a couple ‘tribes.’

  19. Wow, Sonia. You really put into words what has been percolating in my mind the past few months. I’m new to this game, but have been trying to figure out a way to bridge these two worlds so I can do exactly what I want to do–start a next generation online business that is actually successful.

    My tactic right now (remember, I’m just starting), since I probably best fall into the Cool Kid camp (but I’m not even cool yet 😉 is to partner with someone I trust in the IM camp. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  20. I must say, this post has reinvigorated my interested in Copyblogger a bit. It had been getting very dry and formulaic, so this is a breath of fresh air.

    For what it’s worth, the people you’ve described do exist, I think. They’re just not in a tribe… yet.

  21. What a great synopsis of the online biz world. I agree with everyone who said we probably need to have a foot in both worlds–some marketing savvy and some tech genius.

    I too love the Survivor analogy. That model would be great to see.

    All of the comments are great!

    All around good read for a Thursday morning. Thank you all!

  22. Thoughtful. Enjoyable. Thanks for that. Glad someone finally put the words to what’s been on many minds for many moons.

  23. They’re just not in a tribe… yet.

    It’s funny, because I’ve always thought of the “Copyblogger tribe” this way. We just never came out and said it before Sonia did such a great job of fleshing it out here.

  24. Wonderful, wonderful post Sonia. You put into words so many thoughts that weren’t even half formed in my mind.
    I do believe though, that the “Middle” tribe you describe is already here, perhaps in small numbers. And I hope that I’m part of it.

  25. What if you don’t even understand who the tribes are or what the sides are (and weren’t cool in HS) and just keep plugging along trying to make it easy for people to get what they need that you offer? Is that too innocent for words?

    I don’t dismiss all the yellow highlighting stuff out of hand – I’m trying to adopt the practices that make it easier for people to choose my stuff – but I do hate the hustle and mostly won’t buy from people who do it. It makes me doubt what they offer.

  26. It’s not all white vs. black, good vs. evil. It’s about doing those things that will land you in a “van down by the river.” Being cool is of no value if you don’t know what to do with the influence you have. And most of the IMers you talk about are too busy chasing the carrot to realize all of the good things that surround them.

    The key is to find the sweetspot in the middle. It does exist, if you’re not too busy trying to be cool, or in a rush to make more money than God.

  27. V. timely post. I’m a hybrid, but of a different ilk: traditional publishing meets IM. I love learning from the IM and Cool Kid worlds (which is why I’m reading and posting here!).

    I’m launching a workshop and product soon with an IM partner and our whole message is about leveraging insights from both worlds (or all three, really) to chose the right publishing models for specific project and goals. There have been some “Obama” moments when we realize we’re “reaching across the aisle.”

  28. The middle earth of the IM world that you describe does exist. It is every small blogger, web-entreprenuer and business person who is harnessing the power of the Internet to connect directly to people. It is every blogger and online community organizer who is working hard to manage the flow of information in their respective niche.

    If you are working hard to connect to people on a real one-to-one basis…if you are working hard to solve people’s problems…and you are setting up ways to monetize all of the above, you are the in the middle of IM.

    Serving people, solving problems, showing them a better way to do the things they want to do…these are things that create a cash flow…but they also create a better world for us all.

  29. No doubt in my mind that these tribes could learn from each other. Copyblogger is an obvious example: cool kids who’ve learned how to make cash by caring about the conversation. Other examples out there.

  30. In my high school, the cool kids, jocks, stoners and nerds all got along pretty well. One reason I like having an eclectic Twitter following.

    Come hang w/me @andycatsimanes

    (Or was that uncool?)

  31. brilliant post. interesting 3-tiered segmentation of each tribe and insightful rhetoric on the possibility of harnomious, blended tribe..for starters, we would need a paradigm shift to so-called flat-level organizational structures (which seem to always get stuck in old school models) in order to pull off a ‘tribal utopia’

  32. Sonia, it’s always a pleasure to read your stuff. Beautifully put and engaging too.

    I want to disagree with some of the assumptions you make early on. First, that there are only two tribes. Second, that they are somehow equivalent (like Jets and Sharks) and third that “Clearly one of these tribes is lame and the other one is smart. But which is which?”

    The “cool” group represent the bulk of society and how they are moving into this medium. They are public facing, using easily available tools, not keeping secrets and using their real names. They work for the organizations that most of us would define as our society–non-profits, big corporations, the government, reputable start ups.

    The other group (I don’t like your name for them) have a very different worldview, a different vernacular and represent the tiniest slice of our society.

    It’s a little like saying, “there are book and web and magazine publishers and there are pornographers, which is better.”

    Are there things that the ‘cool’ group can learn from these folks? Of course. Just as the publishers online learned from porn sites, there are things to learn about tactics from this group.

    BUT and I think it’s a huge BUT, society has to shun the tactics. Just as we don’t learn about the benefits of abuse of power from pornographers, we shouldn’t learn about black hat tactics, selfishness and anonymity from those that would offer us a get rich quick scheme.

    The reason this is worth pointing out is that it’s very easy for those of us that like interesting and effective ideas to give a pass to people who are breaking the rules that make our world work (no fair bankrupting the gullible!) just to expose their good ideas. In fact, a great service would be for you or Brian to make a list of their 100 best ideas (best as in good for all, not good for the user and bad for everyone else) and reprint them here, for free.

    • There is definitely a break between these two tribes. But why? Both server a purpose.

      The IMs create products that we all use (and need) and the Cool Kids talk about what they see and like. The natural conflict is between people who create and people who critique. Those who create don’t particularly like criticism as creation is really hard work (to do well). Those who critique are stupefied that those who create don’t see their particular vision of a perfect reality.

      I lean towards the “creators” as that is a difficult job (see “The Man in the Arena” from Teddy Roosevelt):

      It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  33. In fact, a great service would be for you or Brian to make a list of their 100 best ideas (best as in good for all, not good for the user and bad for everyone else) and reprint them here, for free.

    I’ve been doing that for three years, mixed together with your ideas. I’m living proof that a hybrid online marketing approach not only works, it works best in the long term.

    And I guess that’s the point… people like me who really make a living in new media know who the good guys are in IM (not Black Hat, not anonymous, just different from you). Painting them all with the broad brush you just used is no more fair than saying all “Marketing 2.0” types are clueless poseurs who’ve never done what they tell their clients to do (despite there being a whole bunch of those).

    How many people in the “respectable” online marketing tribe are conning corporations with Meatball Sundaes? Are they somehow better than the black hats? Both are liars and cheats.

    There are good people and bad people. Period.

  34. Sonia — I so enjoyed your insightful post! I don’t really have my identity entrenched in any of these groups but I know they do exist and I have students in the SMARTSTART business mentoring program who fit each of these descriptions! It was easy to relate to your observations.

    Thank you for the terrific read this morning!

    Linda M. Lopeke
    The SMARTSTART Coach

  35. To Seth’s post: The “IM” people I’ve connected with are all “open kimono”–but it takes time and engagement to know who’s who and what’s what.

    I do intensely despise those one-page online sell sheets with no links to a website, no biography, no information, etc. The closed box. But that seems very dated to me, and there are other very good lessons to learn from IM world–namely the three points in your blog post today: being able to find an audience; identifying an audience that wants to buy; having something to offer that people want–whether it’s advice, ideas, entertainment.

    Well, that’s from *the* JG. Nice to see you at CEOREADs party the other week 🙂

  36. @Grace, very interesting. Do you feel it’s biased toward older users or younger? I ask because I find it endlessly amusing that people think that social media was invented by folks who are now 20 or 30. I was in online communities in 1989 and my dear friends from that time are mostly boomers.

    @Jonathan, trust me, I just got back from speaking at Yanik Silver’s Underground conference. Those people work out a lot more than the social media kids do. 🙂 (Not all, of course. I hope it’s obvious that I’m playing with some archetypes/stereotypes here.)

    @Seth, certainly a pleasure to see you, and thank you for your kind words.

    I will confess that I’ve shared a lot of the same outlook. “Those people” and “those tactics” were something I had a hard time coming to terms with, until I actually met some of the human beings behind the highlighter.

    There are thousands of folks in that tribe who aren’t based in selfishness or anonymity, who don’t use black hat techniques. I know. I talked with them. I told them about my approach, and they were dying to hear more. I was actually a little surprised at how many wanted to know much more about how we do things over in “our” tribe, who wanted to know more about creating better content and real relationships with real customers.

    I don’t think the Cool Kids represent the bulk of society. The bulk of society has no idea who we are, from what I can tell. (Not that I’m cool myself, god knows.)

    Certainly mainstream corporate America, which is where the bulk of society makes a living, is still amazingly behind the times about authenticity, permission, respect-based customer relationships, transparency, etc. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people who say they would like to read my blog but they don’t have the software to do that. Despite the impression that Fast Company or Slate might give, most companies and most people Do Not Get It. For every Zappo’s, there are 1,000 companies with their heads firmly in the sand.

    The IM crowd (it’s not my name for them, it’s their own) is much smarter and more sensitive to those trends than the corporate mainstream are.

    They’re not pornographers. They’re much more like publishers of peculiar little niche magazines you’ve never heard of. In fact, in some cases, that’s exactly and literally who they are. Sure, there are the “PPC” (porn, pills & casinos, for those who haven’t heard that term before) crowd. That’s the tiny sliver you’re talking about. But there’s also a healthy, vibrant and honorable tribe who have nothing to do with that crap and never will. I will admit, the packaging makes it hard to sort out, and packaging matters a lot.

    And the assumption that there are only two tribes is, of course, a complete straw man. As many here have twigged, Copyblogger (along with a few other sites) has attracted and formed a third tribe that can take the best from both. Of course we would never recommend black hat stuff–not because it’s immoral (is it really immoral to game Google?) but because it’s short-sighted and doesn’t form the basis of a real business. Of course we would never recommend deceptive ad practices. But we also don’t recommend spending 14 hours a day participating in a conversation that has no commercial value. As a hobby, it’s fine. But too many think it’s a business model.

    The problem with tribes is that they’re by nature exclusionary. When I went outside my tribe and started actually talking with real people in the other tribe, listening and checking my assumptions at the door and approaching them as humans and not as fire-spitting monsters, I found out that my assumptions were about 80% wrong. FWIW.

  37. As long as you keep referring to sci-fi movies in these articles I will continue to read them. I am failing in both categories so I love Copyblogger and your articles. Thanks for helping me think.

  38. Funny thing is, I’d have said Seth was somebody who did straddle both sides.

    He gives a lot a way, knows how to be generous with his ideas, and provides genuine value. On the other hand he’s not afraid to ask for the sale, everything he says is actionable, and you feel like he’s got a reason for doing everything besides “being part of the movement”.

    He wrote the Big Red Fez, which is all about web page conversion, not conversation.

    (Mr Godin if you happen to read this sorry to refer to you in the 3rd person.)

    Guy Kawasaki is perhaps more at the IM end but fits the same category. He is happy to be direct in his marketing approach, but knows how to come across cool and personable too.

    Neither of them are cool kids. They just happen to be cool.

  39. I’m a big fan of Seth, and it’s great that he’s mucked in here! I do think Sonia’s won this one, but it’s a great debate. I did get a distinct nudge-nudge, wink-wink from the original post that we’re talking about a third tribe here.

    As an aside, I wonder if Seth has SMM set up for the word ‘tribes’ or whether he reads Copyblogger :).

  40. I have to agree with Brian comments above – there are good and bad in all walks of life – as for Sonia’s question above

    “Could we actually pretend that we’re done with high school and create a tribe that embraces the best of both worlds?”

    I’m involved with a passionate group of people which right now consists of around 50 people who voluntarily invest their skills and time working on developing an organisation which combines entrepreneurial commercial intent with social/Internet marketing to promote good causes and inspirational causes.

    Virtually everything Sonia says in her post I spent last year thinking about and everything our community aspires to and more – combining the best of both worlds – using ethical smart marketing approaches using social media, making profit and spreading awareness about issues that concern us all. Our first campaign is using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Connect to promote events around the globe in connection to Earth Day 2009…

    My answer to Sonia’s question is an enthusiastic “yes!”

    Many thanks for articulating something I had been grappling with for some time…

    Glen Crosier

  41. Wow – an amazingly witty and true article! Fantastic. I think the two tribes will come together (meshing at the edges of the tribe circles, anyway), and the people who get together will be far more successful than otherwise.

  42. Either group is “right”. They simply offer two different approaches on how to live & work.

    The real question is this: What is your purpose in life and what approach to life & work fits best with that purpose?

    Maybe this is my rebellious nature speaking, but I don’t think you need to exclusively belong on either of the tribes you describe. It’s like a buffet. You take what you like and leave behind what you don’t.

  43. A BIG YES to your question, Sonia.
    The beautiful, cross-tribe-culture solution was articulated for us over 20 years ago and stands (now in its 6th or 7th edition), as perfect instructions for us all as we shuffle forward shading our eyes from the bright lights. It is Michael Phillips’ “Marketing Without Advertising.”
    For deep and deeply relevant guidance, there is nothing better.
    Thank you for putting the question out there, Sonia.
    Suzanna Stinnett

  44. I wonder if Seth has SMM set up for the word ‘tribes’ or whether he reads Copyblogger

    Seth reads Copyblogger, and he’s the closest thing to a mentor I have (just from his books). But sometimes he doesn’t like what he sees here, and he tells me. This is how the conversation started…

  45. I’ll tell you who is becoming experty savvy across the board and that’s mommybloggers. I know—waiting for the collective groan to pass. As a so-called mommybloger who just went to a summit conference between moms who are influential online and marketers who want to form relationships and use this to its best potential, I see just how powerful a group this is. In fact, when they asked for people who are both mom bloggers and marketers to raise hands? At least half the audience proudly let their arms fly up.

    There are tribes, but there are also phalanges and alliances within the tribe, which should not be mistaken for any kind of collective. Mom bloggers are very diverse.

    I just wrote about this at my site, and am getting some interesting POVs on it, how people consider marketing from both a writer and reader perspective.

    In my genre of publishing, we also told our authors the bulk of their pay would come from speaking engagements and not to rely too heavily on royalties.

    That concept fits for the online arena, too.

    And moms are making the most of the opportunity.

  46. Nice post Sonia.
    There is a place where the two can meet. Someone in either tribe realizes that this transform into a scalable business model.

    I agree that beyond a few like-minded people whom you can vouch for, maintaining quality is going to pose a challenge.

    However, surmounting this challenge is the way forward to build a sound business around the new World Wide Web.

  47. I’ve been a part-time student of the two camps for the last three years and I think the primary thing that determines where you are on the scale is the answer to the question:

    “Am I acting in the interests of myself, my community, or a mixture of the two?”

    I don’t care whether you use a red h1 font and an opt-in box on a sales page OR just casually ask for a Feedburner registration at the end of a blog post…

    In my opinion those are just tactics, your strategy behind meeting your needs and those of your customers determines where you fit into the two tribes.

  48. Well done, Sonia! Great read.

    I am definitely looking for that 3rd tribe. If the Cool Kids are in “The Conversation”, and the IMs are the Rebels, the 3rd tribe is composed of those of us who have heard just enough of “The Conversation” to know we’d rather listen than participate.

    We’re also those people who, for better or worse, think that the Zion Rebels look great in their outfits, but we’d rather skip the jamming-a-plug-in-the-base-of-the-skull part.

    If there’s one thing I learned at my first IM conference last week, it’s that the IM tribe is full of great people, but at the end of the day, purveyors of lip service not need apply.

    Granted, I’m very new to the IM tribe, and far more experienced in the other tribe (7 years as a corporate trainer/consultant/speaker), but there’s one thing about the IM tribe that can’t be denied. When you’re in, you know it. No bull, no mystery. I like that.

    I agree with you that somewhere in the middle, there’s room for people like me, and all it’s going to take is someone bold enough to step out there and make waves. I see that community taking shape more and more every day, and as it does, the general public will be drawn more to us than anyone else. At the end of the day, red pill-blue pill is a choice, but purple is probably going to be more popular.

    The only trouble is, when we get organized, we’ll be the Cool Kids, and down the rabbit hole we’ll go all over again.

  49. What great stuff, Sonia!

    I used to talk a lot about “creating an us, without creating a them”; this post and comments remind me of that.

    I think there is already a Middle Tribe, an “us” that is forming. We’re a group that defines itself by what we are, rather than what we’re not. In our own way, we’re a little bit cool, and we’re hopefully more than a little bit market savvy. We’re focused on both building relationships, AND building financial success – and we want those successes to be sustainable rather than a flash here, and a flash there.

    See, I’ll never be one of the “cool trend kids” (even though I’d like to, even if it made money) because I just can’t keep up with the trend-jumping. It’s not how my mind works. And I’ll never be part of the core IM tribe – my artistic sensibilities and need for approval won’t let me go there (though again, sometimes i’d like to). But I find exposure to both groups valuable, so long as I remember I don’t really “fit” there.

    I’m just me, doing what I do, building relationships, thinking out loud, sharing information, and figuring out how to earn money along the way. I like testing out new trends, even if I don’t wind up using them. I like learning from the hardcore marketers, even if I don’t apply their tactics.

    And I really like being part of this new us I see forming.. an us that isn’t afraid of “them” – an us that isn’t threatened by “their” success or afraid of “their” failings.

    We understand the overlap between the groups, because we *are* that overlap.

    The Middle Tribe.
    I like it.

  50. Copyblogger Tribe members are the parents that break up their kids’ fights and mediate remedies to silly squabbles. No one child is their favorite; the only favorite is a favorable outcome.

  51. Good to see you Tim! (Tim is one of the non-fire-breathing monsters I met last week. Great guy and he’s going to do great stuff.)

    @Tori, “creating an us without creating a them” is a major goal for me as well. I’m not completely convinced it’s possible. But I think it’s an important ideal to hold nonetheless. At a minimum, I can commit to not creating a “them” by putting blinders on. Or I can commit to doing my best. It’s actually really hard to keep the blinders off.

  52. I’m happy to draw inspiration from both groups, mix it up with my own special sauce, and voila. It all works. It’s like two sides of the same brain. Together you have creative functionalism or functional creativity, however you want to phrase it.)

    (The only time I drink champagne in first class is when my client is paying the tab – and that’s also perfectly fine with me, too.)

  53. Yes, this article’s a straw man — as Sonia admits — but it’s still a worthy Rorschach test.

    Maybe the real distinction to make is between:

    A) Nebulous pseudo-“tribes” that live for the self-referential echolalia (as Nick Carr might say) they spew. Or these sycophantic Kool-Aid-swilling tribes that only exist to help the narcissistic keep up with the feckless (as Bob Hoffman might say)


    B) Tribes of various sizes led by actual leaders, not Pied Pipers who just lead you where they wanna go. People who are sought out time and again for their authority on niche topics. Or companies that lead such tribes to their products because they know it solves the tribe’s actual need.

    Okay… Time to get back to helping my clients figure out how to lead instead of being someone else’s user-generated content (as Brian Clark might say 😉

    P.S. Happy birthday, Sonia!

  54. Sonia,

    Spot on. I have forwarded this post on to friends who are in both camps and it is interesting seeing their reaction.

    I am slowly learning to embrace the IM crowd and taking the best they have to offer.

    Steve Averill

  55. Sonia, while I appreciate your end calls to action in this post, they simply don’t speak to me because of the article’s overall tone and approach.

    While I get that you’re aggregating and calling out stereotypes held by both communities, comments like “And having your wife kick you out of the house isn’t that bad” or “And living in your parents’ basement isn’t so bad” are snarky. Period.

    If you want to see “effective persuasive communication,” “respectful relationships,” and “a commitment to keeping the White Hat on at all times,” lead by example.

    Ultimately, I understand that you want to create an “us” without creating a “them” … and that’s terrific. To that end, I hope your next post offers some specific, actionable opportunities for mediation and collaboration between these communities.

    I’m a huge Copyblogger fan. We link to you guys from our site, and my entire staff is grateful for your site. While this post disappointed me, I don’t doubt your good intentions. I look forward to seeing what’s next.

  56. Sonia, if the people I was being critical of weren’t the people you were describing (“There’s also a small band of IMers who are broke because the Federal Trade Commission took everything they had. They kept the Black Hat on a little too long and they’re paying a steep price for it.”) then I totally agree with everything.

    Brian, there’s no doubt about good intent and bad intent. In my experience, the people I was describing (apparently not the ones that Sonia was describing) are hiding for a reason.

    The ones that aren’t, the ones that deliver real value and the ones that close sales are just like us, in fact they might be us.

    But it is much easier to have this discussion (if it is one) if we can agree that black hat SEO, $$$ secret video courses and fast buck anonymous marketers are generally not doing things in our best interests. Lump those guys together as outsiders and I’d argue that the rest of us are in fact in one tribe.

  57. There’s a creepy contingent that I will happily kick to the curb. The part that surprised me was that the creepy 1% is, well, 1%.

    There’s a phenomenon I call the Ant Farm, which I’d like to write about one of these days. People who forget that the clicks and page views come from people, not just stupid little ants. You see it in social media as well, ugly pranks that yank chains and manipulate attention for the sake of it. In the IM world, it’s vendors who think all those poor dopes buying vitamins at 100x what they’re worth are just clicks and orders, instead of people trying to solve real problems.

    A big issue, I think, is the spammy-looking wrapper that many legitimate online businesspeople use because “it works.” In one way, they’re shaping their message for a core audience who for whatever reason respond to that look. And it works for some environments, like pay-per-click where you’ve got one shot at the customer. But I also think they may be overlooking the folks they’re chasing away because everything looks a bit like a Viagra ad.

    Online courses and information marketing are growing like a weed at the moment, and some of the growth is unattractive. There are useful products in ugly packages. That’s one of the things I think a site like Copyblogger can help people figure out–where’s the good stuff, vs. the baloney.

    I have to tip my hat to Yanik Silver, who invited me to speak at his conference and who introduced me to a bunch of folks who challenged my assumptions.

    Man, I’m getting long winded with this.

  58. Great discussion. Nice post Sonia.

    I wonder though who is really paying attention to these tribes when most people still don’t know what Twitter is?

  59. Tim, Twitter right now is overly-populated with new media producers who might sell things to “normal” people who are not there. The normal people are coming, though, if Twitter’s growth rate keeps up like it’s been lately.

  60. I think the bigger issue is that people will always shun those that are different. Alright, fair enough – birds of a feather flock together.

    But the problem on the internet is that people want their ‘tribe’ to avoid moving to the other tribe (whichever that may be for the moment). They’ve tried saying, “Don’t go there. That tribe is doing it wrong.”

    It doesn’t work. People keep going.

    So they see that they can’t stop people, so they’ll try to attack the tribe in question instead. “You’re doing it wrong. Go away.”

    But it doesn’t work. The person hangs in there.

    So you can’t join ’em, and you can’t beat ’em, so you might as well learn to live with them, learn from them, and teach others as best you can.

  61. @Brian Clark
    I agree that “normal” people are slowly joining Twitter. The cool thing about the web is that most tribes are open. Not exclusive like in high-school. It is building a sense of belonging.

    It can also make a social impact (ie @sm4sc on Twitter). What if these tribes helped people that are on the margin?

  62. Could we actually pretend that we’re done with high school and create a tribe that embraces the best of both worlds?

    When I was in high school, the Metal Heads and the Punks often ended up in the same spots to surf. Anyone who’s surfed knows the good spots. There were also older hippies and surf bums who coveted the same spots.

    Now, there was a lot of bitching about music, long boards vs. shredders, etc. But in the end, we were all there just to surf. Most days that’s how it ended up — coexisting and surfing.

    Honestly, I’m just here to surf 🙂

  63. Hi, guys.

    Coming at this from a non-tribe angle — like walking wide-eyed into a clearing, with two tribes of meerkats suddenly turning to stare, sound of crickets — I’d say the main differences come down to motivation and willingness to push.

    If you’re motivated broadly, and spend the vast majority of your effort into synthesizing insights from a wide variety of sources, that’s one camp. If you’re motivated by a few key goals, and spend most of your time carving out your niche, advancing your agenda, and naming names, etc — that’s another camp.


    If you touch on many areas, deftly, and tend to cut your losses early when encountering a potential energy hump — one camp, again. If you plow through to the other side or re-write the rules to break on through — the other camp.

    Thing is, we all have these aspects mixed within us, in differing proportions at different times. The real trick, IMHO, is being brutally honest with yourself — and with a fair amount of help from your friends or Mastermind group peeps — and admitting when you’re reaaally lopsided with these tools.

    Can you keep your cool and veer away when the situation calls for it? Probably, but can you buckle down and get it done in the freezing rain?

    Do you keep getting — and dismissing – the sense that you’re missing things, just barely over your head, in your drive to the basket? Are there things you recognize again and again as things you should really be doing, somebody up there is trying to tell you something, as you head off again to frolic in the dandelion fields?

    Sometimes you have to bump, sometimes you have to grind, duh.

    So, can you? Do what is needed?

  64. This is actually a very serious debate. I am an entrepreneur, blogger, marketer AND an academic teaching MBAs. (Most of them won;t read this,sadly.)
    I wrote in the AoC book – but also built a membership-only website based on this framework
    AND dabbled in the yellow highlighter brigade because I believe that UNLESS these 2 marry, neither will have credibility.

    Too much conversation about the conversation at the moment.

  65. This is a rockin’ post, Sonia, not to mention one of the most interesting comment threads we’ve had in a while.

    I’ve always thought that the two different tribes are those focused on “getting heard” and those focused on “getting paid.” Seth is the undisputed leader of the first tribe, and Frank Kern is climbing to the top of the second. Then, there are those of us going through an identity crisis who can’t decide which group we want to belong to. 🙂

    Anyway, bravo for bringing this conversation to the forefront. I think it’s been on a lot of people’s minds.

  66. All this talk over talk. What I see is a whole lotta fuss over names/labels/groups/tribes which are not, in fact, real. They are creations of people trying to get a handle on things. Not that I’m saying they aren’t useful, but just get on with it. Of what benefit is it to differentiate and exclude whole groups of anything? It always sets up conflict and destructive communication.

    I mean, it takes a LOT to get Seth’s ire raised and it was really over a confusion over words. Most people out there couldn’t give 2 hoots about what people selling them stuff call themselves. They just want real. They just want honesty. They just want integrity. They just want to live their lives.


  67. This was a great post and a great set of comments to read for someone like me – just beginning in this online world. It encouraged me to pull back and gain some perspective on what it is I am consuming when I look for online info and guidance.

    It took me some time to figure out what a “lambo” is – that’s how far down the pipeline I am. Made me laugh when I finally figured it out. Sense of humor is a must out here.

    Thank you,

  68. Jon Morrow never fails to kill me. “getting heard” vs. “getting paid.” Love it.

    That identity crisis has been on my mind for quite awhile now, interesting to see that it’s resonating with other folks as well.

  69. They just want real. They just want honesty. They just want integrity. They just want to live their lives.

    Nailed it. But I’ll just add that getting people to take the action that lets them get on with their lives thanks to your vinyl representations of rock stars means you better learn a bit about human psychology and human response. 🙂

  70. Guys, lets not forget that “tribes” is a great tool for understanding how people function. But the moment you start thinking in terms of “tribes” rather than “people” is the moment you lose focus on the whole point of the labels.

  71. @Kirsten, I hear ya. I tumbled down this rabbit hole about 5 months ago, and from what I can tell, it goes pretty deep. Because the web is not just some way to communicate to the world or make lots of money — it is a network of minds. Lotta psychology going on there.


    “creating an us without creating a them” is a major goal for me as well. I’m not completely convinced it’s possible. But I think it’s an important ideal to hold nonetheless.

    Yes, the concept of “othering” is definitely human. I’ve written about it a few times on my blog, with respect to romantic relationships. To quote a post about the debate over same-sex marriage:

    “History Professor Prasenjit Duara believes nations by definition exclude or marginalize—often violently—others who are not believed to be deserving citizens. He proposes that we view “national identity as founded upon fluid relationships? for “the national self is defined at any point in time by the Other?

    Nation states exist because of othering tactics. There is no “third world” country without a “developed” nation, there is no democracy without monarchy, and so on. The problem with othering is that in the context of patriotism, people will kill in order to “protect” their tribe land from being assimilated — even if there is no real threat or just cause. That’s because the Other threatens their national identity (or so their leaders say) — their right to exist.

    Sure, we define ourselves by what we are not, perhaps our brains have to. But we don’t have to suppress, condemn, or destroy the Other in order to be who we are (at least if our lives are not at stake). We don’t even have to dislike the Other, as you experienced by bridging at the conference. When we feel that urge to jab, it’s because we are not so convinced that we are justified for being who we are. It’s because they trigger a fear in us. It’s because deep down we are really insecure. When we are at peace with who we are, no Other can threaten our identity or way of life.

    I think the important ideal is realizing our natural tendency to other, while holding inter-tribal peace as being the most important. Of all places, the web makes a case for diversity.

  72. Unfortunately, I think Seth hit the nail on the head with his last comment which Sonia described as the “creepy contingent”, and ironically a few comments later someone mentioned Frank Kern. I have a feeling Seth had that type of marketing in mind. I signed up for his 1st video and it seemed OK. Unfortunately, now I am getting daily emails telling me how to set up pay per click without even having a blog or website, and other really cheesy emails. Of course, if I really want to make money, I need to spend $2000 for him to tell me how. I don’t have a problem with CB or Frank Kern telling me to how to market or sell the message or service, but most bloggers are not in it to just set up keyword campaigns that only link to affiliate sites.
    Honestly, I don’t know that Kern is in the creepy group, but I don’t think that is what CB is about, and while experimentation is fine, people want to know how to get their message across and make money doing it successfully with the customer being satisfied, not how to “game the system” to make make money.
    Of course, I can unsubscribe to the videos, etc. But people want links to info. that has been vetted, and not that turns into an affiliate marketing fest or some other scheme.
    You can “get paid” doing a lot of things in the real world. Most people have a line they don’t want to cross. Unfortunately, it is too easy to cross that line in the anonymous & connected world of the internet.

  73. We’ve all been exposed to the 80/20 Principle at some point in our lives: The principle states, quite simply, that 20% of efforts lead to 80% of results. “The 80/20 Principle” (Pareto Principle) may provide the answer to getting what we want and what matters. Following the 80/20 principle is not a tribal instinct. The 80/20 rule may be the single most important, inherent, and intrinsic rule of the universe. This principle of activity and result seems to impact every level of our lives.

    “You can work less. At the same time, you can earn more and enjoy more. The only price is that you need to do some serious 80/20 thinking.? – Richard Koch from The 80/20 Principle

    Many of us would love to have 80% of our results come from 20% of our effort.

    This is the “80/20” tribe welcomes everyone. The tribal rules are essential and inherent to all aspects of human events and behavior. Oddly, we overlook this tribe

    “The few things that work fantastically well should be identified, cultivated, nurtured, and multiplied. At the same time, the waste–the majority of things that will always prove to be of low value to man and beast–should be abandoned or severely cut back.” The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch

    This is the only tribe that matters, in my opinion.

  74. I’m definitely from the Cool Kids tribe. I’ve had a blog for over a year, I have a couple hundred loyal followers, and I haven’t earned a single penny yet (or even tried to).

    Just recently, I started getting into the internet marketing stuff. I’m starting an actual newsletter in addition to my blog, etc. So let’s see how that works out!

  75. Reminds me of the hundreds of posts in freelance programmers/designers’ forums where being a “sleazy salesman” is frowned upon.

  76. Nice article w/sharp angle and good energy! The vision of blending the various Tribes best attributes is totally in line w/my focus: Power Team Networking based on the Givers Gain® philosophy of helping others first and then showing them how to help you in return.

    I would love to have you look at my blog, which goes into specific detail on the very issues you touch on here. Currently in the middle of series focused on MLM and Networking – an emotionally charged microcosm of the good vs. evil dynamic at the center of your piece (or peace… depending on your perspective [;^)!

    Thanks for a good, thought provoking post!

  77. The internet is the new Wild West. There are few lands not yet explored, and we still have a pioneering spirit. We change with the times and try new things. When we collaborate and become curious about how we can learn from each other things get easier.
    Thank you for the wonderful insight.

  78. Brian,

    Thanks for the “nailed it”. And yes, I’ve yet to figure out how to communicate how my customers can “kick ass”, a la @KathySierra, as a result of having bought my work.

    That’s why I follow you and try to learn what I can.


  79. @sethgodin

    “…$$$ secret video courses and fast buck anonymous marketers are generally not doing things in our best interests. Lump those guys together as outsiders and I’d argue that the rest of us are in fact in one tribe.”

    I agree, these are the Parasites and leeches of our world.


    Some black hat SEOs have respectable jobs and know when to use what on which Fortune 500 or Forbes 400 client. Some of them wear a white hat during the day. Also true Black Hat SEOs wouldn’t be caught dead doing the things above..

    check out #scaryseo for more info.


  80. Pardon me for interrupting… isn’t here an issue here of ‘we each have the option of pandering to the lowest common denominator… or raising the damn bar.’

    My missus has a sensible guide: ‘Does this make the world a better place?’

  81. Sonia – these descriptions were so true that I LMAO. I think one tribe struggles to move in the same direction as the other, for fear than nobody will listen to them anymore. And the other tribe does the same, incase they start losing money.

  82. Isn’t there a perspective here that’s being overlooked?

    Some of us, heeding Ogilvy’s wise view of ‘The customer is not an idiot. She is your wife.’ simply don’t want to do stuff like the ‘slick IMers’ – however much it might boost our bottom line.

    ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’, people shouldn’t be thought of as just leads and prospects to be manipulated for personal gain.

    Surely the job of decent marketers is to tell ’em what you have openly, honestly, quickly – then get out of the way… and not to use psycho-tactics and hypno-copy to push hot buttons.

    Very simply: we should respect those who might want to buy what we’re selling.

  83. I’ve contended for some time that some thing will result in a tipping point where communities and cultures merge. I never really thought social media would be the cause, just a contributing factor. Nevertheless, I see the merging of tribes for those more astute in the use of social media. They recognize that social media makes it hard to hide. Over time, when it becomes painfully obvious that the cool kids are broke, they will slowly change their ways.

  84. I’m new to this whole blogging thing and am trying to learn as much as I can about it and other social media forms. I really do enjoy your blogs and the insite you provide. Keep it up:)

  85. Sonia,

    A great call for taking the best of things and combining them — which feels very modern, but so often results in that old-fashioned good, hard, clean work.

    One thing I think can’t be stressed enough is not defining yourself in terms of negatives. If you consider yourself a part of one of the above groups (or any other), that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a lot from other groups, and it doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot in common with those who don’t identify as a part of your group. People can be fluid in their identity, and that’s a good thing.

  86. The cool kids aren’t going to do anything to ruffle feathers and lose their status. Their ideas are widely accepted and they’re certainly early adopters, but being cool is useless if you don’t know what to do with it.

  87. Sonia – Over 100 comments and you deserve them all – the good ones, that is. A great read that makes a lot of irreverent sense. Bookmarked this one and will be blogging it to spread the love and knowledge as well. I’m looking forward to reading a lot more of you. Thanks. RS.

  88. Wow. I have never heard a better summary. Just to add to the conversation, “which tribe” is the horizontal perspective, and Seth Godin does a great job of articulating what a tribe is and how it works.

    But on the vertical axis, there’s how advanced the tribe is. It’s all covered in “Tribal Leadership” the book. When people here are talking about creating an “us” with no “we” that’s a Stage Five tribe. But what’s interesting is that the book says that a tribe can only go up one stage at a time. That’s why there’s a lot of big talk. You can’t just go straight to having everyone get along. A tribe MUST go through Stage Four which is “We’re Great. And They’re not.” Only when it is stable at this stage can it become greater. The book goes into a lot more detail.

    I’m certainly interested in this third tribe that was mentioned. I believe with tools getting cheaper and faster, we’ll be seeing “Instant Ventures” – not get rick quick, but very fast launches. I’m working on a blog/community about it. So contact me if you’d like to collaborate or have any stories.

    Thanks again for a great article Sonia.


  89. I’ve been a member of almost all the tribes. I’ve had reasonable success with online, off-line, retail, and direct sales, as well as direct marketing. What I found the most interesting is that I continually do the best with direct-sales oriented businesses (I’ve started 10 small companies and sold 8 of them.) I have utilized internet marketing successfully to compliment my businesses, but have yet to hit a “home run” online. Not that I can’t- in fact, I think I know how to do it (I’ve belonged to Stompernet and Smarts,) and it’s just a matter of doing what you’re good at. Internet marketing is hard work. It’s especially hard to systematize and train others to do it effectively. It’s a real challenge, because I get great results when I actually “do it,” but have a terrible time replacing myself in this part.
    But I haven’t lost faith- I think I’ve finally found a model that works best for me.

  90. i believe that the hybrid is the peak of the bell curve and your starting point determines where you are on the curve. only a few cool kids will be extremely successful enough to just stay in the programming game. only a few IMers are going to make it without becoming increasingly software literate and that’s probably only via heavy outsourcing or teamwork. the rest of us will have to swim to the middle to get out of a basement, to support a family, to excel, and maybe get the Lambo.

  91. You’re missing a group. There is a group, or tribe, of people who are out there somewhere in the middle of the RMs and IMs. They are the people who work hard, very hard, for modest incomes.

    They can pull a big crowd when needed and when they are passionate about something. They can ask for the sale when the time is right. However, they feel that both RMs and IMs are shady in some way or another and hold themselves to higher ethical standard.

    Neither RMs or IMs have the perfect solution. To be quite honest, it doesn’t take a PhD to master either. However, you have to be willing to make the compromises that come with each approach. Some people are not willing to make that compromise and for that, they linger in the shadows waiting, contemplating, working, and planning for that day when RMs and IMs fall out of favor.

    Whether that day ever comes is yet to be seen, but having a clear conscious at the end of every day is a very rewarding feeling.

    On a personal note: I’ve studied both groups and I don’t agree with either 100%. There are many like me. Money is great, but it isn’t everything.

  92. Then there’s a big band of Cool Kids who are broke. They’ve figured out how to get attention, but they don’t know what to do with it. They have 4,999 Facebook friends, 34,278 Twitter followers, and $12 in the bank.

    That is friggin’ awesome. Thanks for the smile today.

  93. This is such an excellent article I can’t begin to comment. But truly I have wondered for ages now — when really are people going to get out of high school, the clicks, the whole “other” thing? If someone could figure out the formula to synthesize and synergize the best of these disparate qualities and talents they would have a gold mine.

  94. Indeed, Sonia, indeed. A half-decade ago, I typed in something along the lines of “Make money from home” into Google.

    At the time, I was working at a non-profit–a job that qualified me for food stamps–and I wanted to avoid waiting tables for a few extra bucks. Within a month, after viewing a persuasive online video presentation, I found myself selling nutritional supplements at an overly marked up price–but instead of actually selling the supplements themselves, I seemed to be trying to sell other people on selling other people to sell other people on selling other people…

    Fast-forward a few years, and I found myself in the IM tribe. But after sending a few too many emails that prominently featured an abundance of all-caps phrases, I left. In the words of John Malkovich’s character from Burn After Reading, though, “I’m back. I’m better. Than ever. You…”

    I resonate with everything you wrote–the dilemma, the challenge, and the possibility. It is most certainly a conversation that needs to be had. Because for those of us endeavoring to create a higher synthesis in the world of online marketing, one that transcends and yet still includes those of the Cool Kids and the IMers, it is up to us to create a pathway for the artists, social entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and other inspired individuals who would make such a bigger impact–and the world such a better place–if they simply knew they could make money and change the world at the same time, without hyperbole or compromise. Thanks for posting this.

  95. Wow, I really need to keep up with my Google Reader!

    Thank you so much for this!

    This article makes me feel like, maybe, just maybe, I’m not crazy after all!

    I know squat about IM. I only know, with 100% certainty, that I can’t/won’t/don’t wanna do what the vast majority in my niche are doing!

  96. Well if it helps any, having read this complete post I’m in a total state of confusion as to which tribe I’m in. LOL


    Scot McKay

  97. Brilliant post. I think that the simple recognition of these two groups is quite a big deal. Merging from the one you are in into the other one in a transparent, legitimate manner may be difficult, but probably well worth it in the end.

  98. Regarding the “Marketers as Zion Rebels” Matrix analogy, I propose a slight modification.

    IM’ers are more like Agent Smith, spreading through the Matrix looking for other minds to sieze and transform into copies of himself. Kinda sounds like a pyramid marketing scheme, doesn’t it? 😉

  99. “They have yellow highlighting on their sales letters.”

    That line made me laugh – I think you should highlight it in yellow.

  100. Loved it. Cracked me up in the same way other “stereotype” jokes that shouldn’t be funny sometimes do.

    I gotta tell you though I’m so there…in the mix. Sometimes you need a hammer sometimes you need 9 Inch Nails …stick with what your good at and work with people who are good at what they do. Use your powers for good everyday… Corny yes but Karma can crash your Lambo.

    BTW I totally think Jason Finch has it right on the cool kids.

  101. You know being in either tribe would have both plus and minus points. I think regardless of the technology you are congnecent of, great marketing skills win every time.

    Did the Ipod do a much better job than MP3´s available at the time. Of course not, Steve jobs is a world class marketing genius that made people stop in there tracks and fall in love with their products.

  102. I think there’s enough people around the margins of the other tribes that could come together to form a tribe of folks who really want to make a living, not a killing, on the Net.

    It’s about values, and I think way too many people value “abundance” without thinking about what it means. We can create an abundance of ideas, of help, of relationships, of creativity — all good.

    But when we start doing so as a step to reaping an abundance of money and material goods, things go off the track.

    Material abundance is cumbersome and cluttering (mentally and in your garage). Studies show that it doesn’t make people happier. And it’s killing our ecosystems.

    So, I’m for abundance in non-material areas and “sufficience” in material areas — just enough money and material to produce the first kind of abundance.

    IF we don’t concsciously create such a sufficience/abundance relationship, it will be forced upon us by things such as climate change and rising oil prices (oh, yeah, they’ll rise). And if it’s forced on us it won’t be as nice as if we create it ourself.

    So what say you? Abundance? Or Sufficience? My answer is at

    Let’s make it happen. Let’s make the Net and the world a better, healthier, nicer place. Yes!

  103. I was never the cool kid, but I did end up with a hot wife. 🙂 Either way, I’m just grateful that the people who are smarter than me are willing to teach and share so openly online. Thanks

  104. You would think that in crisis, a tribe of hybrids would emerge. A clearly mutated form of internet marketer, grown from the leaders of both tribes. Those who understand that the lifeblood of the internet flows through visibility, communication, and value.

    These hybrids utilize both social and traditional web to build an image, but are not afraid to ask for the sale. They’re smooth, but not around the edges. Every word, every contact, and every image is crafted to lure. And at the end of the night, these hybrids sleep peacefully, knowing that in reality, all we are online, are combinations of text and images.

    If you can imagine such a thing…

  105. I cannot stand the B.S. that still passes for respectable and often admirable social and business behavior. I see the “cool kids” every day living in the NYC area (some are trust fund babies and are quite wealthy) and I pass the Internet Marketing crowd on the subway several times a week. Both seem to speak a special language prized more for exclusivity than for the merits of its usefulness to society.

    I am a cartoonist and a writer, struggling get viewers. I have about a 1,000 loyal fans; they come because a real community has formed around the content on my site. I’m using the tips found here and on other copywriting and blogging self-help sites, but I can’t (yet) seem to match the savvy of the IMs, and I’m not hip enough for the “cool ones” dwelling in their parents’ basements.

    Sorry for the rant- too much java flowing through the veins this morning. I do believe that if you do have something of value to offer, a community will form around your site IF you combine the approaches of the IMers and hipsters.

  106. I started my adult life as the Cool Kid with the 12 bucks, then took a 21-year detour to grow up in the Worlds Finest Navy. Now I’m trying to get my tribe stamp in the IM guild.

    I think you hit a certain age where the Lambo or jet don’t really matter anymore, and you just want to have an abundant life and see your kids succeed. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t jump on the Lambo if offered (but not the hot girlfriend, my wife would s&#t a brick about two seconds before she popped me between the eyes). Just a matter of changing priorities.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  107. Thanks for the all the thoughts and connections this post generated. Similar discussions occur in every business I’ve been part of, including non-profits. When I studied Economics we assumed that businesses sought profit for its own sake and tried to maximize it. Some do. I preferred Peter Drucker’s opinion that profit was the assurance that one would be able to continue serving one’s customers. It fits much better with the service-oriented business model I see recommended by many here.

  108. Excellent post, it so true that there are various classes of each and that each has their own pros or cons. If you want money – be a marketer. If you want fame -build a following.

  109. But I’m still confused. In light of this brilliant post, exactly what size and color of font should I use for headlines so that I don’t come off too “markety,” or worse, too cool to care if people buy?

  110. I personally think it’s a pipe dream as well. I also believe it is impossible to be both a cool kid and an IMer at the same time, or somewhere in between. Please, allow me to explain.

    I admittedly would say I’m an IMer personality stuck with the cool kids, and thus, a cool kid by consequence (not by nature). I was a geeky kid from New York with nothing but money on my mind. My dad worked on Wall Street (help desk) and he would tell me about all the business people he met and I wanted to be just like them. I learned to work hard and make money from him, but there was one thing that kept going wrong, somehow a geeky kid with books and chess and starting little businesses as his past times became a cool kid magnet. I shunned them at first “the company you keep” speech kept coming to my mind, but in time my values changed, I started to try to emulate them (as my father left home) and I started to see what it was that they were doing that made them so cool. And I learned that they are two VERY different worlds separated by a few very important factors, so allow me if you will to make mention of a few.

    Values: As I said before my values changed after many years of hanging out with the cool kids, see what the cool kids that I know most dislike about the nerdy “IMers” as you so put them, is that the IMers value money above all else, I have a friend who has a friend, and this friend was trying to get my friend into one of those network marketing things (of which I’ve tried several and failed) and he said the two things that turned him off the most about them was that they looked like a cult, and they kept using the word “broke mentality”, as if being broke was the end of the world. He says he could live in a hole somewhere as long as he has his friends he’s ok, which brings me to what the cool kids value most, social relationships/social acceptance.

    Don’t get me wrong cool kids LOVE money. They have a phrase out here, “get money”; as in “I’m just trying to get that money” or “I’m gonna go get money”. The problem is who doesn’t. It’s not enough to want to “get money” but to want to do what it takes to make that money. The cool kids value wasting time, hanging out with friends, socializing, indulging in the pop culture they helped to create, all these things make you NO money.

    Personality: Another reason why the two don’t mix, in my opinion, is personality types. This goes back to psychology of course, and I won’t make an effort to explain that which I am not totally familiar with, but I will say that the two personalities conflict in various ways. One way for example is creativity. IMers are all about systems, they follow a rigorous schedule and use the same methods (which leads to there websites all being marketed the same way). Cool kids live by creativity. One of my first observations from hanging with the in crowd was this, the old myth that you have to do certain things to “fit in” is one of the reasons most people who aren’t cool kids, aren’t. I learned that in order to fit in you have to stand out, you have to do something that sets you apart from everyone else even if you’re going to get noticed, and you have to be creative. You have to be of value to the in crowd if they’re going to let you in. So how do you stand out, being funny (not trying to be but being), being confident (again being not appearing to be), you have to have the courage to be yourself, and still consider yourself a part of the collective, its the difference between being weird and being unique, or as they say where I come from “having your own swagger”. In short the two ways to be a cool kid are, be a trend setter, start your own trends, or be really good at following the trends of others, and making them your own.

    I won’t go any more into detail I know most probably stopped reading at the first paragraph, but I will make one final point. The reason why the two will never mix is because you don’t have to be an IMer to make money, and you don’t have to be a cool kid to be broke. Cool kids can make money, and I dare say they can make better money than the IMers, if they learn a few simple rules about work ethic and applying themselves. Innovation and a connection with your market and industry are some of the most coveted traits a business person can have, and by learning what the other side does best the cool kid can become savvier and wealthier than the IMer. This does not mean a fusing of the two tribes, but rather, it means one tribe becoming so efficient at what the other does that it makes the other tribe obsolete.

    in conclusion, An IMer can be cool if he learns to value social relationships as much as money, and a cool kid can be rich if he learns to value money as much as social relationships. He won’t become an IMer and the IMer won’t become a cool kid, but they won’t need to. Just remember as the old adage says, “if you can’t beat em, join em? but if you don’t want to join them, then try your best to beat them at there own game.

  111. You forgot the third tribe! The Machines.

    The people who _make_ the open source tools, the ones who let the Cool Kids and the Internet Marketers play in their Matrix.

    Once in a while they take on Cool Kid or IM form, when necessary. But primarily they’re behind the scenes architecting our common digital destiny.

    While possessing by far the most power, this tribe sadly lacks hot girlfriends.

  112. I seem to be reading this rather late, but nonetheless, great post. It’s rare to read about the philosophies and cultural afflictions of a particular occupation (especially internet marketing) so succinctly and with such feeling (it is marketing after all).

    I don’t know where I fall, but I don’t see myself in either the “Cool Kids” or the “IMers.” I’ve done the corporate gigs, now freelancing, starting my own online marketing and copywriting company, now going back to a corporate gig along with running the company. I have learned and so now feel I know a lot about online marketing, particularly in the past 5 years, and I think I’ve become good at it. But I just want to write for a living, that’s it.

    So where do I land in this landscape?

  113. Interesting, but I’m not sure how we got two groups out of a pretty diverse community – doesn’t seem to be as simple as “cool kids on the left,” “IMers on the right.” There’s a lot going on here, and some of it is completely self-contained, some of which has a direct profit motive. There’s also a whole lot going on that intersects with a whole lot more going on outside the realm of social media, to which this “either/or” selection doesn’t apply.

    Perhaps most importantly, though, is that this analysis nullifies those other “tribes” that make possible the two you focus on: they make the money for the IMers, and are appropriately deferential to the Cool Kids. IMers and Cool Kids can’t exist in isolation – I think the essence of the question you posed has less to do with the two tribes you chose to highlight, and more to do with how those two tribes interact with the rest of the world.

  114. Considering there are well over 100 comments at this point, I’m not going to read them all, though I did catch the first 20 or so, and many of the comments are just as thought-provoking as this post!

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned it, but for me this is the age old personality type debate. Whether you believe in the MBTI (Meiers-Briggs Type Indicator) or not, it definitely is one of the most widely-accepted personality descriptors out there.

    Sonia is discussing two entirely different kinds of people, and just applying them to this specific industry/field. You can find them anywhere in the world, whether it be in marketing or not. Heck, they don’t even have to be businesspeople.

    My point is: this is a great post, and I, along with many of you it seems, believe that it merits much more discussion in today’s world. However, I think that it would be more beneficial to identify the root cause of these distinctions, which are just personality type differences that have nothing to do with social media, marketing, or any kind of business.

  115. Aack! The broke IMers make me cringe. I see way too much of that in the online MLM field, which is still doing baby steps towards having authentic, social content that truly adds value. Yellow highlighters abound as do “quick fix” and “get rich quick.” I hate it. I love what technology can do, and I also know that any business, online or offline, takes time to build, hot boy/girlfriend notwithstanding. Thanks for outlining clearly that any tribe has top, middle, and broke layers, and that the top and middle layers make it work by working hard. My passive income from online marketing is steady and strong, but it’s after a few years of steady effort. I hope people will come to understand that soon, so they end up in at least the middle layers, whether they are of the Cool Kids or IM camp!

  116. So Chris Brogan ( ) just referenced this post, specifically in a video with Loren Feldman from 1938 Media at Affiliate Summit East. or

    I’m paying attention to all of ya’ll 🙂 Why not make money and build a community at the same time without being a douchebag / sleezebag about it? 🙂 Sounds like a great concept to me! If only I would get off my butt and get a blog up and running…….uuuggghh…. procrasination! Damn Twitter …Time sucking tool! Twitter = socialmedia crack 🙂

    I hope Loren gets some back links out of this 🙂 And Chris is just a great guy for putting up with me on Twitter tonight 🙂

    Dan Ross

  117. “effective persuasive communication that actually sells something,” could you please add useful here?

    I love this tribe analogy. I think this is a brilliant way of categorizing world changing trends. And when we all finally figure out that we are all part of the one great big united tribe of earth, we will see that what’s good for us, is good for all, and vice versa.

  118. Funny, this melding of the two is actually what I do. I do internet marketing to:
    – Position myself as the expert I am
    – Sell things more effortlessly across the world
    – Gain a greater reach of prospects (cast a wide net… what I do is leading edge & not for everyone, so I need to find my tribe)
    – Maintain a great work-life balance so I can spend time with my small kids (I’m a single mom.)

    I KNOW I can learn from the hotshots–indeed, I do. And, I use that to build an ethical, credible, business that helps people change more quickly & effortlessly than anyplace else on the planet.

    I think the key is to use the internet as another marketing channel for what you already do. Not look at it as a cash cow… that cow will surely die at some point.

    Pam Ragland

  119. Loved it. Cracked me up in the same way other “stereotype? jokes that shouldn’t be funny sometimes do.

    I gotta tell you though I’m so there…in the mix. Sometimes you need a hammer sometimes you need 9 Inch Nails …stick with what your good at and work with people who are good at what they do. Use your powers for good everyday… Corny yes but Karma can crash your Lambo.

    BTW I totally think Jason Finch has it right on the cool kids.

  120. I say a manager should liaise the two tribes so then great impact on positive result can be achieved in perfect harmony. Sometimes differences are quite needed to enrich our views in tackling life challenges. Don’t you think so?

  121. When I found out the realities of blogging, I got very discouraged. I did not write my blog for 1 month and had to make very difficult decisions. I am not going to quit blogging, but it is even harder to start and to continue blogging today, when so much weight is put on links. If you are a proud person, like I am, you do not go out asking people to link to your blog and you do not make any money. That’s why I am getting heavily involved in other aspects of IM.

  122. I think that the two tribes can learn much from each other and build a new tribe that embraces the best of both worlds. They offer great advice and products while still keeping relationships and building conversations together. I think it can be done and I hope to be part of that third tribe someday. At least that is what I will strive for.

  123. Aaron Brazell said it best at IZEAFest: do you want to be internet famous and dirt poor? Even some of the speakers and bloggers I admire don’t make money from blogging (though you would expect they would), so I’m eager to see where your Internet Marketing for Smart People goes. Thanks.

  124. Man I can’t believe I didn’t see this post sooner.

    I’m a graphic designer and I stumbled upon the IMer world say 3 months ago- and I totally couldn’t stand the way those “landing pages” looked. But I’m shocked that stupid typography (big, red, centered, and with “quotes”) apparently “converted” more. I was open minded enough to think- maybe since they claim to split test everything there’s some sense to this whole IM thing… So I studied my tail off and learned lots of things (from the good guys of course) … the ones that hit hardest aren’t even the tactics.. just simple things like not being shy to ask for the sale (some graphic designers will work for free. I won’t do that anymore)

    Then of course I found all the shady scammy ones… I can name a few if you want.

    I’ve been scratching (banging) my head about this- “…is there any middle ground?” So Sonia- this is a few months late- awesome awesome post and I’m looking forward to your new newsletter. You guys are obviously in the lead here in creating this middle ground.

    Right now my eyes are on Brian Clark and the Copyblogger gang, and Gary Vee.. and.. of course Seth I still read your blog!

    @Seth, aren’t you friends with Shoemoney? He’s from that IM tribe. I’m wondering- do you know who Frank Kern is? What do you think of him?

    @Brian- there’s a thing called “Blog Flipping Blueprint by Brian Clark”.. are you the same Brian Clark? Or that other commenter perhaps? Haha…

  125. Great stuff.

    This is my first comment to copyblogger post after being copyblogger reader for a long time.

    Cool Kids know how to make friends but don’t know how to make business. Maybe it will be great to be IM and Cool Kid in one person.

  126. I think a lot of the guys that show how cool they are are secretly working their little buns off. Some of the Gurus are nonstop workers. Then some of them have done so much research earlier in their lives and have been able to hook into some other talented people that they have been able to do it Big.

  127. It’s interesting you bring this dichotomy to light as you have — I think most serious online business owners have been faced with the challenge of schizophrenic marketing identities at some point in their careers. It’s the “Kennedy” vs. “Godin” Celebrity Deatch Match. Who would win, right? Maybe instead of an all out fight to the deat — they get in bed and “spoon”.

  128. What about those of us who tribe is the nerds, the band kinds and the drama crowd? I wonder if even care enough about being famous to hang with the cool kids and I know that I don’t care enough about money to sell things I don’t believe in. I do think there are tribes with more depth in the space in between.

  129. My take away? Having read all of the comments, I am going to close my browser and resolve to never create another web page that does not benefit -both- my reader and myself.

    I am not in this world exclusively for their benefit. They are not in it exclusively for mine.

    1) Every page should be a landing page of some sort.
    2) Every page should have a banana on it for the reader.
    3) If I don’t want blogging to be a hobby, I’ll have to treat it like a business.
    4) Good writing is only a good start. But I know that I don’t buy from a page with poor writing.
    5) I’ve done a lot of door-to-door canvassing. That experience should help me with asking for the sale.

    Time to go do some serious thinking.

    PS: I, also, have not read Copyblogger for a good year or so. This was mentioned by several of your commenters. How are your viewer numbers, year over year?

  130. It sounds to me like the cool kids and the IMers both have something to offer. Getting together and creating something in the middle ground sounds like a great solution.

  131. GREAT post. Missed it in February, but caught it on the rebound (your ‘best of 2009’ roundup).

    Been pondering this divide/dilemma for a couple of years (though Sonia has voiced it very nicely), and longing for a happy mix that would work for folks who didn’t feel they fit into either tribe.

    In late 2008, I put together a program that attempts to bridge the tribal divide – with “The Smilenaire Way” at

    In the sales copy for the program, which I broke down into 5 pages, each of the elements that identifies outsiders of the two tribes is listed – and that has worked in keeping out hardliners who won’t ever cross over to a new tribe that’s a mix of the two.

    Very nice post. Will direct my tribe to it – so they don’t feel outsiders, even while they’re INSIDE! (Thanks, too, to Seth Godin, for directing my thinking in that direction.)

    All success

    P.S. – Thanks, Brian, for a wealth of wisdom on your blog all through 2009.

  132. I’d love to be in a crowd that would be a cool synthesis of “getting heard” and “getting paid” 😉

    Happy New Year, Sonia, Brian, and all the Copyblogger crowd.

  133. Birds of a feather flock together.

    I founded an online start up called Social Traffic Inc. I recruited 50 people from a Facebook group. I invited them all to invest time (human capital) into launching a social media marketing company with $0 start up cash.

    The plan was to harness the collective voices of this new, committed and focused business tribe. Use it to dominate the conversation across new media. It was a unique way of buying social commitment by offering stock in the company as an incentive. Our goal was to market a good cause (charity) for free. Build authority as a new media marketing agency (first step). With runs on the board, secure a first paying client.

    Three months later.

    Our starting tribe of 50 became 20. 15 of them were the “cool crew? mentioned. This group were enjoying the experience. They were by far the most active in terms of the conversation.

    In their minds they were spreading the word. 5 of the 20 were “internet marketer’s”. This lot was focused on our ROI. They were adding value where it counted. Each demanded proof that revenue was imminent.


    The “cool crew? had enjoyed the most value through the experience alone. Their mind set meant their investment in time capital was not wasted, regardless of them earning no money or reaching few business milestones after three months. In saying that, our organizations marketing plan / strategy (that was well documented) got lost amongst all of the noise created by this group who were supposedly spreading the word. What they were actually doing was more like basking in the spot light that was cast on them through becoming a part of such an interesting and dynamic movement.

    The cool crew each lost sight of the business goals & objectives. Our marketing message became drowned amidst all the noise created through their compounding activity across new media. Our external audience had no clue what Social Traffic stood for. It was impossible for us to control once it started.

    It became a ‘look at me?, “watch me? and “listen to me? quest. Everyone posting / publishing content that was ultimately about them. Everyone else in the organization became a captive audience in place to back slap each other when they did. This created an illusion that each had a large audience who were listening which on served to fuel the fire.

    All this commotion earned the business very little traction in the way of getting our message out or achieving our business goals.

    Six month later

    The internet marketing crew took control. The entire cool crew quit when we got tough on forcing accountability towards productivity (in terms of our business goals).

    The success of our internet marketing crew succeeding had its own (different) challenges.

    They each had other (core) businesses online that earned them money. What we were doing together was a sideline. Where ever possible this group would divert the authority they gained from being part of the organization towards their own business interests / authority where ever possible.


    Both tribes were motivated by self indulgent tendencies. Both groups were held together by a desire to be part of a tribe they felt was going somewhere special and unique.

    The cools crew’s underlying priority was to be heard / accepted and liked as individuals. The internet marketing crew’s priority was to be respected as business authorities who were capable of earning money online.

    Both groups wanted to achieve their desired outcomes with each other as a tribe. Neither wanted the tribe’s goals (the companies desired outcome) to get in the way of their own.

    My conclusion at the end of this experiment

    Human beings are one tribe of self centered individuals, each motivated by different outcomes. The internet is simply a communication platform that facilitates our ability to transcend distance and time whilst pursuing what drives us with more compatible and better quality individuals.

  134. I love the part about they’re “bad people” because they use “yellow highlights on sales letters!” That was funny. Thanks for this.

  135. This is such a true post though I think there are several more tribes out there. Look forward to further definition of what the Third Tribe is. Maybe we could make t-shirts?

  136. I completely agree about there being two tribes! For the past year, I’ve been a part of the latter – internet marketing. I posted links on Google, I’ve advertised on Facebook, and I’ve done okay.

    But I’ve recently gotten into the social media space as I’ve started my social entrepreneurship blog, And I understand the value of cultivating relationships, and engaging in conversations, just as I understand the value of creating valuable content that leads to affiliate products and higher conversions. Ultimately, these two worlds will mix. I wrote last week about how Social Entrepreneurs can use affiliate marketing (here’s the link: and I think ultimately, the “cool kids” will recognize the value in internet marketing while the IMers realize that EVERYTHING is TRANSPARENT. Once they make that distinction, they’re going to start making better relationships with their customers and talking to people, instead of being slaves to metrics and conversions (though I will admit, the promise of riches has been seductive).

    If you’d like a great example of how I’ve attempted to meld the two together, take a look at my site It’s an affiliate site, and I do make money with it. But at the same time, I love the company. I value their mission. I use their product regularly. And I write from a place of truth and offering value. And we have a twitter too (@welovetoms) ;-).

    So YES – You CAN engage your followers, create good content, and make money. I think it will take more people like me crossing over before eventually that magical tipping point hits and everybody’s posting affiliate links this side of everywhere.

    My prediction: In 20 years, EVERYONE will be an affiliate. Everything you post on Facebook and Twitter and Blippy can and will be monetized. And those that are truly value-giving will REAP the benefits.

  137. Interesting post, I’ve read your article ‘better then adsense’ as well. I started my own blog, .. I started this blog to see if it is possible to start earning money simply by following free material on the internet. I am sure that I will be trying some of your advice.



  138. Sonia,

    You continue to amaze me with your insight into people you’ve never met. After just about 4 months chasing IM rainbows,I’m coming to the same conclusions. My thoughts are just based on my interaction in forums and my intuition tells me there has to be a better way. Please keep being our conscience and helping many of chart a different course.

  139. @Steve, pretty much everything I write comes out of my experience, the experience of people I teach or coach, or the experience I observe in my friends & business partners. And yeah, it feels like a lot of us have hit that space lately.

  140. frankly i believe both parties have something both parties can learn from.a blogger must learn some parts of marketing to succeed .A marketer need trust building to make recurring profits…we all need a converging point..

  141. I’ve been feeling very third tribe for a number of years. Seems that many other folks are too.

    what’s next eh?


    Love the story about the I.M.ers taking over! (post 154)

  142. Excellent post. I love it, it must be a great post if you have over 150 comments on it. Great job, and I can’t wait to read the next post.

  143. I’m the new girl in school. I still don’t know who is in which tribe. In my old school, I was friends with the hoods, the jocks and the geeks. I learned a little bit from all of ’em. They were nice enough to put up with me. I think I’m gonna try that approach at my new school. If somebody knows something that’d work better, I’m all ears. But I won’t make any promises to side with one group over another.

  144. I think it’s way possible to find a way for the two to meet. I think the Cool/IM blend is ideally what’s necessary for people to make it in this business.

    I value ethics, and I value VALUE. No matter how many people can make a quick buck selling “pony tricks” and garbage, I believe what you put out is what you get in return. Forgive me if I’m waxing poetic and sounding like Deepak Chopra, but I just cannot “trick” people for money and live with it.

  145. I am new to internet marketing,blogging and webcopy.You might say “I believe anyone can do it”!I know that there are scams that suck people but real marketers are about providing solutions for people to earn money,learn new things,entertaiment ,and complimenting reader interests.

  146. Dear Sonia,
    I never read Internet stuff — or rarely, anyway — all the way through;however, you writing is so intriguing and beguiling that I can’t help but “bite” into it, hook, line, and sinker, as the old cliche goes. And as surely as a catfish might snap up a convincing, wriggling, rubber worm, I, too, when reading your stuff, snap up, love, and savor every beautifully constructed, plastic, and manufactured minute of it. Rarely has plastic ( which all good writing is, but you never realize it till you’ve already swallowed) been so convincing and pleasurable.

  147. People buy into ideas,goods,services and anything they figure can solve a problem or fullfill a need usually buy on emotional impulse and use logic after the fact to justify it”..

    I can’t rationalize the motives or reasons why people buy, but as a marketer and copywriter my business is like a car running out of gas looking for a solution.The solution goes in the gas in the tank.It’s never ending!

    Selling isn’t a gift,it is a learned skill.Not for the weak minded.I look dumber than dumb but I am not new. I know that money some how ranks up there as a basic need to live commodity.Somewhere close to air you might say.Try paying rent or your mortgage and or feeding your family with out it.Money that is!

  148. Can someone tell me where can I buy the third tribe marketing sales letter skin? I remember I saw it somewhere, but forgot the url. Thanks!

  149. Wow, Sonia a Blog that I was actually reading like watching a movie! Sitting in my chair on the edge eating up every word like in the Matrix. Waiting for the conclusion, the solution. To find out that you are leaving me with a question like a lot of other movies have done.

    And yes, we can all stop pretending to make real what isn’t real. We can see the world and we can feel what we see in the world and we can say what we see and what we feel in the world and then we can do from what we see, feel and say in the world to be 100% aligned with who we truly are: like our magnificence. And only then can we stop pretending and win the academy awards for our life movie which we all deserve regardless of which tribe we are in.

  150. Nothing in business (or life) is more costly than surrounding yourself with incompetent people.

    Used wisely, nothing is more valuable in business (or life) than surrounding yourself with… and…tapping into the knowledge of competent experts.

  151. Hey Sonia

    I feel so late to the party. 242 comment deep, and over a year has passed.

    Nevertheless here I am and I am glad I have arrived at this awesome content.

    What sticks out like a saw thumb to me is even though this post is a year + old it is still very relevant, real and undeniably true.

    I am all for learning, show me the tribe…


  152. I have bad hair, and no abs. But, The Matrix is a perennial fav. Always in my top 3. I’m new to this, and let me first say how much I appreciate/value the content. You guys are smart. And good.

    After reading this post, I realize I may be suffering from a little crowd confusion. I’m know I’m not cool enough to be a Cool Kid, but my vision is noble. Highlighting is not my bag, and yet the Mrs. expects more than a little dough to be generated by this endeavor.

    So my plan is to do stuff I’m good at, and outsource the rest to smart people. If millions have a better 2nd half, then making a little jack along the way seems reasonable. I’d love to be part of the third tribe.

  153. Wow, I am both inspired and concerned.

    I have been diligently reading everything I can find on blogging and online marketing for at least two hours a day for the last 30 days as I prepare to launch my own venture online.

    I am inspired by one of the most clear and witty articulations I have read to date. The flow of the content with the humor interjected at just the right moments, wow.

    I am concerned I will never be able to write this well.
    I am concerned I will not be let into any of the tribes.
    I hope I can join the third tribe you speak of.

    Thanks for starting my day off perfectly.

  154. I think there is a fourth tribe (or maybe they are in fact the third tribe?) = “spiritualpreneurs” – mainly made up of women entrepreneurs who design their businesses around their desired lifestyles and passions. They aren’t as hardball as the IM’ers or as crunchy as the “cool kids” – they also tend to be women in their 40s and 50s who have already built professional service businesses offline, and are expanding rapidly online, although not all come from this background. Some names I would include: Ali Brown, Kendall Summerhawk, Milana Leshinsky, Baeth Davis, Christine Kloser, and James Roche (there are probably more guys but I can’t think of any more names off hand). They are not as hypey as the testosterone-driven IM’ers, but they have a much more nuts and bolts, practical approach to making money than most bloggers. Bloggers are hobbyists; spiritualpreneurs know that a business makes a profit, and anything that doesn’t make a profit is not a business. They are definitely businesswomen (and men). Most of them have very clear blueprints and systems for doing business, unlike IM’ers, whose products are designed to go for a very quick fix, which makes them a lot of money all at once, but aren’t designed to create long-term passive income. Spiritualpreneurs seem to snowball profits into multiple platforms of coaching programs, infoproducts, live events, and membership sites. They seem to understand growth better than the IM’ers, and money better than the bloggers. They understand you have to really deliver high value. Most products I’ve seen (and occasionally purchased, but not any more) from IM’ers tend to give you just enough rope to hang yourself with, or a hypey marketing gimmick that won’t even work 6 months from now. Spiritualpreneurs seem to provide more grounded and comprehensive training materials that are designed to help their students build long term success.

  155. Check out Douglas Rushkoff, he makes reference to the internet being the virtual version of the medieval community bazaar…so true. You had your black hats back then too but locals knew who they were and steered clear and only dealt with the sellers that they had come to trust to provide quality at a fair price.

    IMHO the reason we think there are so many more black hats in the world is because when we get hurt by one of those get rich quick scheme folks it cuts deep. It leaves a scar. And yellow highlighter anywhere makes us flashback to that experience.

    Personally I’d like to think I’m closer to the Spiritualpreneurs philosophy. It’s all about nuturing relationships and building a client base that can trust you to provide quality at a fair price and who will refer you to all their friends (virtually now). And who better to lead this tribe than the women and a good number of men, who have soared in providing services in the real world while many times nuturing children into adulthood.

    I recently heard the term mompreneur too….maybe that’s a version of the Spiritualpreneur or even the fifth tribe?

    Anyhow great post and great discussion. Really gets you thinking. Love it!

  156. Superb synopsis Sonia;

    I think there’s a definite need for a third ‘tribe’. Why not make it official? Maybe Cool Internet Club or Kool Practices Internet Association or . . .? I’d be first in line to become a member.

    It could be modeled after the Better Business Bureau [or similar], except deal with the unique complexities of the internet. Member sites would have to follow honest business practices with a social conscience.

    As a newcomer to monetizing my website, I would like to connect with people who practice these principles — but it is a very confusing world full of Cool Kids [not much help] & IM’s [scamming me?].

    Thanks for a great site. Your great writers have helped me tremendously already.

  157. Wow! This post has getting replies now for quite awhile! Goes to show that some information is worth commenting on.
    What if the “tribe” lines are blurred? When I started dabbling with Internet business, as a newbie I was more like one of the “cool” kids, then moved to an “IMer”, now I think I am more in the middle. It has been an evolution of learning and my business has changed with it.
    For me, your tribes were more like stages I went through to get to where I am at.
    I hope I am in your fictional third tribe now 🙂

    • It’s not actually fictional. After we ran it, this post got us thinking and planning, and we created an online community specifically to educate and nurture the Third Tribe. It’s pretty darned cool, actually. 🙂

      • Well this is a great idea Sonia! I just read the first pillar, and I am very excited about what’s to come. I think this is exactly what I need as I embark on building my first two blogs… 😉
        BTW: Huge respect to you, Brian and your team for the amazing “Village” you have built here…

  158. Well, I’m obviously late to the game 🙂 What a great post! It resonates with me. While I don’t really come from the cool kids camp (er triibe), I might be considered a crusty old [ethical] hacker, from the glory days of the Free Software Foundation. Big difference, I pretty much just observed the whole dot com bomb with front row seats. I now wonder why the hell I wasn’t a ‘money grubbing bastard’. I like making some doe, I’m going to check out the Third Tribe!!

    Thanks for all the great stuff you guys put out. I am a very happy _paying_ customer 🙂

  159. I enjoyed reading this, but especially all the comments that ended with “But I must be in a third type” and then your update giving them that. I like the more down to earth approaches to this phenomena though that don’t feel like they are forcefully dancing around the age divide.

    When David Scott tackled this issue, it was from the perspective of giving advice to new college grads, so by way of the audience obviously bias was in favor of the younger generation, or what he deemed “Digital Natives”; those whose tech skills came from highly technical adolescence especially in hobby and communication vs the “Digital Immigrants” or a new face for “Serial Business Owners” those who just go where the money is.

  160. Very good article and I will be following you from now on. I am trying to build a social and business networking site by using the same ethics and principles used to build my ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses over the last 10 years.
    It is not easy and trying to keep some of the other, less ethical ‘tribe’ members out will be hard work but I am in for the long term and not scared of hard work.

  161. I’ve been thinking along these same lines for a couple of years now (and I realize it’s been a couple of years since this initial post). My problem has been getting traffic to my websites. Most of the “sure fire” traffic generating methods I’ve come across involve some combination of building link wheels and article spinning. My gut reaction to these methods was that anyone spending their time and effort to get traffic using these methods would eventually get smacked down by the search engines. It turns out I was right (to some degree) but at what price? Some people have made tens of thousands of dollars (and more) while I’m stranded here on the high road.

  162. I am assuming since this very well written blog was published that many things have happened in the fast moving world of Internet Marketing and maybe the third tribe has arrived. With google recently changing it logarithm methods to ensure that the cheating stops and other blach hat methods being banned this article seems to have had a visionary into the future which is now.

    Welcome the third tribe!

  163. Totally agree with David, let’s hope the cheaters and ‘flash in the pan’ marketers are put where they belong leaving good space for serious business and marketing types.

  164. There is a happy balance. It’s different for everyone and I don’t think you can judge where someone wants to be on the scale as long as theyr’e not intent on hurting others.

  165. I found this post very good. However, I struggle too with converting things over into actual sales without investing in the crap products that are available. Thanks for the post! I needed to hear this!

  166. Gee, I don’t know how I even found out about this site…I’m way behind the times as far as being anywhere computer savvy but I started a blog about my husband’s cancer and the progression of the disease to inform the family of what was going on. Well, it has gone beyond the family, and is answering questions doctors seem to avoid, and some questions they don’t know the answers to because patients don’t ask the right questions. I didn’t realize how being a health care warrior for my husband could be useful to others. I thought everyone asked millions of questions in the doctors office. So, anyway, not sure if I can make money doing this but you’ve got my attention. I’m in the AARP group and will be spending much time at home caring for my husband in the coming months. Don’t know if I can use the info you provide, but am curious now.

  167. For a long time I’ve been wondering if it really was possible to market yourself online without having to resort to those tacky highlighted sales letters, something I’ve always been totally against. And then on the flip side how on earth to make a living been a ‘cool kid’? In the end, it always comes down to finding balance between two sides or extracting the best from both worlds.

    Thanks and very well done! Welcome Third Tribe.

  168. I think this must be it! Seems I have had dreams of finding a lost or “Third Tribe” only to get side tracked by two other tribes. It is starting to all come together now.


  169. I really would like to understand how the relationship helps you in business. What I mean is that if you build your village and create a great relationship. As you said someone is going to be upset when you try to create a living by offering something to buy. I do understand the balance however I do not understand the happy medium level you get to creating success on all accounts. So I am really looking forward to seeing how all this creates you that business that allows you to really help someone with their problem while making a living to help you with your problem. I truly want a business that makes a difference and help pay my kids tuition. A true win win.

    Thank you Sonia and Brian for a refreshingly new kind of Newsletter,


    • The “trick,” in my opinion, is to acknowledge first and foremost that you’re in business. When you start the relationship with that clear in your mind (and let folks know up front), you get less pushback.

      Whatever you do (even if you never sell anything), someone will complain, so that’s just part of the deal. But when you provide lots of value while acknowledging that you have a business to run, the balance gets easier to find.

  170. Honesty, the cool kids aren’t there for the money and if they are then they are IMers. So these tribes will remain parallel and will neither cross nor will they meet. However, as you added, they might merge at some point in time. but factually speaking the Cool Kid’s list of 5k followers will vanish as soon as they see a sales pitch.

  171. Must admit that I use the yellow highlighter at times but only when trying to sell a product that I feel is going to benefit a customer. I intersperse the sales effort with putting up original content on my sites or trying to produce something that will interest people.
    Have recently tried blog curation with a new site called and got some pretty decent results. One month after indexing the site stats show 110,000 impressions, 4,995 queries, 1000 clicks and a Google PR of 1. The site offers interesting news from many sources and has a small amount of ads. I work very hard to make it readable for surfers and also on the proper SEO for the search engines.
    I am trying to be part of the Third Tribe and believe that there are many others like me try to eek out an existance in the black hole of the internet.

  172. My sister has twice the number of Facebook friends as I have. She has invested a considerable amount of time building relationships and enjoying every minute. This is being done purely from a social context – there is no selling of anything, except for the occasional barter arrangement (i.e. no money involved).

    I, on the other hand, went into social media with the objective to build relationships for the express purpose of promoting my web properties/ventures. Nothing hidden as this is clearly stated. Not surprisingly, I attract many B2B types e.g. Intermet Marketers, SEO types.

    It is not surprising that when I post my material on my Buy Books Smartphone App, I don’t get much interest. Most of my Facebook friends are “sellers”, not “buyers”. I have some interesting interactions with these Facebook friends which I value but trying to translate that into interest to buy books through my affiliate program – well, that is a work-in-progress.

    Then my sister suggested I post on her wall. I am still hesitant to post on other’s walls because I don’t like pushing. I like to put things of value out there and let people choose them – I am not a salesperson. I peddle information and knowledge well but not products. Since she knew the mindset of her friends, she posted “The LEGO Ideas Book” and one friend bought the book!

    Although it is interesting to read and learn about all this social media marketing stuff, I am beginning to realize that my time is better spent elsewhere, such as working my SEO for search engine visibility. On the side of social media marketing (and marketing in general), I am looking for affordable marketing campaigns from the experts who know how to do it.

    The Cool Kid with 4999 Facebook friends and 34,278 Twitter followers – I would like to make an offer to that person to double his/her bank account to help market my Buy Books Smartphone App.

  173. Wow this is a pretty powerful post. Everyone has a lot of interesting input. I am not sure which kid I would be considered but I will work on being part of the third tribe.

    I started getting involved in social media about 2 years ago and have learned that being a salesman in your social media don’t work. So I have learned to join like minded groups and this works quite well. Like someone said earlier don’t waste to much time on social media and spend more time on SEO. This way people look for you and it makes it a lot easier. Thanks for sharing.

  174. I think you can also look at this in terms of companies leveraging both PUSH (e.g. our company’s eBilling solution uses eMarketing expertise to maximize campaign effectiveness and user adoption) and PULL (we enable conversations to start from within a trusted document through the insertion of highly profiled integrating marketing (so, your e-mail delivered phone bill might allow you to click through to customer chat if you have an issue or to take advantage of a product promotion such as, high-end headset to go with the phone model you recently purchased). When I say Push vs. Pull, I am referring to the concepts as laid out in “The Power of Pull” – first google result gives you “The Power of Pull – An Examination of Firms in the Brave New World of 21st Century Internet Economics.” It is “John Seely Brownʼs Stanford Entrepreneurʼs Corner Talk
    of April 14 2010 and Thoughts on The Power of Pull by John Hagel (@jhagel on Twitter), JSB and Lang. Here is the link

    Basically, their PUSH is your IM tribe and their PULL is your Cool tribe, and I am suggesting that companies like mine, which offer both rapid ROI in terms of implementing a solution that yields strategically significant cost-cuttings (imagine what a 50% reduction in paper document production/mailing costs translates to when you are a huge credit card or insurance company sending out large statements (and, yes, those are the types of customers benefiting from our solutions). But, after achieving those results, a solution like ours also opens the door for customer-initiated “personalized conversations” which we refer to as “transpromo” (Transactional Promotion) through the use of integrated marketing tools and profiling, for example, And a host of new data points open up via reporting, e.g., click-rates, deliverability, response-rates, etc), enabling better business intelligence, faster.

    I’d love to position ourselves as a Third Tribe company and have people understand what it means! The hybrid marriage of push and pull is what we need to bring to every aspect of our lives, including how we approach achieving global planetary stability and sustainability. It is about streamlining and automating where possible, whilst also responding effectively to both individual and collective needs.

  175. The problem with the above if you’re a copywriter is getting your client to understand the difference. Maybe I’ll link to this site on mine but most of them probably won’t read it…

    • The good thing is that the readers can understand the difference. And that is all that matters. Trying to make them satisfied can in turn lift the bar up when it comes to quality of content, and that alone is going to result with success.
      The clients will than follow.

  176. Yesterday was our 12 month anniversary of launching a 100% online business for a professional service (Hong Kong immigration) based on almost 20 years of experience in that space. We spent 4 months preparing the core content (“The Hong Kong Visa Handbook”), put money into professional SEO to get us indexed and ranked reasonably well and then watched and waited for the business to come in. And it did. It took six weeks for the first paying client to come calling and they haven’t stopped coming since. We’re only just now getting smart about engagement marketing and the blog will go up soon. The content calender is crafted for the next 18 months and we have 2 flagship sign up freebies ready and waiting to roll on our shiny new Aweber account. Traffic is growing month on month and our brand is starting to register in our city of 7 million people (a market of 500,000 expats).

    The reason why we are meeting success, apart from following all the great advice put out by Copyblogger, Joe Pullizi and all the other thought leaders in this space (you know who you are) is that we actually have something to sell that goes beyond the industry of content marketing. A great deal of the advice out there is from folks selling services into the content marketing industry itself, which is noble and, with all the growth years ahead, smart but the real beneficiaries of content marketing will be the professional service firms who sell something over and above the medium which gets business through the doors.

  177. I have really been putting some thought about how to work with other industries who have successfully created a respectable following with their blog campaign. One answer is to create a section on by site aimed at their niche or industry which would of course fit into the flow of our company, I would then invite them to guest blog as a subject matter expert in exchange for a followed link to their site, we would also do the same for them by posting to their blog as a guest subject matter expert. Now you have a win win for everyone. That covers that Cool Kid on the block. The only thing about that Cool Kid is that he is already creating income from his site.
    So what about the Cool Kid who just blogs for the fun and love blogging the blogger that does it to create a Community aimed at a niche, hobby or interest he loves. Well you could do the same, only this time you need to be a bit more creative. Maybe this bloggers interest are related to the outdoors. Well guess what I don’t make any money off the outdoor industry but I’ll bet many of my client love the outdoors and by creating interest I can attract visitors to my site. Now the hurdle. How does my company work with this blogger so we can have a win win situation. I think if you can have this person show up on your site as a guest blogger and exchange links I’ll bet you will increase traffic to your site by elevating your page rank. I would be willing to pay this guy to keep guest blogging and linking to my site. Why not?

  178. Oh by the way I do want to share that I am now using Studio Press for some of my newer blogs and I have had amazing success climbing the google ranks using Studio Press’s Themes. I was so impressed I upgraded my account to their pro-plus package. I do not work for these guys nor do i know any of them, I just wanted to share my success for those out their going through the painful process of choosing a studio press Themes Platform.

  179. There must be some middle ground, because there are some who are making a ton without the scrupulous tactics, aren’t there? What concerns me is the fact that a lot of the cool kids seem to not be offering much by way of quality products or content. Their sites seem to flood the internet and make it harder for some people who are doing it for the love of their content. Of course, I’m knew to all of this, but I do have those moment when I think no one is ever going to find my website or I’ll never make any kind of income from it because I don’t have what it takes to be a cool kid. 🙂 I suppose time will tell. I’m not as pessimistic about it as this post might sound. I don’t mean to sound like the “everybody hates me” blogger! 🙂 Thanks for the great article, Sonia.

  180. I was not the “popular” kid in school either, now I am online. It came down to forgetting about the hype, the magical software and the “nicer clothes” the cool kids promote online. What it came down to was creating content that get’s ranked, makes sense and converts… This was a great piece that keeps my eye on the ball..Thanks!~

  181. Apathy, that’s the best way I can describe where I’ve been the last 3 to 4 years of watching the net at arms length. I had a great magazine and up until print media starting dying we were doing great. But as we begin transferring stories to our blog and publishing the magazine digitally it became less and less fulfilling. I couldn’t help be submit to thoughts like “how were we going to make money from this when it seems Time magazine hasn’t even figured it out”. For the most part the one thing that has stayed true, and that’s my BS detecter. I’ve listening to experts tell me the way it works in a lecture and write after have them undermine the entire key note (and the money I paid to hear it) but saying “no one has it figured out yet” or when you ask them a hard question say “well we’re still working on that one”.

    I don’t want anyone to give me all the answers, I have a great work ethic and I’m more than willing to work hard for the things I want to know or want to have. I just feel as though there are very few people out there who can’t keep my bullshit detecter from ringing the alarm.

    While I’ve used scribe for a while I had never really check in with Copyblogger. However recently I continue to “thumbs up” the articles I read in Zite that come from Copyblogger and it brought me back to the site. I’m so happy to be finally joining the tribe….even if it’s late.

  182. As a blog owner I have been searching good content to read and I really enjoyed the articles here in this site. I’ll revisit for more readings. Thanks

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