Social tribes and how to mobilise them

campaigns, content-strategy, inspiration, online-marketing

May 29, 2017

by 3rdspace


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Tribes. They’re everywhere.

As humans, we want to get around people who get us. It’s in our nature. We want to feel like we belong and that our participation is important. We all want to know that we can make a difference and that our actions count.

It was once thought that the internet would be the great equaliser; that (unparalleled) widespread access to information would economically liberate the masses, but ultimately homogenise us culturally.

Social media has proved otherwise.

Not only have we seen more tribes than ever before, which connect over cross-cultural and geographic boundaries, we’ve seen more innovative ways to organise and mobilise these tribes.

We’ve raised millions of dollars for ALS research through an ice bucket challenge, which enabled a huge scientific breakthrough. We’ve brought home Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by rebel forces, all without leaving our homes.

However, there is a downside -- well, for marketers anyway: our clients are now demanding social campaigns with as much scalability as the ice bucket challenge. With next to no budget. Because social media is free, right?

Due to the success of grassroots campaigns plastered all over social media, a kind of availability bias ensues: because we are inundated with information about the movements, it makes us all feel closer to the problem and the solution than perhaps we really are. This, in turn, it makes it easy for our clients envision their campaigns gleaning a similar level support and making a similar level of impact.

While it’s very much possible to shape an advertising campaign around a social movement, that doesn’t mean that every social campaign calls for a social movement. It’s got to be the right fit, otherwise it’s going to flop. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.

To effectively harness the power of the social tribes, your campaign requires a few key ingredients:

  1. Disruption: your cause needs to inherently challenge some kind of status quo. As we have seen, this works particularly well for social causes, where the tribe is driven by a moral or ethical imperative. This also means that you need to propose a better way forward, and clearly outline how easy it is for people step up and make a difference.


  1. Connection: you need to bring people together on a social level. They’re united by a common cause, but it needs to be a real cause and they need to opt in. The people who actively opt in generally want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, and as an individual, are an essential part of an important group. The impact of mobilising the tribe also depends on the strength of the call to action from the leadership team.


  1. Commitment: in order to make change, you need time and consistency. The group needs to see you, their leader, in the trenches day in and day out, fighting to make a real change. A two-week campaign period with two content pieces does not a social movement make.


You also need time to recruit supporters to your tribe, aka build up your following  -- after all, there is strength in numbers, and you’ve got to make some noise to get noticed.

So, how can it work?

Recently, 3rdspace partnered with ITF to fight a real injustice. We rallied together our own special tribe who called for Levis to provide better working conditions for the dock workers of Madagascar, who earn as little as 16 cents an hour shipping denim all around the world.

The result? We got Levis to commit to change in just three days.

Here’s how we did it.


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