written by Will Fraser | March 3rd, 2013
In recent years, several prominent startup investors and observers have rung the alarm that there are too many early stage companies in online technology. If this is true then your startup could be in major trouble, and you need to figure out an exit strategy.
When there are too many startups in the eco-system, each one is fighting for resources (investment and customers) and very few can find enough to survive. Some people postulate that to address this issue we need to encourage startups to roll up and turn into fewer, large companies.
The reason I bring this up is not to provoke a debate on the topic – which is a whole other topic for another blog – but to show that if you don’t fight for your share of the resources you will not make it. As a startup, you have to fight smart to win because startups just don’t have the resources to fight dumb.
One of the ways to fight smart is to use your social outlets in a very targeted manner. Seth Godin, the best selling author and startup educator, suggests that one of the smartest ways to fight for customers is by focusing on your tribe.
Many startups start their social media life by tweeting about every topic that they think is related to their business – even in the most obscure way. This is a “hard fighting” approach where no single group is aware that you are talking to them. This leaves your startup with no core identity for people to associate you with and no niche customers.
To fight smart and get noticed, startups need to first identify their tribe. Tribes are groups of people that are connected through a shared vision of themselves. This tribe might be growth hackers, but aren’t online marketers, because all online marketers don’t have a shared vision.
Once you know which tribe you are a part of, you can start to tweet and share about topics that are highly relevant to your tribe. This helps to make you an expert in your space – and your startup a trusted organization – when other members of your tribe are looking for a product like yours.
For those startups that are rocket ships and can work for most companies – don’t worry. Focusing on a tribe will not stop your rocket ship. You can grow the size of the tribe you are focused on over time, and even switch tribes if it makes sense for your company.
An example is Facebook. They started by being restricted to Harvard students who felt like connecting with friends online. The tribe quickly grew through other universities, and once the tribe was at its maximum size, they switched to corporate tribes and ultimately consumer tribes.
Recommended Listening Seth Godin’s Startup School