Digital marketers have spent the better part of the last decade studying trends in media consumption, and many analysts have made comparisons of social media platform users to tribes.

Phrases like “neo-tribe” and “digital tribes” have, in some corners, become popular descriptions of the individuals who have banded together in groups and built communities around communications software.

But, what is a tribe? How do they work? And what can digital marketers learn from studying them?  

I have been devloping a series of reports exploring the concept of tribes in a digital world as part of the Digital Vision project run by Econsultancy, an effort to help new thought leaders get their insight out into the digital marketing world. My third report, Digital Tribes 3: Organization (released today), highlights how tribal organization models can support online communities.

My first report, Digital Tribes I: Naming, explored the topic of how names are vital to the identity of online communities, and examined the construction of private languages, jargon, symbols, and naming practices for communities, individuals and events.

The second report, Digital Tribes II: Community Culture, uses the template of Native American tribal practices to highlight techniques that marketers can use to strengthen communities. This report discusses the vital differences between audience and community building, and provides examples about how the latter has historically been accomplished within Native American tribes. I then expand this analysis to look at the tools companies can use to accomplish similar tasks. This includes an overview on shared narratives and community values, rituals and repetition.

I bring this series to a close with Digital Tribes III: Organization. In this installment, I leverage the Native American paradigm explored in the first two articles in order to understand tribal organizational models that support successful online communities. I identify values and structures common to Native American tribes that are also prominent in today’s digital communities.

Highlighting interviews from Dell, giffgaff and American Airlines, the report also looks at emerging models for big brand fan bases and defines how the community or tribal phenomenon will impact company brand organizations in the near future.

You can download the report Digital Tribes III: Organization here though I recommend you read the first two before delving into the third so you get the complete package.