5 Keys to Making Your E-Tribe Tribal [Power of the Shirts Part I]

When you develop your Enterprise Tribe [E-Tribe] one of your first tasks is to make your E-Tribe members stand out: online as well as at in person events. These five keys help catalyze the tribe to know itself as a tribe and for everyone else to notice them as well.

Lists

Start out with a simple page that lists all of your E-Tribe members with their area of expertise, location, affiliation to your company as well as a link to their profile so that they can be contacted. Once your members don’t fit on one page anymore, make them findable via search. 

Maps

Next create a map of where your members are located. Country and City are enough details, give your tribe some privacy and don’t include the street address. Such a map helps enormously for anyone who is organizing local events. They can quickly find out who is living within driving distance of their event, and then contact them to see how they may participate and or promote it.

Icons

Hopefully you have a good relationship with your IT department or know how to get features on the development pipeline, because you want to have an icon next to the name of your E-Tribe members. Whenever one of your E-Tribe members is active on your site, people should easily see that it has been posted by one of the E-Tribe members. With the SAP Mentors we put a simple M next to their names.

Make sure folks in your community can easily find out what the icon is about, there should be a short description popping up with someone rolls over the icon and a link back to the about page of your E-Tribe.

Ribbons

Equally important is to make sure that your E-Tribe members are recognizable at the larger events. Work with the events team and see what is possible. Can the Icon be on the event badge? Are ribbons being produced and can one of the ribbons be dedicated to your E-Tribe? By accident the SAP Mentor ribbons once got added to the general ribbon kiosk, which we thankfully recognized in time before many non-mentors took off with them. :-)

Shirts

There is no better way to stand out at an event than by having a recognizable shirt, and I am surprised that not more Enterprise Tribes are doing it. I see it as the single biggest visible innovation I did over the Microsoft MVP program or the Oracle Aces, which to my knowledge were the only other Enterprise Tribes around when I started the SAP Mentors.

I wanted a shirt that stood out, that you wouldn’t see on any of the people working the booths on the show floor or the event speakers. In the first year, I settled on a vintage rugby shirt. I loved the association of a team that such a shirt brings, as your E-Tribe is for sure a team. The vintage rugby shirt has a collar, which made it more acceptable in business settings. It was a bit thick. Which wasn’t as delightful in warmer climates, such as Vegas.

By using a team jersey, it opened up the ability to use team sport design elements, like shirt numbers on the back and the sleeve as well as icons and logos.

It also gave us the opportunity to tailor the shirt to every single E-Tribe member. I let them select their own shirt number, which is always a great conversation starter — “Why did you choose your number?”

It also enabled us to put their name on the back. With Twitter just becoming popular, we were the first ones to use our Twitter handles, which worked really great.

All this tailoring made the shirts more expensive, and I mean a lot more expensive. I remember getting a push back from my boss: “You are telling me, that these SAP Mentor shirts are 5 times more expensive than the SAP TechEd speaker shirts, which aren’t cheap either?” To his great credit, Mark Yolton was open to my arguments why the SAP Mentors need to stand out, and how these shirts will make that happen. And boy were they worth every penny spent on them.

No matter where you were and how big the room was, with a quick glance you were able to see your fellow E-Tribe members. People would stop you on the show floor and ask where they could get such shirts. People would listen more attentively if the speaker was wearing a SAP Mentor shirt. The mentors themselves would bring their a-game when wearing it, because they now represented the tribe.

It was a rite of passage to get the shirt and be welcomed and embraced by the other SAP Mentors.

One thing that I didn’t envision when I came up with the idea and designed the shirt was how much the SAP executives would be eager to be welcomed as honorary mentors by getting a shirt. We quickly realized that and rush ordered some for the executives that understood the power of the SAP Mentor tribe and were working with us accordingly.

It is a lot of effort to select and develop such a shirt. You will develop a good relationship with your shirt vendor as it isn’t an easy task to get every one of them right.

Over the years we did ribbons, stickers, pins, key chains, bags, tattoos, and many of these were done by the SAP Mentors themselves, but nothing had a bigger impact on the whole initiative than the SAP Mentor shirt. Try it yourself.

In a second post I will go even deeper into the details and the playfulness around the shirts.

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