3 Online Tools to Expand Your Business and Build Your Tribe


For 21 years, I drove by my dream home, which sits on 10 pristine acres in the Cascade Mountains outside of Seattle. From time to time, I’d stop in front of the gates and say to myself, “I’m going to buy that house someday.” And in 2004, I did. I owe that dream and almost my entire speaking career to the Internet— and to my ability to build tribes online. In fact, others and I were building “tribes” long before anyone called them tribes. Call them what you want— friends, followers, subscribers, your tribe. The name doesn’t matter. What does matter is the need to bring together like-minded people who can book you to speak, promote your business and brand, and buy your products. But even though we all recognize the importance of building an audience online, I find that most speakers have little more than a cheaply done website and a Facebook fan page with fewer than 100 fans. Even worse is when I meet a speaker who says, “I’m not on Facebook.” I always respond the same way: “Why? Do you hate money?” So, let’s cut to the chase. What do you need to do to expand your business and build your tribe online? The average speaker would do well to just pick a few tools and try to excel in them. All of these tools are ultimately about one very important thing: data collection. You not only want to be able to speak to people, but you also want to know who they are, where they live, what their email address is and any other data you can collect. Here’s where to begin.

1.       Start with Email Lists.

There is a lot of debate about email lists today. Early on, email lists were king. I built a list of more than 100,000 people by 1999. I was booking speeches from it, and wrote my first book from articles I sent to that list. So, are email lists still valuable? Of course. But it isn’t just about the size of the list. I only have about 50,000 people on my email list now, and that’s all right because we are constantly honing it to make it more responsive. I would rather have a list of 25,000 people who are responsive than a list of 200,000 who never buy anything. To build your list, make sure you have captures on your website, Facebook page and anywhere else you’re promoting yourself. A simple form will do, and make sure you use double opt-in so you are spam compliant.

2.       Make the Most Out of Twitter.

I have three twitter accounts. At the time of writing this article, I have 126,100 followers for my main account, 62,750 on an industry-specific account that reaches people in an industry that I speak in regularly, and 43,007 followers on a topic-specific account. That means that I could, within three minutes, reach about 231,857 people with my message. When I was talking with the CFO of the Seattle Times a few months ago, I told him that I reach more people every day from my home office than he does as the sole newspaper in a top-tier media market. The Internet is the great equalizer. And the good news is that anyone can do this! As you dive into Twitter, start by following others. Choose a hashtag that represents a topic you are interested in and/or speak about. For me, it’s #Leadership. Search for it, and then follow people who are tweeting about that topic. Then, follow their followers. These are all of the people who are most likely interested in what you have to say, as well.

You can also search by users. For example, I search for people who follow Jim Rohn. I was fortunate enough to have spent the last seven years of Jim’s life working with him, and I’m considered his last protégé. We wrote the Jim Rohn One Year Success Plan and The Twelve Pillars together, so millions of people have heard my name because of my association with him. Connecting with people who are interested in your topic and the people around you is an excellent way to build a targeted list. You can also work with other speakers. You can each suggest to your followers that they follow the other.

As you tweet more consistently, you may want to look into software to run your Twitter account? There are a variety of tools available. I use Tweet Adder, which handles two primary functions for me. First, it follows back the people who follow me. Secondly, TweetAdder sends my tweets for me. The bulk of my tweets are motivational quotes and product promotions that I have collected over the years. I set them up to send every two hours, 24 hours a day. That’s 12 pre-written tweets per day, in addition to the regular tweets and re-tweets that I personally send throughout the day.

 3.       Become Friends with Facebook.

Almost everyone is on Facebook, including your potential clients and followers. That is why you want to be there. I will tell you upfront that I don’t use all of Facebook’s bells and whistles because, frankly, you don’t need to. I am all about the basics of building a faithful following. Promote yourself, build your page and provide your followers with good content. It really is that simple. And if you already have the bells and whistles, good for you. Nothing wrong with that. To begin building your tribe on Facebook, buy ads. Yes, spend some money. Speaking is a business, and like any other business, you should set aside money for advertising. With Facebook ads, you can spend as little as you want—down to a dollar a day. If you can get a person to your page for 10 cents, you could pick up 300 people a month for just a dollar a day! Imagine if you spent more. Plus, you can target your messages. You can target by age, gender, interests, city, state and country, among other things. This gets you very targeted followers fast.

Here’s an example of how I use Facebook’s ads: I speak to very large multilevel marketing (MLM) audiences. The week after a major convention with 25,000 attendees, I run targeted ads to encourage people to take advantage of online learning programs where I make additional sales. And, of course, through the sales funnel, we offer a free video to allow us to gather their data even if they don’t buy. As of this writing, I have about 10 Facebook pages. My speaker business page has 27,253 fans. I recently launched an online learning program and sent 15,000 clicks to the opt-in page in the first six weeks. Now they are on a drip campaign. An interest page I run has 583,209 as of this morning. (For those of you doing the math, that’s nearly 900,000 people between my email list, Twitter and Facebook).

I make about $3,000 a month just on T-shirts that I sell to that interest page, partnering with another vendor who does all the work! I just post the update and send them to him. He transfers the money to me three days later! Now, granted, I started this page in November 2008 and have spent a lot of money on ads, but it works very well with a significant ROI.

It’s Your Turn

Are you ready to get started or amp up your current efforts? Forming online tribes and cultivating my followers and fans has transformed my business and my life. It’s enabled me to grow my brand beyond my wildest imaginations. And it can do the same for you.

Chris Widener will speak on group dynamics at the Platform Profits Lab in Tempe, Ariz., Jan. 3-5, 2014. Register now at or call (480) 968-2552.

Chris Widener

Chris Widener

Speaker, Author, Inspirational Business Leader at The Widener Group
Chris Widener is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and speaker.
Chris Widener
Chris Widener
Chris Widener
Chris Widener

Latest posts by Chris Widener (see all)