“Stories in families are colossally important. Every family has stories: some funny, some proud, some embarrassing, some shameful. Knowing them is proof of belonging to the family.” – Salman Rushdie, Born Jun. 19, 1947.
Belonging. People want it. Especially people online. Of the people online, especially the ones on social media.
Social media is a way to create families without being limited by pesky things like blood or geographic proximity.
We can create families around interests, tastes, attitudes, joys, enemies – whatever. And we can find kin anywhere in the world, in every shape and size and age and kind a person can possibly be.
But what makes the family coalesce – what creates the bond between the members – is a SHARED collection of narratives.
Whether it's a family like a fandom, where knowing the details of the recording sessions for a lesser known track by an obscure band is what lets true fans identify one another…
Or it's a family like a church, where knowing the details and deeper meanings of a parable, and being able recite chapter and verse from memory is how the flock know their own…
Or it's a family like the mafia of popular cinema, where knowing the stories of badassery that make the leaders feared and respected are how you know your place in the organization…
Every family is a family because the members share common stories. Just the same as what makes your real-life blood-family members so dear to you (or not) are your shared experiences in growing up and becoming you.
How do we tie this to what we do?
If you build cult like audiences for profit, it is in your interest to create stories they can share. Create experiences they can have that they bond over. Bring them up and make them part of your little artificial culture's oral history. Learning the story is a rite of passage – an induction into the family. Knowing the story is how members know each other.
On social media – like our Cult of Copy group – I try and create shared experiences over time. That time that bitter new member called the group a toilet before leaving, is one example.
We've embraced that, and now referring to the group as a golden toilet has become an inside joke.
People that have taken courses we've taught in the cult can use jargon like FIDIL and Viking Velociraptor, and the loyal among us know those meanings.
People who have come to multiple live trainings can be immortalized in the recordings and a permanent part of the fabric of the family as our generations extend into the future.
We are creating stories together whenever we do things together. And that makes us a family.
You can make a family out of your audiences, too – and you should. Because families are loyal, and they support you and love you, and can save your ass, and make you great.
And unlike in real life – when you build your own family, you can GUARANTEE yourself a good one.