Internet Marketing Tribes

Tribal Internet Marketing


There is now a new post, which is basically a better and more up-to-date version of everything that’s written here. I strongly recommend that you read this post about how to start an online business, instead of the one below.

A few days ago, Darren Rowse (Pro Blogger), Chris Brogan (Trust Agents), Sonia Simone and Brian Clark (both Copyblogger) launched a new membership site called “The Third Tribe”. You’ve probably heard of it, since it made something of a splash.

This post is not another Third Tribe rant. Others have already done that better than I ever could. If you take just one thing from this post, let it be this: Go to Griz’s Third Tribe review and read it. It makes a more than excellent case and is very much worth reading.

If you take another thing from this post, then it’s a clearer and less biased overview of Internet marketing “tribes” that follows below:

Third Tribe

First, here’s the skinny on the Third Tribe:

This product is marketed using a common marketing technique: You establish a scenario in which there is a very apparent need and then you fill that need. This is often described as “creating the market for your product”. As I’m sure you are aware, every product should have some kind of a unique selling proposition (USP) that answers the modern consumers ever-present question: “Why should I buy this instead of one of the other, similar products on offer?”

It’s not always easy to create a USP for your product, especially in saturated markets such as “make money online”. What the Third Tribe says, is: “So far, there were two tribes in Internet marketing: Slimey, dishonest and obnoxious sales-types and hippy social media types who want to be everyone’s friend and are all broke. Now, there’s the third option: Real, honest, non-obnoxious marketing that will still fill your pockets with cash!”

It’s a pretty clever setup, in my opinion. Of course, it’s dead wrong, but what can you expect from something you see on a sales-page?

Tribe or No Tribe?

As I’ve confessed previously, I’m a bit of an information junky and I spend more time than is reasonable on different forums, reading blogs, ebooks, books etc. about Internet marketing. It seems to me that there really are certain types or tribes of Internet marketers, all coming at this same subject from a different angle.

Below, I list the groups and types of marketers I’ve encountered online. What can you get from reading about this? You might be surprised at how many different online marketing philosophies and methods exist and you might get some new ideas and a fresh perspective.

The Bums

As far as I know, Travis Sago is the guy who coined the term Bum Marketing. The term simply comes from the fact that bum marketing methods all rely on free traffic sources (i.e. a bum could afford it). Many beginners in Internet marketing start out with some variation of bum marketing, relying on article directories, Squidoo/Hubpages, free blogs and classifieds to make their first few dollars.

Bum marketers also seem to have a certain affinity towards Clickbank and the Amazon affiliate program and the most successful among them tend to produce a very large volume of articles every day, often making use of article spinning to get more mileage out of their work.

Bum Marketing:

Write lots of articles, get traffic and rankings for free.

The SEO’s

The SEO’s are all about getting free traffic via search engines (primarily Google). There’s quite a bit of overlap between the SEO and the Bum tribes, since both swear by free traffic.

While the bum marketer mostly drives traffic to articles on article directories, the SEO drives traffic to self-hosted websites. Articles may or may not be a means towards this end. SEO’s often make use of social bookmarking, profile-links, article and video distribution, three-way link-swaps (not as kinky as it sounds) and other methods to get more and better backlinks to their highly optimized pages. They are also often engaged in heated debates among each other, since no one really knows how the Google algorithm works, but everyone has their theories.


Keyword research, optimization and lots of link-building.

The Involved Marketers/Product Creators

Involved marketing (I got this term from the Smart Passive Income blog) is all about being transparent, open and honest, getting out there, getting in touch with people and building a “personal brand”. Think Gary Vaynerchuk.

Involved marketers spend a lot of time building relationships with their potential customers and are often heavily involved in social media platforms like facebook, twitter and Digg. They also tend to make more use of video than marketers of other tribes.

Since involved marketing is all about personal branding and transparency, these marketers are often also product creators. After all, once you’ve built real trust and you become recognizable and liked by the crowd in your niche, selling something made by yourself makes the most sense.

Involved Marketing:

Build relationships, create a fan-base and sell your own products and services.

The Traffic-Arbitrage Crowd

Why work your butt off to get pages and articles ranked in search engines and to get people to notice and like you when all you need to do is give a search engine or CPV company some money to get floods of traffic almost instantly? That’s the question that describes the Traffic Arbitrager’s take on online marketing.

These marketers have an affinity towards CPA offers and a bit of a love/hate relationship with Google, since AdWords has enormous traffic-potential but also strict rules and a twitchy trigger-finger when it comes to banning accounts.

Paying for traffic is something of a daring gamble and for everyone who hits it big-time and starts making unspeakable amounts of money in a short time, using PPC or CPV, there are hundreds who lose a lot of money and give up before they ever see a dime in return.

Marketers in the traffic-arbitrage tribe are perhaps the most technical and tend to spend more time and effort with testing, tracking and tweaking than marketers in any of the other crowds.

Traffic Arbitrage:

It’s all about the ROI. And the CTR, and the CPC, and the EPC,…

The Bloggers

Blogging is another thing many beginners in online marketing get into. One hears stories about people making fortunes with blogs and there are many “blogging for money” related products and, of course, blogs.

Bloggers, like involved marketers, are all about building a community and connecting with others. They leave comments on other blogs, write guest posts and do the social media thing.

Blogs can be monetized using ad-space, AdSense, promoting affiliate products in posts or as platforms for selling self-made products.

Since blogging is as public as it is, in this tribe, the vast discrepancy between the few who make it big and the thousands who struggle to make a dime is very apparent. This doesn’t necessarily mean that making money from a blog is more difficult than making money with “real” marketing, but as I’m sure you’ve gathered, I happen to believe so.

Blogging for Money:

Become Internet-famous.


People have a strong tendency to form groups and identify with them. They also have a very strong tendency to think of themselves and their own group as superior to others.

You will see that in each of the above mentioned online marketing tribes, there are people who are very firm in their belief that their way of doing things is the only “right” way or the only “real” way of making money online and that all the others are just scammers, time-wasters and/or idiots.

For this reason alone I encourage anyone to become familiar with more than one method and more than one crowd. Wherever you are involved, if you get in too deep and follow just one direction, you’re always blinding yourself to many opportunities and ideas that can be found outside of your particular tribe.

What tribe do you belong to? Or do you think this entire concept is rubbish? What about the Third Tribe, do you have a rant about that you need to get off your chest? The comments are all yours!


About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Is there an all of the above category? Ha. Really whatever way works for you in order to get in front of more eyeballs all the more power to you. If it is link building for hammering twitter 6 hours a day. If it gets you to your goal then you are doing something right. If it feels like you are wasting your time, you probably are.

    I liked the different simple break downs.

    • Shane says:

      Yes, “all of the above” or at least “most of the above” probably applies to a few marketers (myself included). I agree that you simply need to find the right kind of thing for yourself. Some people would hate checking stats all the time, running calculations and tweaking details and they should stay away from paid traffic. Other’s might love just that but can’t stand the thought of spending all day twittering and commenting on blogs etc.
      Ultimately, I think it’s valuable to know of all the different options out there.

  • Tim Traffic says:

    I heard mention of the Third Tribes thing but I’m still not sure what it is. What exactly are they trying to sell? No doubt it’s expensive. Nothing like getting to be successful by being very open about your internet life and then cashing in is
    I prefer not to identify with anyone, person or tribe, but maybe that’s because I’m just an independent *&^%er. :o)

    • Shane says:

      Well, it’s basically a “how to make money online” membership site, as far as I can tell. They are trying to distance themselves from the perceived “usual” Internet marketing crowd, but it’s just another marketing thing.

      I don’t know any details about what is taught inside, though. At the end of the day, all that matters is: Can they effectively teach their members to earn money? If yes, then it’s all good. If not, then it’s a waste of time and money.

      • As someone who is “inside” Shane I can tell you there is precious little teaching going on. Basically the ‘big names” have made a few token appearances in the forums and most of the content involves them interivewing each other- which is nice to know how they made their frist mmillion – but its hardly an actionable plan for a newbie. The main take away seems to be see if you can sign up 20000 people @ $47/month -nice earner!

      • Shane says:

        Hey Lis,
        I read your review and really liked it!
        So, it sounds like they’re just relying on their own fame to keep people interested? That’s pretty awful. When it comes to sales-pitches, everybody knows that it’s hope and dreams that will make a lot of sales, but it’s really bad when the actual content is just more fluff to keep the hopes and dreams going…

  • Mani says:

    Very well written Shane. I love that you actually clearly described the behaviors of various groups. The thing about third tribe and stuff like that is I think you have to have done some legwork and tried other flavors. They assume some background knowledge to use in the context of what they advise or that you’ll Google up the topics that they bring up.

    • Shane says:

      Thanks for commenting, Mani!

      Good point. They have an interesting angle in that sense, as they seem to be going for people who have been around the block, but not too many times, so to speak.


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