Building a successful platform is vital to selling books, no matter how you choose to sell them. If you don’t have a platform from which to be heard, no one will hear you. That’s a simple fact of life.
The platform you build is more important than how you build it.
Your platform will not be identical to anyone else’s and therein lies the difficulty; finding the best planks for your platform.
Politicians and Platform
The idea of platform is not new. Politicians have been using it for centuries.
In years gone by—before lights, cameras, and action—anyone runing for public office had to shout. They also had to stand above the crowds in order to be seen and heard. Guess what they stood on?
A platform. Literally.
Sometimes the platform was nothing more than an upended soap box (hence the phrase “on a soap box”), but that didn’t matter. What did matter was that the audience could see and hear the speaker.
After a time, “platform” also came to mean the things the politician believed or ideas they wanted to promote. Each belief or idea was represented as a plank in their platform.
So the platform of a politician is both the physical thing they stand on when they speak and the philosophical idea or plans they want to promote.
Writers need platform—both forms of it—for the same reasons.
The Planks of Platform
How many ways are there to build a platform? Using our lumber analogy, there are enough to stock a lumberyard! Here are just a few.
- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, yada, yada, yada.
- Public Speaking
- Group/association membership
- Working a day job
- Community involvement
- Business cards
- Going to church
- Standing on a street corner with a sandwich board over your shoulders
- Sky writing
In short, any method you use to get your words in front of an audience is a plank in your platform.
I’ll be the last to argue that some are more effective than others, but that’s not my point. Not at the moment, anyway.
What is the point?
What Does Platform Look Like For Writers?
Too many writers hear the word “platform” and think the more popular social media venues.
Platform can be built with Facebook; Facebook is not platform.
Platform can be built with Twitter; Twitter is not platform.
Platform can be built with blogging; blogging is not platform.
See a pattern?
A Smart Approach
Nobody can do everything. There are so many social media outlets currently available, it’s just not possible to do them all. Even if that’s all you do.
And you don’t want it to be all you do, because you need to spend time writing whatever you’re hoping to promote.
The best method of building platform is to find two or three ways that you enjoy and that reach the audience you want to reach (need to reach). Any combination from the list above will work. Any combination from the list above and your own particular skill set is also likely to work.
One of those three will be the primary plank in your platform. In fact, you might think of it as the framework upon which the platform is built.
The others will be supported by that primary plank and will complement it.
A Personal Example
I love blogging. If blogging was the only form of social media available, I’d be set (I’d be happy, too; there would be a lot fewer decisions to make, but I digress).
In the many years I’ve been blogging art, I’ve developed a decent following. People are finding this blog, too, so Danielle and I are both happy. In both cases I’ve found something I’m interested in and can talk about and people who want to hear what I have to say are finding me.
For me, at least, blogging is the main plank in my platform.
But I do LinkedIn, too. And Twitter. And just a few weeks ago, I added Pinterest. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. There are people on each one who do not follow me anywhere else. Not even my blog.
My blog is still the primary plank in my platform, though. That’s where I focus the majority of my time and energy. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest are secondary. Everything I do for each of those social media outlets supports the intent of the blog. Most of the time, I make new announcements, write new content, and share new ideas first on the blog. New content then spreads out to the other planks in my platform like ripples on water.
And just like those ripples on water, every ripple influences every other ripple. Content spreads beyond what I could do on my own even if I did have an account with every known form of social media.
In short, I’ve focused my attention on frontend platform building through the blog and let LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest be backend platform building. They should follow the blog; the blog shouldn’t follow them.
Any other plank I add in the future (business cards, talking about my writing with friends and acquaintances, newsletters, speaking engagements (yikes!), and so on) will also point back to the primary plank; my blog.
This is by no means a comprehensive treatise on building platform, but it’s not meant to be. If you’re looking for comprehensive (and I hope you are), you might stop by Edie Melson’s The Write Conversation. She’s in the middle of a Social Media Basics course and runs a new article every Monday. You can read the first in the series here. Tell her we sent you!
I’ll be sharing tips about how I’m using blogging as my primary planks and how I’m working on an integrated approach to social media platform. I am not an expert and I don’t play one on TV, but I have tried a number of things and will be sharing what worked and what didn’t. I hope you’ll join me.