What are the most important things a writer can do to be smart and strategic about platform building (instead of being overwhelmed)?
No matter what kind of writer or author you are, this question is so important to ask.
What is a platform?
First I want to address this confusing term because it’s part jargon and part new word use. The way I’m using the phrase today is defining “platform” as it pertains to a writer. In many cases this is called an author platform. However, it can also apply to other types of writers.
At it’s most basic definition, a platform is the sum total of a writer’s ability to sell their work. It combines visibility with connections through established distribution channels.
The risk when pouring energy into platform building is you’ll either spend time focusing on areas that don’t pay off or you’ll put too much effort into one area and neglect other, equally important areas.
Here is an example of a well-rounded author platform:
- Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
- Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
- Personality and follow through—25%
- Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%
Extra reading: Learn more about author platforms
Extra credit: How to Set Up a Basic Author Platform from Kirsten Oliphant
So now we come back to our original question: how can a writer be smart and strategic about platform building, instead of being overwhelmed?
Tips for platform building
As you can gather from my example, your biggest ROI from platform-building activities comes from your circle of friends and followers.
But these people can’t just click “like” on your chosen online profile. They need to be fans—active, engaged, wallets-out fans.
Here are my top four suggestions for platform building (for growing and maintaining your following) without letting it take over your life
Tip 1: Get clear on why you want a following
To some writers the “why” is obvious. And perhaps it makes sense through the lens of platform building. But still, think about WHY you’re trying to attract people to you and your writing.
There are no wrong answers here, but it’s important to know what your goal is so when things get hard or you get busy, you can stay laser-focused on your objective.
Think about why you want a following and write it down. Then figure out how to get this following. Do it! It’s worth 30% of your platform!
Extra reading with worksheets: Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make
(Or go direct to the worksheets in my resource library)
Tip 2: Make strong, authentic connections with your followers
Making connections with other human beings may seem like a big ask for writers who are introverted or shy.
But in today’s world, “if you write it they will come” isn’t a thing. We have to figure out how to build relationships with others. We need them in our tribe just like they need our writing. It’s a symbiotic relationship but it doesn’t happen without effort or by accident.
How you do this will look different for every person because you have to work with your strengths.
For some people, making connections means you publish high-quality articles in publications your ideal followers read.
For others, this means gaining a following through speaking at events or hosting workshops and showcasing your expertise on a topic.
Another example of how a writer can build relationships is by going all-in on a social media platform and building a huge following of loyal fans by showing up and doing the work.
This could mean:
- Following your ideal readers
- Engaging in discussions with your ideal readers and your existing followers
- Leaving thoughtful comments on other people’s posts
- Joining and becoming an active member of the community (or starting one)
While the “how” varies from writer to writer, the important piece to keep in mind is it must be true to who you are.
How do you best connect with people? Lean into that. It’s the only way these relationships will be authentic and genuine.
Extra reading: Make Stronger Connections with Your Ideal Clients
Tip 3: Optimize your online channels for your audience
Whether it’s a social media profile or your personal blog, it’s important to put due care and attention into your online presence.
As a writer, you’re the brand. How you present yourself online matters.
Make sure your profiles are consistent across the web and that your “about statement” reflects who you are as a writer. When you’re in platform-building mode, this isn’t the time to be cute or vague. State who you are in a clear way and write it for your ideal follower.
The same goes for your website. Ask yourself if your site or blog is an accurate reflection of the type of writer you want to be known as. If not, fix it. Get it up to snuff or make it private. Make sure it’s attractive and loads quickly and is easy to find.
Don’t assume people are aware of what you do or even understand it. Do you know the details of your entire network? Lay everything out for your followers like it’s the first time they’ve ever stumbled across your site or profile.
Optimize your website and social media channels for your audience. It’s time to put yourself out there by making yourself discoverable.
Remember, if you don’t take control of your brand story someone else will.
Extra reading: Five Tips for Optimizing your Social Media Profiles
Extra credit: How to Avoid Social Media Overwhelm
Tip 4: Have a strategy
You want to be consistent and smart about strengthening your platform, right? OK great. So you need a strategy. Even if you’re a pantser who doesn’t plan.
Without the structure of a strategy (or at least the framework of a general direction) it will be too easy to let platform building go by the wayside when urgent things crop up.
Because this is a long game, which means it’s always important but rarely urgent. Which means you have to build these activities into your schedule and make it a part of your daily life.
Here are a few things to think about when creating a platform building strategy:
- Who do you want to connect with?
- Where are your potential friends and followers hanging out?
- Which channels or networks will have the biggest payoff for you?
- Where are you the most comfortable, the most yourself?
- You can’t be everywhere so which networks will you focus on?
- What can you do or post consistently to build your visibility, credibility and authority?
- How can you serve your followers and build relationship with them?
- What scheduling tools or services can you use to help you execute your strategy and stay on track?
Extra reading: Five Step Social Media Strategy for Writers
Platform building is a lot easier if you have a road map to follow
Yes, the plan has to change sometimes so it also needs to be a bit fluid. But it’s easier to adjust something in existence than it is to sit around wondering how on earth you’ll increase your influence so you can attract that agent or get a new client.
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