Part 1: What is a Platform and How Can You Identify it?
There’s a lot of information out there on the “how” of social media: How to set up a Twitter account, how to tweet, how to build a fan page, etc. But there isn’t a lot of information on why you’d want to use social media. You might say, “Well, everyone is doing it and having great success!” I would observe that not everyone is having great success; in fact, many authors I speak to are still trying to find their way online.
One thing that I’ve noticed when it comes to social media is that most of the time we think that it’s ok to just jump in, and that’s true — up to a point. You’d never think of driving from San Diego to New York without a roadmap or GPS, so why would you endeavor to promote yourself online without first mapping out a strategy and surveying the terrain?
Why does any of this matter? Well, I will tell you that the more work you do in preparation for your campaign, the less of an effort it will seem once you get started. Also, the more work you do now can and should save you considerable wasted expense later. You will know exactly where to spend your time and money and you will have a campaign that will not only feel seamless, but also move more quickly towards your success. Sound good? Then let’s begin!
One of the first things you’ll want to do when you start down this path of social media promotion is ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Well, you might say, to promote myself. Exactly! But (other than book sales), what is the motivation behind that promotion? The reason I say “other than book sales” is because you must have a broader scope to your work than just selling a book. If your single focus in promotion is to sell a book, you will be sorely disappointed. Your focus must be larger, such as:
• Expanding my business
• Increasing my speaking gigs
• Growing my platform
Then you’ll have a much better chance of success online and you’ll be ready to dig into online promotion. Let’s first look at growing your platform.
What’s your platform?
Before we can launch into what your platform is, you must first have a good grasp of what a platform is. A platform is not who you know, but who knows you. It’s your area of influence. Still unclear on this concept? Take heart, most authors leap into marketing without knowing what a platform is or how to grow it. First, let’s look at what might be considered to be a platform:
1. Your business: this is pretty obvious. You have a business and your business is your platform. Your reach and your influence are through your customers.
2. Your speaking: any speaking you do, whether paid or unpaid, is considered a platform.
3. Newsletter subscribers: these are people who want to know what you’re doing; they are your tribe and also part of your platform.
4. Existing fan bases: any connections, whether through speaking, your newsletter, or any other fan base can be considered part of your platform.
5. Associations/groups: do you belong to any type of related association? These people and this affiliation can also be part of your platform. Though perhaps less direct and immediate, I’ll walk you through how to solidify these contacts and bring them into your funnel.
6. Work you’ve done in the past: anything related to what you’ve written about now is part of your platform. Teaching, classes you’ve taken, speaking, or just life experiences as it relates to your topic can also be woven into your platform.
Identifying your platform
For non-fiction authors, the goal of identifying a platform you either have or wish to grow is pretty easy. But for fiction authors it can be a bit more challenging. Yes, you too must have a platform and generally, it is tied closely to your genre.
Every author, whether fiction or non-fiction needs a reach, and once you define where these folks are and how to get to them, you’ll begin to connect with readers both current and future, who can help you to expand your tribe. First, let’s look at defining those readers.
Let’s say you’ve written a fiction book and you are new to the industry and perplexed as to how you might go about expanding your readership. I suggest if this is you that you find other, similar authors in your market and research them online. Becoming your own detective is really the quickest way to piece together a platform and learn how their platform might help you build yours. For example, if you have written romance you can research the top 15 authors in your market. If you do this, I suggest looking at the midlist authors, not the top sellers like Danielle Steele, etc. who, through years of publishing, have grandfathered themselves into a mega-platform. Instead you want to look at authors who are likely on their own, meaning without the resources of a personal assistant or staff of a thousand. Research these authors and see where they end up online. Do they have Fan Pages on Facebook? Are they on Twitter? What groups do they participate in, etc.? Now you’ll start to get a sense of how a platform is built and what you need to do to grow yours.
If you’ve written non-fiction and the idea of a platform seems foreign to you then I suggest that you do the same thing, Follow your market, research others who share your specialty and uncover the different ways that they expand their reach via their platform.
Next time, we’re going to dig into your platform even further. We’ll look at the steps necessary to grow a platform and how to break this down into a manageable action plan.