Recently I stumbled across an incredibly simple way to define and understand “platform” and what it means to build one. I was listening to a podcast about fitness expert and NYT bestselling author Chalene Johnson, in which she spoke about the work it took to build her platform enough to get the contract for her first book, Push. Chalene said that it doesn’t matter how many people know you or have heard your name.
What matters is how many people YOU can reach.
That’s it, in a nutshell. This is why the engagement on your blog and all your social media feeds is so important. How many people do you have direct access to?
The best and most direct way to reach people is through their personal email address. This is why the size of your email marketing list is quickly becoming one of the most important indicators of your platform. If you have an occasional newsletter and have been collecting your fans’ email addresses, then you’re off to a good start.
There are secondary ways to reach people: social networks. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Google+. They’re not as effective or targeted as your email list, but they still represent a number of people you can REACH.
Chalene Johnson tells the story of how she wanted her agent to shop her book, but her agent said she needed to work on building her platform for a year. Keep in mind, Chalene already had bestselling fitness DVDs and millions of customers. “Her agent had to remind her that publishers don’t care who you know; publishers want to know if you have the ability to reach those people.” She got to work building her platform until her agent decided it was big enough for her to get the kind of publishing deal she wanted. How many people were on her email list?
Don’t freak out. Not everybody needs this size of following. Chalene’s area of expertise (fitness) happens to be extremely popular. It’s important to know, however, that people are out there building platforms of this size. Your platform will be dependent on the kind of book you’re writing, but you need to know the kinds of numbers publishers sometimes see. And love.
How will you build your numbers?
NOT by tweeting and putting up Facebook posts about your book!
(Especially if you don’t have a book yet.)
Here’s what you do:
1. Identify who your primary, ideal reader is.
2. Determine where to find that person. What social networks do they prefer? What online blogs and magazines do they read?
3. Come up with a topic, or set of topics, that interest you and your ideal reader. Forget about your book(s) for now. Who’s your audience, and what do they like? Maybe you’re writing contemporary inspirational fiction and your target audience is women in their 40s. Can you come up with a strategy to begin engaging with these women on Pinterest and Facebook by posting articles, photos, and quotes that all center around being inspirational? Or knitting? Or work-life balance?
4. Begin joining online communities, and building your own online community, that consists of these people and these topics.
But that’s SO MUCH WORK!
Yes, it is. But remember this…
You don’t have to create your own content.
… it’s the secret to making platform-building completely do-able.
What does this mean? You only have to spend 50% of your dedicated “marketing time” to creating content (writing blog posts, twitter posts, etc.) for your audience. The other 50% of your time can be dedicated to finding, re-posting and sharing other people’s content that fits into your strategy. This is known in the social media biz as “curating content.”
The idea is to build a real, true social network around the topic or theme you’ve identified. Then eventually, you’ll be directing all of these people to your website or Amazon page where they can see that you have books available for them to buy. And you’ll be sending them newsletters announcing your books.
This topic of building a platform and figuring out how to reach your potential readers is a HUGE one! I’ll be doing more posts on it. But I hope this is a good starting point for those of you who are simply flummoxed about platform.
What are some questions I can answer about platform and social media marketing in future posts?
Secret to understanding platform = how many people can you reach? Click to Tweet.
In social media, curating content is just as important as creating your own content. Click to Tweet.
What’s the most valuable and important element of your platform? @RachelleGardner explains. Click to Tweet.
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