What is a platform and How do I build one?
These are good questions, but difficult ones to answer in a single blogpost. As a matter of fact, these question are the source of entire books. There truly is no easy answer.
That said, let me lay out some of the basics.
To build a firm, healthy online presence, an author needs 3 things:
- A presence on Facebook.
- A presence on Twitter.
- A blog—this can be a solo blog, where you post once a week or a group blog, where you post twice or more a month.
Where Should I Blog?
I recommend beginning bloggers start out on Blogger. It’s owned by Google—which has excellent personalization options that the free version of WordPress doesn’t offer. But the importance of where you blog is secondary to the content and consistency of your blog.
A paid site is also an option, but it’s important to look at your budget and spend your money wisely. Foe example, spending a lot of money having a site built isn’t as important as learning how to write by buying books, attending classes and conferences, and joining professional organization. And you don’t have to have a paid site to be considered a top-tier blogger. My professional site is currently built on the Blogger platform, and I haven’t paid a dime for it.
What Do I Blog About?
As far as what to blog about, that takes more thought. Are you planning to write fiction, non-fiction or a combination? A strong non-fiction writer can make the topic of the blog the same as the books. But that’s not a requirement.
People will not follow us initially because we’re writers. They’ll follow us because we’re interesting.
I know successful author bloggers who have sites focused on everything from knitting to quotes to travel. Blogging takes work, so it’s important to pick a topic that won’t become boring.
My site is a site for writers and those interested in social media.
My other blog—on the Guideposts.org site—is for military families and the communities that serve them.
Neither one of them is a platform from which to sell my books.
Social media and blogging are ways to grow relationships, not a major avenue of advertising and mass marketing.
Now Why Am I building a Platform?
I’m a member of a large church in upstate SC. We have several thousand members. There is no military base nearby, and I write books for military families.
However, I am a part of this church community. I’ve added value to the community and made friends. Some are close friends, so I only know by name or sight. BUT, because I’m part of this community, when I have a book release they support me.
Again, no more than a handful of families actually have family members currently serving in the military. But they’re excited for me and they help spread the word to those the book would help.
It’s that type of community that we’re looking to build online. Part of it comes from your blog, part from social media. The purpose is to be a valuable part of the community and help them, noting when we need them, they’ll help us.
Now What is a Platform?
Essentially that’s what a platform is, the number of people we can share information—like a book launching—with.
My platform is considerable (and it should be because I’ve been growing it for a while). I get between 30,000 and 50,000 unique hits per month on my blog. I have had, over the lifetime of the site, 1.8 million hits. I have 18,000 Twitter followers, thousands of FB friends and followers, as well as connections on Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
BUT I grew this platform one relationship at a time—with small consistent steps. And I began growing it long before I had a book contract or even an agent. If we wait until then, it’s very hard to catch up because we’re way behind. A platform is what helps sell us to publishers and agents.
It’s a doable thing, but it takes a deliberate decision to do so. What do you consider some of the things a writer needs to know/do to begin building a platform? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.