“Do I need to build a platform?”
The short answer: yes. Publishers and agents want you to have a platform so that you can sell your book. But what exactly is a platform?
Platform is a fancy word for audience. When a publisher or agent asks about a platform, they want to know how many people you are reaching, and, more specifically, how many people engage with your content.
So, how do you build a platform?
We sat down with Stephanie Chandler, author of The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan, and expert on author marketing and platform building. In our interview, Stephanie shared invaluable tips on how to build a platform.
The Value of Relevant Content
To build a platform and grow your audience, you need to produce valuable, frequently posted content. Why? Because Google gives priority to sites that update frequently. Every time you create a new post, you’re showing Google that you’re relevant. And you’re giving your audience a reason to follow you. The more content you create, Stephanie explains, the more relevant your site becomes to your audience.
So, what exactly is valuable content?
Find your audience. To optimize your platform—whether that is through an email list, social media, podcasting, etc.—you have to be clear on your target audience. And once you know your audience, every piece of content you create should speak to them. As soon as you stray into content not beneficial to your audience, you lose your audience’s trust—and give them a reason to not return.
Produce relevant content. Your audience wants content that is useful to them. As you produce content, determine how you can best serve your audience. How do you deliver value to your audience? How do you address their challenges, needs, and interests?
Start by considering the questions your followers ask. Do you have content that can specifically answer their questions? Or create content closely related to their questions. If your engagement is slipping, Stephanie notes, it’s probably because your content isn’t relevant to your audience.
Implement SEO. Search engine optimization, SEO, will be your greatest ally. And your worst enemy. Whether you’re producing a blog or running social media accounts, you need to implement SEO into your content. SEO includes keywords and key phrases that target your audience. At Journey Sixty6, we rely on SEO phrases like, “coaching for writers” and “online learning community” to reach our audience. Think about the keywords and phrases your audience will search. And then implement those phrases/words into your content!
Ultimately, the best way to build a platform is to create fresh, relevant content.
Email Is Still Relevant
Once you’ve nailed down your content, you have to actually establish your online presence. Common ways to build a platform include: blogging, social media, speaking events, podcasting. To learn more about these platforms, check out our blog post, and listen to our podcast! You’ll receive tips on how to build selective platforms. (P.S. Stephanie encourages new authors to book themselves on podcasts. It’s one of the best ways to reach a wider audience and promote your book!)
But another great way to build a platform is through an email list. If she had to choose between social media and an email list, Stephanie would choose an email list. Why? Because email lists guarantee a captive audience.
Email subscribers gave you permission to market to them. They subscribed to your list because they are interested in your content. And you can easily collect data on the successes and failing of your marketing strategies without worries concerning an algorithm. And, you’ll never lose your platform, like you could if your social media platform is hacked and shut down.
So, how do you build your email list?
Through free stuff.
Stephanie recommends providing free downloads, hosting webinars, and doing workshops to engage your audience. And don’t just create one lead magnet! Create one a month, or two a month. A friendly tip: Even though your content is free, it needs to be valuable, and relevant to your target audience. It takes more effort on your part, but it satisfies and energizes your audience.
If you’re speaking at a live event (or even a virtual event), stop halfway through and collect emails from the audience. Provide a valuable incentive so that the audience is more interested in divulging their email. Stephanie does a raffle and gives away a free book. You can do this too!
Building an email list, like any platform, is time-consuming. It requires years of frequent and consistent content and engagement. Some strategies will succeed, and other strategies will fail. But be creative and persist. Try new strategies, learn from the failures, and work on growing your platform through relevant, valuable content.