This is a guest post by Nick Thacker.
“If you want people to listen, you have to have a platform to speak from, and that is excellence in what you do.” – William Pollard
The idea of building platforms through blogging has been top-of-mind for me recently. Through social media, networking, and even print books, building a platform—especially online—has become much easier for our current generation of Internet marketers, bloggers, and other online creators.
The problem, of course, is that there’s a substantially lower barrier for entry. Anyone, with little to no money spent, can create a blog, a company, and a platform. The challenge for us now is not a question of how to build a platform, but rather a question of how to get people to pay attention to our platform.
For us bloggers, the truth is that there are about 200 million other sites competing for our readers’ attention. We have to do more and more to get someone to read our latest post, much less get them to sign up, leave a comment, or buy something from us.
Cutting Through the Clutter
Getting people to pay attention to you—to listen—is a question of removing clutter and of creating scarcity in a market that is overflowing with supply. As such, I’ve challenged myself to flip the common practice of “platform building” on its head. First, here is what many people describe when they talk about the fundamentals of building a platform:
- Find what people want and create content for them.
- Connect with people who want that content and let them know where to find it.
This strategy used to work across the board—in some areas, I’m sure, it still does. But the model itself needs tweaking; improving.
A few years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of a few-hundred college students at a conference in Chicago. The topic was the subject of marketing for small business owners, and my research, as well as the theme of the presentation, was based on a key element many marketers seem to forget:
You are your target market.
For bloggers looking to capitalize on long-term readership, growth, and passive income strategies: you are your target reader.
We try to churn out content for a specific niche that we’ve identified as an area for growth or profitability, but quickly we lose sight of the end goal after a certain amount of time. No longer are we motivated by the topic at hand—we suffer from “shiny object syndrome” and jump to the next thing that we hope will make us money or provide us with success.
Rightfully, most of us have figured out that through building a blogging platform, slowly yet surely, we will eventually be a much better position to make a living online. But the route we usually try to take seems to be fundamentally wrong.
Rather than focusing on targeting a niche that looks exploitable, then pushing our wares to the people in that niche, I am choosing to focus on one thing only:
Creating (writing, producing, etc.) solely what interests me. I am choosing to create what I want to learn, and as such, I will create content that reflects what I’m learning.
Only once I’ve established a topic that I’m driven to analyze for no other reason than my own interest, will I look to capitalize on that. To put it in usable terminology, the new model for building a platform should be essentially the same, yet fundamentally backwards:
- Create content that interests you, and you alone.
- Reach out to others who are also creating for their own sake.
Strategically, this model makes sense: after all, most of us are striving for building a platform that is genuine, whether or not we expect gains from it in the long run.
How to Create Your Content
Creating this “content that interests only you” is as simple as creating what you would want to see from someone else. This content can—and most likely does—exist somewhere out there, but by creating it yourself and developing your knowledge of it on your own, it will be genuinely fresh and spun in a new light.
How to Build Your Audience
Pareto’s principle states (in a nutshell) that 80% of the result is produced by 20% of the population (or effort), and vice versa. This concept can certainly be applied to social media:
Rather than link to your own content all the time, promote other people’s work at least 80% of the time. Specifically, try to promote from within a small circle of influencers. This allows you to create amplification, rather than reach. These influencers (your “20%”) will tend to sit up and take notice, and when you’re ready to ask them for a favor, there’s a much better chance they’ll respond.
Build your platform by creating the content you want to see.
By creating content that’s intriguing to you, what you’re really doing is creating content that’s intriguing to lots of people, but with your own unique style, brand, and spin on it.
You’re creating scarcity.
Seth Godin isn’t known for his ability to create marketing concepts out of thin air as much as he’s known for his ability to take previously existing concepts and explain them drop-dead simple ways.
He’s created scarcity—taking a textbook of information and making it accessible to the masses of small business owners and entrepreneurs.
If you can create this kind of scarcity—writing and creating content that you would want to read—you’ll have an amazing, well-engaged platform built in no time!
What do you think? How have you started to build your online platform? Leave a comment below, and let’s get the discussion started!