Build Your Blogging Platform By Creating Scarcity

This is a guest post by Nick Thacker.

Photo Credit: Alexander Baxevanis

“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:

  1. Find what people want and create content for them.
  2. 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:

  1. Create content that interests you, and you alone.
  2. 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.

Creating Scarcity

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!

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Comments

  1. says

    That is what Former BBC 2 presenter said about creating his shows. He created what he liked and hoped others would enjoy it too. It worked for him for 40 years so I think Nick Thacker may well be on to something.

    However I’m not 100% sure it would work for all bloggers and all subject but I’m happy to be proved wrong.

    @Dom__ONeill

  2. says

    These are great tips. A platform is nothing if you don’t have an audience or if no one bothers to pay attention to it. The tips you gave will be great for those who are just starting a blog and a platform. These will hopefully lead them towards the right path.

  3. says

    Good evening Nick!

    An interesting proposition, if I may say so and one which strikes a chord.
    When I started writing my blog I went into overdrive and churned out posts that were of interest to me and which I hoped would interest someone else. I was cautioned against continuing to write without waiting to see if a readership developed. I’m still waiting…..

    So, I’m thinking I have 3 choices – keep waiting; try writing like everyone else in my niche; or think ‘stuff’em’ and keep on doing it my way.

    I get a lot of pleasure out of the last option, so nothing will change. I guess I just need to find the right audience!
    Linda just posted Eros, Paris And The Osterreischische Bundesbahnen

  4. says

    This is a novel idea. Till now creating content was the key, now it changed to creating content meant for the user, at least that’s what Google wants for ranking purposes. So are you saying, create content with a twist, something different, something that no one has thought about, something that will captivate the reader.
    Shalu Sharma just posted Are cabs in Delhi safe for tourists?

  5. says

    It’s an important sentiment, doing something that YOU find worthwhile. I think a fundamental problem, not just in blogging but in our society in general, is that we’ve lost sight of doing things that we would approve of ourselves, and are instead chasing this “larger market share”, writing/saying/doing things that we don’t even believe in. I think this is a powerful post. Not just tips on better blogging success or some nonsense like that.

    I also think this concept of scarcity is important, especially in this online world where, as you say, the barriers to entry are so small. If you’ve got an email address, bam, you’ve got the ability to create a website. Hard to imagine scarcity in such a seemingly limitless and overpopulated environment.

  6. says

    To whom am I speaking? Many experts tell us that we need to create an imagined person and speak to that person. And just a few days ago, one expert suggested that we need to be more target specific and speak to a ‘niche.’ (That isn’t new info, I know…but he was quite emphatic about creating one.) As a new blogger I sorted through and selected my topic areas before I began. Now, I hear that I should have just one topic. Maybe that is okay. But seriously, when I taught I really didn’t like teaching the same subject each year and the same thing to four classes in a row. I’m interested in lots of things. I like deep topics and silly superficial ones.
    So Nick, all that to say. Thank you. I guess I needed to know that “I” can be my audience and speak to things I’m interested in. And my hope is that my side of the conversation is interesting enough for others to jump in with their two cents as well. And maybe, just maybe, what I say will be the scarce sound that many are hoping to hear.
    I just picked up Michael Hyatt’s book, “Platform.” It seems that I will be reading it with your post in the back of my mind.
    Hope your day is Extraordinary!
    Diane just posted Joy Day! | God’s character – My gratitude

  7. says

    Excellent points – and to contribute something to the party, it looks like Google’s SEO algorithms recognize and reward people that address content scarcity issues.

    One of my other sites – a technology and analytics blog – has a series of articles that have received varying levels of promotion. Our best performing content, based on analyzing Google’s webmaster data, is an intro-level presentation on building websites in a semi-popular Python framework. It’s certainly not our most linked or promoted item.

    So why does it rank?

    Simple…nobody else wrote an entry level presentation on the subject. When Google is trying to pick the top 5 – 10 results, they pick the open source project (naturally), a couple of sourceforge / github libraries (next logical authority sites), and then…they have to pick between about a hundred credible blog posts. We were the one which looks different than the others…thus welcome to page 1…
    The Hanging Hyena just posted Why You Should Monetize Your Side Projects

    • says

      Hmm, very interesting indeed. Yet it makes perfect sense when you think about it.

      I think my SEO “strategy” (if you can call it that) is to create the content no one else is creating, and do it better/more thoroughly than anyone else.

      I like to think Google rewards those of us who do that.
      Nick Thacker just posted Introducing: The Platform Firestarter

  8. says

    Hi Nick,

    Yes – I do agree with you. The Scarcity (or as most people know it) Uniqueness and quality of the content that you provide to the user is and always will be an important factor in Marketing and SEO alike. The chance of the content looking attractive and useful to a user is that much greater if it has appealing factors to you. And yes – having good content is not enough. You have to expose it to the right people – namely targeted audiences who have a bigger chance of finding the content useful and shareable.
    Anton Koekemoer just posted How to do more with your social media campaign

  9. says

    I have to admit, the use of “scarcity” was not what I expecting. You did make some good points on longevity though and that’s important. If a business or marketing model doesn’t have that longevity, is the time, money, and frustration invested going to be worth it?

    One question: I write for business owners. As a business owner myself I can certainly take the approach of writing for myself as the reader. However, (and this is the question) how can a doctor or a restaurant owner write about their passions in a way that does not alienate their customers?
    Rob Calhoun just posted Do You Believe In Magic Marketing?

    • says

      Hey Rob!

      Thanks for the comment–to answer your question (and it’s a GREAT one), I feel that there’s usually some overlap between the passions of our customers and our own.

      A restaurateur could blog about the “behind-the-scenes” kitchen, or how to manage a busy restaurant, or just host a cooking blog. There are many more ideas, and though they might not drive massive amounts of traffic (like MMO sites would), there should be enough interest from the general population to build something really special.

      Plus, these types of entrepreneurs have the added benefit of geographic targeting: if they’re the ONLY one of their specialty offering information of this sort, it’s absolutely going to be an example of scarcity!

      Hope that makes sense!
      Nick
      Nick Thacker just posted How to Create the “Next Best Thing”

  10. says

    Mr. Nick,

    The title itself is tempting enough to learn more about this. Who would not want to know more about build their blogging? This is like adding teasers to a good content. This move for sure will draw more traffic to blogs. SEO specialists must learn all these.

    My best regards,

    Sanjib
    Sanjib Saha just posted Top 5 Best Antivirus Software of 2012

  11. says

    The “scarcity” you speak of sounds a lot like “uniqueness” and I agree, it’s an important component of building a thriving platform.

    I also believe is important to take a “satellite approach” to building your platform, one where you have several different extensions. So if your blog is your main hub but other extensions worth considering are podcasts, video, newsletters, social networking, etc.

    If you create useful content that people actually care about then it won’t be long before you have a massive platform on your hands.
    Dewane Mutunga just posted How To Provide Value To Customers Instead Of Selling On Price

  12. says

    I have read a lot of resources that one should be where the people are. Meaning, write about the most-searched topics, and work your away around that. And now, you have just stated the opposite. This is a very interesting point. Because, that way, you’re not actually competing with so many others for readers’ attention. Rather, you are serving a need that might have been long over-looked, and questions that might have been waiting for some answers.

    • says

      Hi Melonie;

      I think that at the end of the day, the methods don’t matter–I just wanted to offer an approach that forced us to rethink what it is we’re providing–solutions, value, and scarcity. If we do these things and keep them at the forefront, we can use many different tactics to get there!

      Thanks,
      Nick
      Nick Thacker just posted How to Create the “Next Best Thing”

  13. says

    Nick,

    You got a nice post herein. Some of the key takeaways for me would be:

    - Remember the 80-20 rule, where 20% of the people define and create new things that the balance 80% would eventually follow or make use of. Towards this end, creating a content scarcity fits the exact model.

    - If you talk to any avid blogger, then he has been educated to try and follow the herd mentality and create a solution that fits in the role of a ‘commodity-type’ solution to a generic problem. That is what most online Gurus tell you. Find a problem area, and define a solution to it. In doing so, the individual blogger loses his individual creativity and ends up going across a maze of tools and other essentials to come up with a solution, that is even more standardized.

    - It’s essentially a sad situation wherein all of us are looking at the same problem and trying to give a solution that would eventually become typecast. Losing one’s individual creativity leads to online clutter.

    - Your approach should be the ideal approach towards content creation or curation. The bottom-line over here is that one must not expect rewards and gains. Instead, focus on what you love to do and write more about it. Money and gains are a by-product of your efforts. If your efforts are original and justify the love of your subject, rewards ought to follow.

    With much Love,

    Andy May

  14. says

    Thanks a lot for the great article. The part about the Pareto Principle especially caught my eye.

    For the last few years I’ve been trying to apply this in my businesses and life, and I’ve had quite a lot of success doing so. However I never even considered the application of it for social media as you’ve mentioned here.

    I have been a very reluctant user of social media for a long time now and when I use it I’ve always focused on my own content. I think you’re absolutely right here though – to truly leverage the benefits the focus needs to be shifted to sharing and promotion of others’ work too in order to amplify the impact of your own content.

    Now to put it in action…
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