Platform is the means by which you turn your expertise into an audience. That audience, however, needs to be found, which means you need to promote yourself. For most people, self-promotion is uncomfortable at best.
How can you clear the hurdle of self-promotion and find an audience for your platform?
If You Make It, They May Not Come
In W.P. Kinsella’s classic novel, “Shoeless Joe,” and the film adaptation, “Field of Dreams,” a farmer from Iowa builds plows under his corn and builds a baseball field. Struggling financially, the move makes little sense, but the reason made even less sense: a mysterious voice in the wind told him to.
“If you build it, they will come.”
Build what? And who are they? The answers to these questions will transform the destiny of this simple man—but, we aren’t going to spoil anything for you. The takeaway here is that for Ray, the farmer, building the baseball field was a risk taken in the belief that whatever payoff this mysterious voice promised would be worth it. It’s a great story.
Your platform is a different story.
Yes, you too have to build it. You have to put in the work based on the good faith that the audience you crave will show up.
But simply creating content isn’t enough. You have to find your audience and tell them you have something worth showing up for.
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Go For the Soft Sell
Every day, you open your inbox and see subject lines with phrases like “FREE” or “BUY NOW” or “LAST CHANCE.” The same is true on Facebook and Twitter. Clearly, someone wants your attention enough that they’re willing to do the digital equivalent of shout at you to make it happen.
The problem with this, aside from ALL CAPS being a bit annoying, is that if someone has to resort to shouting, maybe what they have for sale isn’t actually all that great.
We’re going to let you in on a secret. When it comes to introducing yourself to an audience, the key is not to sell; the key is to participate. You don’t need a fancy sales pitch. Just find a community that shares your interests and join in.
Join a Community
Those shouty people and brands that use social networking to say, “Buy my book, buy my book,” are missing out. Nobody likes to be sold to. What people gravitate to is those who give of themselves.
Here’s what you need to know about getting started in social media.
- Observe. Start out by joining and watching. Pick a venue to get yourself started. It could be Facebook, Twitter, an online forum, or a site dedicated to books like Goodreads. You don’t have to do anything at this point other than watch and learn. Be a sponge and absorb what is going on around you. Get a feel for the place. Wait until you are comfortable.
- Participate. When someone makes a comment that you agree with, support their position. Expand on it. Give an example from your own life that illustrates the point. If you disagree, do so respectfully, offer supporting information for your opinion.
- Contribute. Once you are comfortable talking with others, it’s time to go to the next level. Start contributing. If you read an article that people in your group might find helpful, post a link to it. If you read a book by someone in the group and liked it, tell others. Be supportive. Be helpful.
- Form Relationships. This is what social networking is all about. Make this your “end game.” You’re not participating to sell your product or service. You’re here to make connections. If someone compliments your work, thank them.
- Provide Information. Let the people in your group know about what’s going on in your life. Do you have something new in the works? Are you speaking at an event? This isn’t selling; it is informing. You aren’t telling them to buy; you are letting them know what you have and leaving the decision to them.
Notice we never once said “sell.” This is one of the greatest opportunities of the social media age. Become a person that others like, be one that is helpful, let others know that you have products and the sales will come.