The Five Elements of Every Successful Online Platform

September 18, 2017  •  Audience Growth

It’s now been five years since Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World was published and become an immediate New York Times Bestseller.

That book inspired thousands of men and women (myself included) to rush to their keyboards and take their best shot at building an online platform of their own.

The success of Platform is what inspired Michael to collaborate with Stu McLaren to found Platform University, an online membership site where more than 20,000 students have now studied under dozens of platform-building pioneers.

But that was five years ago (in internet years, I think that’s nearly a century).

So much has changed since then, with different social media platforms, software tools, and changing landscape of a thriving digital world.

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That said, what has not changed has been the core, underlying elements of what makes up a successful platform strategy, as we’ve seen time and time again.

If you hope to build a successful online platform of your own, you’ll need to establish a strong foundation. That means building up the five elements of every successful platform, on your own:

1. A Clear Brand Identity

In the mind of your audience, your brand is your platform.

A clearly established brand identity can mean the difference between establishing a memorable expert presence in your industry or being forgotten as just another name.

This means getting crystal clarity on who you’re trying to serve, what problem you’re trying to solve, and how you’re going to do it.

From Platform:

A consistent brand is vital for a strong platform. It’s something I’ve worked hard to develop, and it should be one of your top priorities.

2. An Established Home Base

This is digital real estate that you own, where you’re always directing traffic (no matter what medium you’re using to promote).

Usually, this starts as a self-hosted blog or similar website, though for some people this is a community or membership site—like Platform University, itself.

From Platform:



[T]his is the place where you can best sell your ideas or products. You control the borders and determine who has access.

3. A Quality Email List

Social media is snazzy, website traffic is fun to watch, but the quality of your email list is the move important metric you should monitor.

You need to monitor both the number of email subscribers as well as the depth of engagement, to get a good pulse on quality. If you’re getting a 25% – 35% open rate, 1,000 subscribers is a good number to shoot for at the start.

From Platform:


…you need to stop focusing on growing your traffic. Instead, you need to concentrate on growing your subscriber list.

4. Strategic Social Embassies

You should make yourself known on social media, as an effort to be accessible to your audience—but don’t mistake social media as your home base.

Use social media to engage with your audience, build trust, and share your content in an effort to build your relationship with followers further by having them join your email list.

From Platform:

Marketing may not be dead, but, in the world of social media, it has morphed. Dramatically. Tribe-building is the new marketing.

5. Profitable Flagship Product

At the end of the day, you need to treat your platform like a business. After all, building a platform costs money—and the more you make, the greater the impact you can achieve.

An established online platform may include several products or services offered for sale, but the most successful have a single flagship product that represents the most transformational experience, at a premium price.

For Michael Hyatt, that’s now Free to Focus. For Jeff Walker, that’s Product Launch Formula. For Donald Miller, that’s StoryBrand. What will yours be?

From Platform:

If you create outstanding products, everything else becomes much easier.

It’s a fairly simple formula, right? The hard part is doing the actual work.

We’ve yet to see anyone with a consistently successful platform who hasn’t established all five of these elements.

There are five simple elements to every successful online platform.

John Meese

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Sure, there have been flash-in-the-pan exceptions with “social media influencers” who don’t have a blog or email list, but as soon as Twitter or Facebook changes the rules, they’re toast.

Don’t let that be you. Build a long-lasting platform, with a concrete foundation.

QUESTION: Have you read Platform before? What did you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

About John Meese

John is the Dean of Platform University, and spends most of his time looking for new ways to serve Platform University students. He lives south of Nashville, TN with his wife and two young kids.