I work with a lot of writers, and it is not unusual for them to feel overwhelmed at some point in the process of trying to craft their platform. I define platform as having two core elements:
- Communicating with the right people effectively.
- Establishing trust in the process.
Notice a phrase missing here: “social media.”
Yes, social media can makes it easier to do these things, but it can be overwhelming to manage. I find that for some, it obscures the real goal: establishing meaningful connections with other people, not waiting to go “viral.”
In fact, I often find social media works dramatically better for authors when you completely flip the mentality of hoping to “go viral.” Instead: work hard to resist going viral, get focused, simple, and human. I mean, seriously, when did the word “viral” become something we desperately feared to becoming something we desired? Ick!
Your platform as an author is based on the QUALITY of connection with someone, not the quantity of how many people you are loosely connected to.
I have worked through SO MANY digital strategies from the height of the first dot com boom, through the decade plus that followed. So often, you hear big numbers such as “the link received 10,000 clicks,” or “the effective reach of that blog post was 200,000 people,” or “judging value based on how many eyeballs saw a page.”
Another “ick!” here. Why would we dissect a human being’s value to the body part that sees, but not the brain function that analyzes or the heart that cares?
What I find is this: a simple handwritten note can be dramatically more powerful in growing your platform than hundreds of Pinterest Pins, reblogs or followers.
I received a note in the mail the other week that put a warm feeling in my heart. Yes, I’m sentimental that way. Here it is:
This was a letter sent to me from Andrew Warner, who runs a website called Mixergy.com, where he interviews entrepreneurs. This website, simply put, is my favorite on the web.
So a couple years back, I sent Andrew a letter explaining how his work at Mixergy helped and inspired me. My memory of it was a 3 page letter, on full sized 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper, not some small thank you card that you buy at the store.
So the note Andrew sent to me above was him returning the favor. In it, he states how my original letter really struck him, so much so that he created a habit to send out notes like this to other people to show how much he appreciates them. I had no idea about this until he let me know.
In other words: Andrew didn’t think: “Ooh, I’ll start pinning images of my interviews on Pinterest to expand my platform!” he thought: I will deepen my connection with people who inspire me.”
When I work with writers, this is often how we approach developing their platform. Not racing to get more followers on Twitter, but instead whittling down our focus to people that really matter to them. Our intention is not to “leverage” people or create “influence,” but rather, to create a connection, say thank you, be generous, and give someone a special moment.
How many Tweets do you remember from 2011?
How many special moments of appreciation do you remember?
My gut is, your answer is more of the latter.
Don’t go viral. Focus intensely on a handful of people. Keep your communications simple and honest. Go out of your way to create something unique and special for them. Focus on the one thing you share in common: you are both human beings, not someone measured by some random score of how “influential” you are on social media.
Do you feel lost and overwhelmed with developing your platform? That others know how to use Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube better than you? Well, please remember: the BIG differentiator here is YOU. Be human. Speak from your core. Focus on relationships. Stop doing just the “best practices” that everyone else is trying, but make your own mark.
Stop trying to fit in, faking it along the way with the hopes going viral will solve everything. Ze Frank shared an amazing video this week that embodies this mentality with elegance and honesty: