Build Your Platform – Start

The following is part ONE of a series called Build Your Platform. If you find it interesting, please consider subscribing for free to get the rest of the series.

Photo from a Tour of CNN

Part 2: Adele
Part 3: Skrillex

This post is long. You might want to bookmark it for later.

The age of social media oversaturation is upon us. People are declaring Twitter bankruptcy to go along with their email bankruptcy. They cite not wanting to start on yet another social network as their reason for not getting more involved with Google+. And just as soon as you start getting into Pinterest, you hear about Path, but wait: there’s Gentlemint, which is really a kind of Pinterest for men, and… Stop the Insanity!

Pardon me while I channel my inner Susan Powter there.

If you seek to make an impact in 2012 and beyond, the time has come to think seriously about your digital presence. How will you use a handful of social networks well? How will you create a unified presence that builds your story, empowers your interactions, and helps you rise up from being just another voice in the stream?

Note: If you just want to tinker and enjoy social media and social networks, stop reading this post and go see what’s happening in the world of Klout, Instagram, and whatever else Mashable reports on. Totally okay. Nothing wrong with that. If you’re looking to improve your chances of doing business, read on.

Build Your Platform: Goals

The goal of building your platform is to create useful information, to select the best possible media to package that information, and then to choose a series of distribution technologies for delivering your ideas to others, to encourage interactions, and to drive towards certain target results.

Simpler still: your goal is to move your ideas through a platform to encourage a human interaction. ( Julien Smith and I might be writing a whole book around this right now.Shhh!)

You can use this goal structure for a nonprofit: I want to create information that encourages donors and volunteers, then create video and text assets, distribute them via video, a blog, and email marketing, and encourage sign-ups either to donate or volunteer.

You can use this for an artist: I want to shoot “the making of” videos of my paintings, then post them on Facebook and Google+, and provide my email address for people to contact me to inquire about buying them.

You can pick whatever you want for the different elements, but if you use the above as a simple way of framing your intent, it certainly helps you better understand how you’ll implement your processes, technology, and tactics to accomplish your goals.

Create Useful Information

What do people want most? They want to learn how to improve their lives, either by solving their problems, feeding their desires, satisfying their insecurities, helping them feed their greed, or comforting their worries around disruption. The information you create and share drives your intent to acquire more customers (and remember: “customer” can be a very wide term for you – maybe you just want your platform to get more attention for the pet shelter animals in your town. Same difference).

What makes information useful? It varies per goal, per type of sale, and many other factors. If you’re selling peer mentoring to CEOs, you’re providing a mix of informative articles, interviews with people in the mentoring network, and testimonials from satisfied members. If you’re selling email marketing software, maybe your content is all about how to improve a user’s email marketing.

In creating Shhh! The Secret Show, my goal is to create information on how to make a show, while also sharing other items and ideas and thoughts that might also help you develop yourself. It’s one way to try and provide useful information. My free newsletter is designed to be personable and useful to people because I’m modeling how companies can use human business practices to build their company and grow a successful channel.

What would make your information useful? What do you believe your buyer (or your intended audience, however you want to label them) would need? Not sure? Describe your business in the comments and maybe we can all take a whack at it.

Choose Your Media

More people purchased tablets and smartphones in the US in the last handful of months (including the holidays) than they did laptops and desktop computers combined. In both cases, this signals to you that people want:

a.) to consume more media.
b.) to consume more video.
c.) to consume brief information.

In choosing how you want to reach people, you might experiment with how you’ll deliver to reach people in a few ways. I have three tools in my belt: 1.) A very active blog. 2.) a video show, and 3.) a lot of short-form social media content. See how that answers all three? It also reaches different audiences in different ways.

Choose Distribution Technologies

First, if your site is not yet mobile-friendly, get on that right away. The Genesis WordPress themes (affiliate link) are mostly mobile-dynamic now. Or you can choose to use a plug-in like WPtouch, if you’re running WordPress. If not, your main site should be configured to toggle to present differently to smartphones and tablets. This is table stakes for the game at this point. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you might as well just BURN some part of your money monthly to signify the missed opportunities.

You might choose a few distribution methods. My current mix is:

I have the blog coming out a few times a week (it used to be daily and more-than-daily). The social channels, I update quite frequently. My video show is weekly. My email newsletter is weekly. If I were to get even more clever, I’d consider building some kind of monthly “roll-up” of all my content into a larger theme/form, but that’s not there. Yet. (Note to self…)

Who should you use for this or that service? (most of these people are so good that I am an affiliate for them.)

StudioPress Premium WordPress ThemesBlog host: Except for this site, I use InMotion hosting to host all my other blogs. On this site, because of volume of traffic, I use Rackspace.

Blog theme: I use Genesis themes on all my sites. This one is called Generate.

Video hosting: I prefer YouTube, but I also like Vimeo, Viddler, and there are a few other sites worth considering. But to me, it’ll always be those sites plus YouTube.

Social Networks: I’ve never had much business success with LinkedIn or Facebook, but your mileage may vary. I get great results from Twitter and Google+. You may also try Pinterest, depending on your potential buyer. There are many more networks to consider, but that might be a conversation for another time.

Email Marketing: There are many great companies providing email solutions. I’ll be announcing my new provider shortly. I also think Mailchimp and AWeber are good companies.

Anything I missed? Hit me up in the comments.

Encourage Interactions

If you don’t make it easy for people to comment, to reply, to engage with you, you’re putting a gate up between you and potential buyers. If you don’t reply, people notice (I can’t always reply to everyone, and I hear about it quite often). If you’re not giving people an easy way to take a step other than “buy now,” then you’re encouraging people to leave and do nothing.

What types of interactions? It’s up to you. People ask whether comments are better on a blog or Twitter or Google+ or … you get the point. My answer: who cares? Listen everywhere. Respond wherever you see people talking about you, your story, your ideas, your concepts. Be where people are. Does it take time? Yes. So does everything that sustains you. Growing food takes time. Making clothes takes time. Everything takes time. Stop using that as your measure. Just decide how much can be done by others and how much is your direct contribution. (Listening tools can save you time, but you must invest. More in a later post.) Interactions are silver. Referrals and purchases are gold.

Drive Towards Target Results

When I create an episode of Shhh! The Secret Show, the goal is for someone to view the show, and/or maybe to also pass it on to others. I love every comment I get, and I also encourage email responses in-show. What I’m seeking for responses in the case of this show is simply any kind of comment and/or furthering of the exploration of what we’re talking about in the episode. It’s a bit loose.

However, when I write a blog post, each post has a very specific goal that goes alongside my larger mission to help you grow a successful business channel. This post’s goals?

1.) Encourage bookmarking. (Did you bookmark this?)
2.) Encourage signups to my blog’s RSS feed.
3.) Encourage newsletter signups.

In that order, my intent with my post (after helping you) was to drive one of those three reactions. Everything else is gravy.

In other posts, my targeted goal is for you to buy something. In other posts, it’s to improve my social proof so that you see me showing you that I’m great because _____ . Every post has a goal. If this post were much shorter, there would be only one goal.

In your email newsletter, encourage one goal per post. Keep the mail brief. Sub-300-word emails are gold. In your video, encourage a single call to action, if you can. Whatever you do, try to keep everything to a single message and point, as often as possible.

Summarizing

In this post, the intent was to talk you through:

  • Determining your goals for creating a platform.
  • Choosing what kind of content to produce.
  • Selecting media types and distribution channels.
  • Encouraging interaction.
  • Seeking a targeted response.

Everything about this post is geared towards helping you consider how you might build a platform to improve your chances of improving the impact of your efforts on communicating and doing business in 2012. In the rest of the series, coming soon, we’ll drill down deeper into even more of the process, and cover some details on how to accomplish some of the above.

Questions?

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