Adventures in Platform Diving…I Mean Building

A guest post by Becky Green Aaronson

divingWhen I initially heard that it was important for a writer to build a platform, I scratched my head and wondered, What the hell is a platform? I had visions of a narrow high dive perch from which I was expected to swan dive, then execute a few graceful twists and turns before gliding into a pool of readers.

With Google, of course, it didn’t take long to discover what a platform really was—simply a way in which writers build their presence—particularly on the web—to garner interest in what they are writing. Kind of like building brand recognition. And since authors are now expected to do most, if not all of the legwork in promoting and marketing their books, a web presence is crucial.

This seemed straightforward enough, but as I dove into this business of platform building, my head soon began to spin.

Getting Started with Platform Building

First I started with social networking, setting up a Facebook account, followed by Twitter, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, and Squidoo. I wasn’t sure what I would do with these sites exactly, but I decided I would figure that out later, especially learning they were great ways to connect with potential readers.

Then I joined several writing organizations, and attended a few writers’ conferences, slowly networking here and there.

Finally, I created my blog. And Whoa, Nelly, let me tell you, that was a biggie. After pouring a mind-numbing pile of hours into designing and tweaking my site, I felt like I’d climbed Mt. Everest.

Then I realized I actually had to create content for my blog. Once again, I scratched my head. What the hell am I going to write about?The obvious choice was just to broadcast, “HEY EVERYBODY, HERE’S THE BOOK I’M WRITING. I HOPE YOU’LL BUY IT WHEN IT’S FINISHED.”

But that is soooo not how it works.

No, no, no. People in the blogosphere want to either learn something from you or be entertained by the content on your blog. They don’t want to be treated as if they’re reading a script from one of Ron Popeil’s Ronco infomercials.

So, after researching how blogs were written, and sketching out a few posts, I eventually took the plunge and hit PUBLISH.

It initially felt like jumping off that high dive perch I had envisioned earlier, but with my friends, family and colleagues taking the leap with me, supporting me as I learned how to master the twists and turns of blogging, it became invigorating. I felt proud that I figured out how to get my platform up and running.

But my problem was this: once my platform was in motion, it rapidly took on a life of its own. I had Facebook fans, Twitter followers LinkedIn connections, as well as gaggles of blog followers. All great stuff, of course, but I suddenly felt like I had ADHD. My mind was continually scattered, thinking of Tweets and quips, blog posts, emails, backlinks, and comments. I no longer thought in long, delicious prose, but rather 140 characters. Worst of all, I had little time to work on writing my book, the thing I’d been working so hard to promote.

THAT, my writing friends, is the gotcha of platform building. Creating and maintaining a memorable platform can be a full-time job in itself.

It took me several sleep-deprived months of teetering on the edge, feeling completely out of balance trying to juggle the demands of my platform, but here is what figured out: it may not be easy to stand perfectly balanced on a platform, but it is doable with some discipline.

Tips for Building Your Platform

  • Set aside an hour a day for social networking (30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the late afternoon). And stick to it.
  • Limit social networks to 2-3 big ones: Facebook and Twitter are most important at the moment. It’s easy to sign up for every option out there, but difficult to maintain them all.
  • Automate as much as possible. Encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up for automatic updates of your blog posts instead of emailing them directly each time. Have Facebook and Twitter accounts tied to your blog so each post will be shared automatically.
  • Don’t get sucked into obsessing over your blog stats. It’s good to know where your followers come from, and which posts people are most interested in, but beyond that, it’s nothing more than an ego boost.
  • Finally, and most importantly, keep your priorities straight: finishing your book always outweighs promoting it. After all, there’s no need to have a platform if you don’t have something to promote.

[box border=”full”]Becky Green AaronsonBecky Green Aaronson is a freelance writer living in Santa Barbara, CA. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, including Runner’s WorldAdventure Cyclist and Edible Santa Barbara, and it has been honored with several literary awards. She is currently writing a book, The Art of an Improbable Life: My Twenty Years with an International Photojournalist, and writes a blog with the same name: www.animprobablelife.com.[/box]

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0 thoughts on “Adventures in Platform Diving…I Mean Building

  1. June O'Hara says:

    Boy, did you sum up my experience with social media! I’m gratified to know I’m not alone in feeling scattered and nuts trying to do all this. You captured the frustration beautifully and your suggestions seem very sound. Thank you so much.

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      June, you are definitely not alone! I think many of us are trying to keep our wits as we dive into social media and platform building. It’s all about time management and trying to avoid being pulled in too many directions. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Now get back to writing!

  2. Lori says:

    OK first of all, great great post. I sooo connected to the whole whirlwind beginning of creating a platform. I think we started around the same time and you have been more consistent and kept going. I have let my moods dictate whether I blog or not. So I plan to try your idea about 30 min 2x’s a day.
    One question- why does the end of your post say ABOUT BRIDGET STRAUB? 🙂 Lori Robinson @AfricaInside.

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Thanks, Lori. It is a whirlwind, but worth the effort, especially when good things come out of it like connecting with other writers, or bringing awareness to your bag project in Africa.

      Ooops about the name. Emily must have forgotten to change it. 🙂

  3. Oh, so true. I’m so busy writing content for my blog I’m not getting much other writing done. Even editing what I’ve already written. As for getting my blog to facebook, facebook seems to have stopped that in the last month.

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Sue Ann, it’s definitely a challenge to create fresh, new content for a blog on a regular basis while trying to produce a larger project like a book. Blogs give you immediate gratification and wonderful connections, so it’s easy to spend more time there, but for me, I know I need to keep my eye on the prize, which is the completion of my book.

  4. Becky, Your post surely hit a home-run with me. It’s as though you read my She Writes post from yesterday and tailor-made your post to answer a number of questions about the 1-2-3 of audience/platform building. Thanks 🙂

    Candice

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Candice, I’m so happy to hear my post was helpful to you. It can be a bit overwhelming at first (understatement), but eventually it begins to settle out into something manageable. Good luck to you!

  5. So true. I’m really just getting started with blogging and everything that comes with it. You’re absolutely right though — the social media aspect of it can be rather overwhelming but I imagine it can also be very rewarding! “Just don’t forget to write!” … No Ma, I won’t.

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Connecting with other writers/readers has been rewarding. Mostly it’s the time involved that is a challenge for me. Balance is the key.

      Looks like you are doing some great work on your blog. I just took a peek.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. I started a blog and then realised I was in fact building a platform and perhaps because I didn’t set out to build a platform (was not au fait with the jargon then but knew all about building a profile, a brand, a presence, so got it now) I approached it slowly as I figured out how to do it without it taking over.

    I’m not yet published, but agree that there’s nothing more off-putting than blatant self-promotion, the blog allows us an opportunity to generate an interest, which if successful will no doubt assist the soon to be published works. I know that the blogs I really enjoy to read I wouldn’t hesitate to buy their published works and some I wish they would write a book!

    Thanks for putting it all so succinctly, it’s reassuring to read of your experience and others and the learning that goes with it.

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Claire, it sounds like you’re doing it right! It’s great that you found a balance right from the start. Happy writing to you!

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Thank you, Deborah. So nice of you to take the time to read this post and leave a comment in between your prolific writing!

  7. Becky, great post and great advice. I don’t have an hour a day but am starting with 15 minutes 2x day…
    I find it a huge challenge to do any more AND keep up with the writings of those I follow (oh – plus a job, family, chores, etc!!). It takes commitment and your post has helped me re-invigourate my priorities and goals for 2012!

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Thanks, Astra. It is a huge challenge to juggle it all (especially with family and other important responsibilities), but it can be done. Good luck to you, and happy writing! I hope 2012 is your best year yet!

  8. Oh, so true, Becky! Thanks for sharing the pain of trying to do it all – and that’s just with our writing!

    Hopefully, by creating a strategic plan for my writing, traveling, and coaching in 2012, I’ll be able to stay focused and on track. But I tell you, it’s a daily challenge. I’m considering purchasing a pair of blinders like they put on horses at the starting gate . . .

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Nancy, I like the blinder idea! I’m thinking of ear plugs to block out the “noise” that comes with all this stuff. Staying focused is my goal for 2012. Planning helps too. Happy writing and traveling to you in the new year!

  9. You took me back to when I was first building my platform and I did exactly the same. I threw everything at the wall to see what would stick. A year later and I have a plan, a strategy, can track and measure my results and do the work that counts, not the stuff that seems important at the time.

    Here’s to 2012 – the year to delve – into what matters!

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Natalie, thanks for taking the time to comment. It sounds like you’ve experienced the twists and turns of this adventure too. It’s great to have another reassuring voice letting everybody know that with a strategy of priorities, one can keep sane while diving in head first.

      Happy writing to you!

  10. Nancy MacMillan says:

    Becky, Well written!! You know I’ve been where you are, you just dug deeper faster. I was terribly backed up and had to take a holiday break to catch on personal stuff. No time to even do 7X7 before Thanksgiving. Sorry. Love your 2X30, plan to activate in 2012, which will be a major year. Hope to hit class once or twice a month, but time is short. Much success on finishing your book, I’m rooting for you 😀

    • Becky Green Aaronson says:

      Nancy, I know you are in the throes of it all too! It’s exciting momentum–it’s just a matter of keeping it balanced, and in perspective. Looking forward to seeing you in 2012 and hearing an update about your book!

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