A guest post by Becky Green Aaronson

When 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.
Becky 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.

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