I used the title to give you a fair warning. It's possible that I've had this rant fairly recently, so feel free to tune out if this sounds familiar. I did include something to make it worth your while though - the art of the incredibly talented Joshua Burbank.
Want to hawk your wares online? Trying to build a customer base to sell your book? Your art?
I want to say ahead of time - this next part is not meant to be discouraging, just realistic.
It's not quick. It's not instantaneous. You can't just pay someone a one-time lump sum and expect them to build your platform. If you're willing to pay someone large sums of money to manage your sites on a regular basis, maybe, but most of us don't have that kind of money to invest. And in my opinion, you should be doing it yourself anyway. How else to infuse your platform with your unique personality and branding? Building relationships online is similar to building them in real life. It requires trust. It takes time.You have to give in order to get.
Your platform is dynamic and requires regular and thoughtful attention.
I talk to people regularly who want to build a platform. Some of them even want to pay me to do it for them, but they don't seem to understand the basic concepts which I consider to be essential for success. It seems that they want me to take care of the mechanics for them - setting up and linking all their sites and pages - and expect that something magical will happen. Customers will flock to their platform, wallets in hand, and buy their stuff.
It just doesn't work that way.
What does it take to build a successful platform? Passion. It's so much easier if you're on fire for what you're doing*. Note that being enthusiastic about something - creative writing, let's say - doesn't necessarily mean you'll feel the same way about promoting your short stories online. The absolute best situation is one in which you have a fire in the belly for your creative endeavor, and on top of that, honestly enjoy meeting people online and cultivating new relationships. If you can look at each of those people out there as a resource (for knowledge, networking,and inspiration) first and a customer second, you're on the way to a new paradigm which will change your online interactions in a very positive way.
I endured a conversation just yesterday in which a woman claimed to want to speak to me about building a platform, but interrupted me multiple times with specific questions and comments about how I could market her book. Her book. Her book. I think she said this phrase at least ten times in the space of that many minutes. I used the word 'endured' just a moment ago intentionally. This conversation was very much like I imagine it would feel to walk outside and repeatedly bash my head against the side of the garage.
To me, a platform is much more than one book or one painting. A platform is useful, compelling, and inviting. It's an extension of you as a person. If you're not willing to do it right, maybe you shouldn't do it at all.
Why do so many people want to do it then? Maybe someone told them that this is the way to sell things in this technological climate. They have been told that they need social media. I happen to agree with both of these statements. My personal belief is that if you have something you're trying to pimp, whether it's goods or services, or even an organization, you're squandering a valuable resource if you aren't leveraging social media. However. And this is a humongous HOWEVER...
...setting up a plethora of sites and failing to manage them properly is only a teeny tiny bit better than doing nothing at all.
...constant posting of transparent sales-gimmicky crap is annoying and will have the complete opposite effect than what you intend. Most people are smarter than this. Admittedly, there may be a very small percentage who will stick around for this asinine and narcissistic behavior, but the cost - alienating people who could be valuable customers, contacts, or resources - is exceedingly high. It's not worth it.
I acknowledge the fact that underneath it all, each of us is trying to put forth our own agenda, whatever that may be, but I truly believe that if you can examine your business and identify aspects of it that will benefit others, and then focus on those, the rest will follow. You don't have to save the world. It's not necessary to adopt all the stray kittens or feed all of the starving children, although if you figure out a way to make these things happen, drop me an email. I'm totally interested.
You just need to think about who your potential customers or followers are. What are they interested in? Why are they interested in you? What do you have in common with them? What can you do to make their lives more interesting or just plain better. Got it? Okay, now go do it.
Here's the disconcerting part. At first, you won't notice much happening at all. But if you are strategic and focused in your online activities, amazing things will happen, including sales.
Again, Joshua Burbank is the artist responsible for all of this eye-candy. Go pay him a visit at his website. He's a featured artist at Ink & Alchemy and as usual, I am indebted to all of the artists who share their talent with us. I've also got things of the literary sort going on over at More Ink. Please join me.
*A note here. I don't think that you are required to enjoy managing your platform to be successful, I just think it will be easier. There are lots of people out there who don't enjoy it, but understand the value of building a platform and are very successful at it. These people take a strategic and focused approach and are aware that they need to be aware and vigilant. They manage it like a business and have appropriate expectations.