There’s a proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” It’s true of so many things, isn’t it? We would be in such a different place if only we had started years ago.
Building a platform might feel a little bit like that, but it’s not too late. If you haven’t already begun, the best time to start is now.
Most of our platform-building efforts are like dropping coins and stuffing the occasional bill into a jar to save money for a vacation. Some actions don’t feel like they are adding much—you drop in a couple of quarters, a couple of dimes, a dollar bill. You pick up the jar and shake it and just a few coins jingle and jostle against each other. Man, at this rate I’m not going to make it to Florida for another five years!
Then you do something—or something just happens—making a bigger impact. It’s like stuffing a $20 bill in the coin jar. You see that and you think, Okay, okay…maybe this trip isn’t just a fantasy. Maybe I can get there if I keep at it.
So you keep at it.
A tweet might be a quarter in the jar, but then someone with a big following retweets you and a dozen new people click like, read your post, and share it. The quarter turned a $5 or $10 “profit” and all that goes in the jar.
You record a YouTube video, and a few people watch it. Maybe that’s like a $5 bill going in the jar. You post another, and it gains traction. Soon, people are eager for the next, and the next.
In time, with these efforts, your name is known by more and more people. They’re paying attention to you. They’re finding you in Google searches. Someone interviews you on a podcast. You get a speaking gig. You contribute a chapter to a book. You keep tweeting, you keep recording videos—whatever your main outlets are, you keep those going. It builds. It grows into something substantial.
Your website and social media accounts represent opportunities. A good practice might be to take some action of some kind each day. Some days are busy, so you tweet something. Some days offer you a chunk of time, so you write a short blog post or pitch an idea for a guest post somewhere. You share a link on Facebook and Pinterest. You upload an image related to your brand on Instagram. You’ll meet people in these places. You’ll interact. You’ll like something they’ve posted that relates to your work, or you’ll read their post and share it.
That’s how it starts.
That’s how it continues.
That’s how it adds up.
Now, let me caution you not to grab a handful of coins and hurl them out willy-nilly. For example, don’t sign up for every social media platform and dive in full force. My examples might have implied you have to be at all those places all the time, which isn’t the case.
Pick one that makes sense to you—one social media platform you’re already familiar with, where your target readers hang out, where you might already be seeing success. For example, if you have some speaking skills, think video and don’t worry about Twitter and Pinterest right now. If you love photography and you’re already enjoying Instagram, start there. Get to know it. The sweet spot is when you find something you love doing, and your target audience loves it, too.
Don’t give up if you don’t see results right away. In the beginning, you’re just tossing in nickels, dimes, and quarters. It takes a while when you’re only seeing coins. But, as I said, over time you’ll start to see the efforts accumulate.
At some point, you’ll hit a tipping point and cha-ching! Your efforts no longer feel like you’re just flinging a coin into a fountain and making a wish. It starts to feel meaningful as you interact with people and start to see the kind of content and support and stories they respond to. You tweak your content to best serve those readers, listeners, or subscribers. You write Facebook updates with intention and energy, and you tweet in your own voice.
Small investments over time pay off when it comes to platform-building. Now is the time to get started, so you can experiment, adjust, try new things, and watch it grow.
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- Your Writing Platform episode collection
- Ep 33: Start with Three Sentences (another post about small gains adding up)
Building a platform sounds overwhelming, exhausting. Where do you even start?
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