Building your platform – Part I

megaphoneSomething I run into time and again is this concept known as Building Your Platform. I’ve decided to provide some useful bits of knowledge I’ve acquired through a series of blog posts.

What’s a platform?

For starters, what is a platform anyway? When it comes to writing, your platform is the place where you can get your message out there. It includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • blogging on your own site
  • social media postings
  • public speaking engagements
  • anything else you can think of where you are in front of other people

(Like that last one?)

In this day and age, if you want to put anything out there, whether it’s a novel, a tech book, or some new fangled solution, you need a means to reach other people and share it. People are really happy that compared to ten years ago, it seems like a few platforms already exist. We all rush out and jump on Facebook or Twitter, and start broadcasting our stuff. Hoping it will pick up.

Guess what? That effort may fall flat, because it’s not the ideal situation.

“If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” —Andrew Lewis

When we use Facebook or Twitter to put our message out there, we are confined to their rules, their look and feel, their priorities, and potentially, being shut down if we do something that violates their terms. In essence, we are not in control.

google-searchThere’s another nagging issue to deal with: SEO. It stands for Search Engine Optimization. Those are fancy words for “How Google finds you when other people are searching”. Basically, if you spend five years building yourself on Facebook and THEN decide to launch a website, you have to start over. Google won’t look at all your content on Facebook when it evaluates what is on your site.

Best thing you can possibly do: start your own website. Today. Yesterday. Get it?

Start your own website. Blog periodically. Build up your name and reputation there. Then, in five years, you won’t suffer the shock of wanting to move your business off someone else’s platform onto your own.

Building a platform

So we’ve discussed what a platform is, and perhaps I’ve convinced you that it’s time to start one. What now? The next step is build your site. Not get on Facebook. Not get on Twitter. Build your site.

Why? Because at first it will look hard, and you may put it off. I guarantee that if you put it off today, you’ll do the same tomorrow, and five years will pass by. Stop what you’re doing and build that site.

But how? See those cool ads on TV for Wix? Looks real nice. Hold it there TV advertising sucker. One must heed the ancient lessons from softwareland.

“Don’t spend effort on undifferentiated heavy lifting.” –Ancient Internet Secret

What does this cryptic, esoteric expression mean? If you’re goal is to sell books or products then don’t waste your time building a website. Instead, pick the easiest, most ubiquitous option that meets your needs and get back to your product.

Translation: Don’t waste hours/days/weeks building a site with Wix or whatnot. Instead, stand up a WordPress site and be done with it.

Around-the-webWhy the venom you ask? Wix looks great on the TV ads, but if you’re spending time moving boxes around on a site, you’re not building your product. WordPress can be stood up in hours. A handful of plugins and you’re ready to go. You can pick a freebie theme today, pick another one tomorrow, and change the theme again next year. Retooling a website using anything more complicated than that is wasting time. And it will continue to waste time for years to come.

I know how to build websites from scratch. Believe me, WordPress is the bee’s knees when it comes to standing up any sort of e-commerce/blogging platform without writing code!!

Setting up a WordPress site

Okay, I could go into the process of standing up a blog site, but guess what? WordPress is so popular that every hosting service provides as a 1-click installation option. Pick the name of your site (mine is “Greetings Programs”), the URL (greglturnquist.com), and off you go.

P.S. In the same spirit as owning your site, it’s also good to own your own domain name. Domain name is the bit before the “.com” (greglturnquist for this site). Since a “.com” domain only costs about $10/year, this is totally worth it. It will be a core piece of your brand that you own. (BTW, stick with “.com”. There are other suffixes, but they can cost a lot more or be somewhat irrelevant. Find one that’s not taken and scoop it up.)

What you will need after that are plugins. And I’ve prepared a nice list for the ones I suggest key for a decent blog/e-commerce site.

WordPress plugins

I have taught a seminar on standing up a WordPress site. I recommend it for any of my friends and readers interested in becoming a writer. In short, I highly recommend the following plugins as a nice basis:

  • Akismet – filter out spam from comments (free base)
  • Contact Form 7 – create forms so people can email you (free)
  • Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – track/display traffic to your site (free)
  • Jetpack – stats, socialize, publicize, and lots more (free)
  • Thrive Leads – build your email list with A/B testing (one time cost of $67/one site or $97/unlimited sites)
  • Yoast SEO – helps you do SEO right (free base)
  • WP Simply Paypal Shopping Cart – if you want to sell any products directly from your site (free)
  • Custom Banners – create banners and groups of banners with hyperlinks (free)

The ones that say (free base) come free but with upgrade options. The base level may be hunky dory in the beginning. When you are raking in thousands every month, perhaps the upgrade options will be suitable.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of plugins, and guess what. You don’t need most of them. These are key. The rest is building good content over time. Learning the ropes.

In the next article of this series, we’ll dive into other aspects of your platform and how to tie them in with your site. See you there!

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