the three key parts of your author platform framework

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One of my goals is to learn about author platform through study, trial and error so that you don’t have to.

If your tactics involve the actual tools you use (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), your strategy involves an overarching sense of how everything fits together: what Chris Brogan calls a simple presence framework or Michael Hyatt calls a social media strategy or many others refer to as a social media framework…and what you might come to think of as “that freaking platform thing.”

I’ve been playing around with my own sense of visualizing the different components of a social media framework/strategy and how you move through it.

Because you do have to move. If one of the first things you need to do is identify who your potential readers are, the second thing is to identify where they like to hang out…so you can go there and win them over. Your goal is to discover your Tribe — those people most likely to develop into your True Fans who will make a writing career possible — and gather them to you. And discover is an active verb: it doesn’t mean you can sit on your ass on your blog and expect magic to happen.

It also doesn’t mean you can spam people with invites to be your Facebook fan or push yourself at them in any way. It’s a slow and long-term process of seduction. The first issue is knowing who to seduce. Not everyone will respond to your charms, and that’s fine; you’re not interested in everyone. You want those with the magnificent taste to appreciate your work, your style, your voice, your content, all of which adds up to the experience of you online (otherwise known as your brand). Let it be a self-selected group. Show up, say interesting things, give people stuff that they actually want, be witty and attractive. Don’t be pushy. Pull them to you through the dazzling power of your charisma, your ability to engage and entertain (otherwise known as “offering value”).

Your strategy has three different layers. I am going to refer to them as your house, your downtown, and your suburbs.

YOUR HOUSE.

This is where you live on the Web and offer your books and services. It is your lair. It is where you wish to lure the hotties. Usually it’s your blog…preferably your self-hosted blog which no one owns but you.

You build and furnish your house with excellent content that is frequently updated and keeps people coming back. You must aim for quality and quantity. Your home then becomes the “meaningful social object” that people gather round, in what hopefully becomes a growing little community.

A blog is different from a novel, and the blogger plays a different role than a novelist. A blog becomes something that is co-created by you and the readers who extend your blog post and burnish it with their own insights through their comments. Comments increase the value of the blog post, which increases the “value of meaning” for the community, which increases the value for you. It’s like the circle of life. You enrich them, and they enrich you, which allows you to enrich them more, which enables them to enrich you more…and so on.

In other words, the more you give, the more you get (but you should not give just to get, because people see through that, and as soon as they think they’re being manipulated or marketed or sold to, they’re gone).

Give your face off.

So content creation leads to community which leads to collaboration which, hopefully, leads to collective action: your community supports your work, buys your books, and creates that awesome white magic known as “word-of-mouth”.

Yes, it’s easier said than done. And yes, it takes the kind of time that nobody has (I am writing this at 3 am while my kids sleep next door and downstairs). Which is why you have to genuinely want to do this. Passion finds a way.

YOUR DOWNTOWN

These are the places, the microsites or social networking sites, that are like the favorite cafes and bars where you go all the time. You become a regular and strike up conversations with the other regulars and soon everybody knows your name (okay, maybe not everybody…)

You go to these places to discover new potential tribe members and deepen connections with existing ones. Chris Brogan refers to these places as “outposts” and Jon Dale calls them “embassies”. (My downtown, for example, is my Twitter and Facebook and Livejournal). If people like you enough, are intrigued by you, and curious to know more about you, they’ll click on a link that you thoughtfully and conveniently provide in your profile that takes them to your house. If they really like you, they’ll keep going back to your house, and maybe bring a friend or two. They might even crash on your couch.

YOUR SUBURBS

These are the places on the outer edges of your involvement: you might not be a fully participating member, but you show up now and then and look around and listen to what’s going on.

You set up profiles.

These profiles do two things: they allow other people to stumble across you, and they allow you to join in on conversations you might discover while you’re there, or follow from another site. Some of these suburban areas might eventually get incorporated into your downtown (for example, I aspire to be more active on Goodreads and Youtube).

Evolving and developing a social media strategy allows you to be there before the sale: when your book comes out, you’ll have established enough of a (hopefully) influential and trusted presence that people will be willing to buy it. In its crudest definition, an “author platform” is the number of people willing to buy your book at any given time. It doesn’t happen overnight, or in a month, or in three months (Seth Godin puts the process at three years). It involves enthusiasm, exploration, and a hell of a lot of listening, which is so important it deserves its own blog post.

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Apr 6, 2010
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12 comments · Add Yours

Great post! I love your take on the way to go about building an online fan base… I think it’s such a truism that those who ONLY sell are sniffed out as fakes in two seconds flat.

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Great analogy, and yes, in the case of the neighbourhood, it’s very easy to tell apart the neighbours who are interested in having you ’round for tea, biscuits and conversation, from those who just want to sell you something.

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I’m not sure if I’m the best judge of this, as I’m rather a social media Methuselah at this point, but I think you’ve created a wonderful, grokkable way for people new to the program (but smart about stuff elsewhere) to start looking at the framework.

I’m partial to calling it a “universe” or an “empire,” depending on how playful—okay, *grandiose* I’m feeling on a given day, but I agree with Seth—the process takes three years, at least. It’s both harder and easier now, as there are so many people on the web: harder, b/c so many people are on there, doing it, and everyone’s competing for attention; easier, b/c there are so many more people out there doing it badly that the good stuff really stands out.

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Great post!

Well, I’m doing this thing by trial and error as well. I’ve been called “spam” a couple of times the past few months, and maybe based on some people’s definition I am spam. So be it. I consider spam the blind email offers for viagra and money making schemes that I’ve shown no interest in. I don’t invite people to be my friend (or join my group) who haven’t already shown an active interest in my subject matter.

Based in part off of the philosophies of this blog, I’ve made hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of new friends and potential tribe members. The facebook group I set up in January is currently just shy of 1,200 members and continues to grow 50-100 members a week.

I say “group” and “members” rather than “fan club” and “fans” because the distinction is important to me. I hope to have a fan club based on my work one day, but until then how can someone be a fan of mine? Instead, a group of people has come together with common interests as me and my subject matter–and that group has taken on a surprising and fantastic life of its own! I’m adding value to the world on an albeit small scale, but it gives me energy rather than drains me of it (most nights anyway). Will all these people buy my book one day? Nope. No way…but for every time I’ve been called “spam,” I’ve had dozens and dozens of compliments on the opening chapters of my novel, as well as “thank you” notes on inviting people to be a part of something they have a true interest in.

Thanks Justine for all your help and prodding along the way. Now you’ve inspired me to add a version of this comment to my putridly thin (of late) blog.

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Justine,

These metaphors are useful. I’m in a situation where I have a really nice “house,” but spend little time “downtown” or in the “suburbs” because they make me unhappy.

The inner battle I’ve been waging is trying to assess how much extra benefit one gets from doing twitter, facebook ,etc. (I’m abandoning the metaphors for now), versus just having a well trafficked blog.

What’s your take?

- Cal

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Great post, as always. The whole process is so involved, daunting & time-consuming that it’s helpful to see how other writers do it. Especially those tidbits about writing at 3 AM – that’s the stuff that can make you feel so much more connected.

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Great post! Your site is fab. :0)

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Applauding you wildly. I think that’s when you know you’re on the right track — when doing this stuff actually energizes and inspires you and is a reward in and of itself. Kudos!

Make sure you ‘spam’ me…

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Your house is damn gorgeous. I’m a huge fan of your house.

I think you’re absolutely right to play to your strengths, and your content (which is unusually in-depth and unusually excellent) and traffic speak for themselves, and there’s no point in doing what makes you unhappy. I also think that the academic (yet popular and accessible) nature of your books and blog, as well as your studious readership, makes you unique, so what might apply to others doesn’t apply so much to you.

I think you’re in the perfect position to let others evangelize for you — I would make it dead-simple for readers to not just save your articles to digg and delicious but also *share* them on Twitter and their own Facebook pages (especially since so many of your readers are students and live and breathe Facebook already). And because your articles generate so much discussion, it might be a good idea to get someone to manage an online community for you (whether it’s a Facebook group or fan page or Ning thing or Yahoo group or Google group…etc.) which could be like building an addition to your house, whether it’s another room or entire wing.

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You always inspire me, Justine, lighting the way, as I tippy-toe into the dense social media jungle. So far, I’m just five feet from where I started, a little intimidated by all that I have to learn, which is why your blog is so valuable to me. Marketing, public relations, advertising, all that business stuff bored me for years and now I find it’s all part of my responsibility as a new author.

Okay. Guess it’s time to change my attitude and make that business stuff, and my future blog, fun…when I can find the time! Thankfully I don’t have to make a living from writing fiction. I just have to make sure, it doesn’t feel like work.

Irv

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An excellent summary from the point of view of your particular idiom. I like that you get how much it is about giving people stuff (generosity is authority) and how important passion is (if you hate what you’re doing you’ll have to work twice as hard).

The formula is varied–people might conceive of their elements in different ways or even forgo certain elements altogether. What’s cool is that you recognize how you perceive and act upon the elements of your platform. I can totally envision it as the Justine neighborhood.

Hek, Mr. Rogers made a pretty good living off of his neighborhood–there’s room for many other variations of the exploration of that archetype. Keep on truckin’ Justine!

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Thanks for the tips. I’m not published yet, but I’ve been trying to build up a web presence (tiny as yet) so that when I am, I have a tool that will help me get the word out.

So far I’ve done a blog challenge, commented on others’ blogs and I try to regularly update my downtown people on each post of my blog. I’m trying to get new ideas for content that will not only pull in other writers, but more general readers as well. Then when I do have a book coming out, maybe they’ll be intrigued enough to read it. I’m looking for ways to offer them something. Not being published, it’s hard to find something to say other than to detail things I’m learning as I go.

Hopefully, those things will help someone who is even newer than me. :)

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