The age of information has certainly reshaped the landscape of most of today’s popular industries. More musicians are cultivating success through online platforms such as YouTube and SoundCloud rather than through the traditional route of pitching a demo tape to a record label. Independent filmmakers are gaining support through crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter rather than hoping to spark the interest of a big-time movie producer. Actors and comedians are creating loyal followers on Facebook and Twitter, essentially bypassing the need for a talent agent.
In the world of authorship and publishing, us writers are experiencing the same type of revolution within our industry. While landing a contract with a publishing company is still a major step in the career of any aspiring author, the internet has certainly opened up many other avenues for writers to establish their own audience while waiting for their big break. In this article, we’ll cover several effective ways authors can build a solid, responsive, and supportive writer’s platform online.
Let Everyone Know You’re Here by Establishing a Permanent Residence on the Web
While there are many ways one can write their name on this endless sidewalk we call – the internet, the most important is to set up your own website. Social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter are great for interacting with your audience, but a website signifies permanence and foundation. A website, with a unique domain name, creates a home base for your audience to visit for updates, news, and information about you. It is a place for you tell your story and to be transparent about why you write, what you write about, and what your plans are. You have the freedom to be as creative as you like in letting the world know who you are as a writer. A good website with regular updates can have several thousands of visits per month – an audience stream that every author should harness.
In order to set up a website, you’ll need two main things: a domain name and a hosting account.
Typically, web builders purchase domain names through registrars such as Godaddy, and hosting accounts through sites like HostGator or BlueHost. Domain names can typically cost anywhere from $10 to $15 per year while basic hosting accounts can be as low as $50 per year.
But us writers are right-brained creative people who don’t like to deal with such technical things like domain names and hosting! So, luckily for us, there are some platforms which allow users to set up the entire thing under one account, eliminating the need for separate accounts and transactions. Website building platforms such as Wix and Squarespace have created user-friendly ways for non-technical people (like writers) to create their own website without having to worry about too many of the details. A certain level of building and creativity will still be required on the user’s part, but most of it is pretty straightforward and easy. Once a website is set up, you’ve laid the foundation for establishing a strong writer’s platform.
Utilize Your Bread and Butter
While there are sites such as Blogger and WordPress.com which are strictly used as blogging platforms, most websites allow blogging to be done directly on the website itself.
Blogging, article writing, or posting, allows authors to create a steady stream of creativity which audiences can be a part of. Consistent blogging at regular intervals has proven to be an extremely effective way of keeping an audience captivated and engaged in your work. Large businesses invest millions of dollars in blogging campaigns as an effective marketing strategy. Blogging is especially effective for writers because it consists of the exact medium that we’re known for, writing! It can be used to promote the release of a new book, ideas for an upcoming book, or more personal thoughts that you’d want to share with your audience. They key is to have honest, genuine posts that are released on a regular basis. With the utilization of social media, these posts can be propagated to a much wider audience.
Leverage Social Media, Like a Boss
With the vast variety of social media platforms available to us, selecting which ones to use for building our audience can be overwhelming at times. A good rule of thumb is to avoid spreading yourself too thin. Rather than occupying a relatively weak presence over a large number of social media accounts, select a few that you’re most comfortable with and focus on those. If you are already active on Facebook and Twitter, focus your energy onto developing those accounts rather than occasionally engaging with users on others.
Each type of social media platform serves its own purpose. Facebook is great for long-form posts which users can really digest and appreciate. Twitter can be good for short, frequent status updates. Instagram is good for more image-based posts. Be sure to be thoughtful in each post and do not ignore those who engage with you. The point of using a social media account is to create engagement, so don’t sleep on those comments! Follow influencers within your industry and create relationships with them. Join relevant groups which can open up more avenues for exposure.
But even with a small handful of social media accounts to focus on, the management of multiple accounts can still be overwhelming. Social media management apps like Hootsuite or Buffer create a way for users to manage multiple social media accounts under one user interface. A single post can be distributed among all of your accounts and comments can be managed directly from your home page.
The great advantage of social media is that you can use these platforms to direct traffic back to your website. Remember, your website is your home base so all of these other outlets should be used to funnel your audience back to your site. Be sure to promote your blog posts on your social media accounts. Encourage people to comment on, like, and share your blog posts. With time, effort, and consistent dedication, a loyal writer’s platform will start to grow.
Keep in Touch with Your Fanbase
A critical tool in your writer’s platform building kit is the usage of an email list. Some businesses argue that this is actually the most important aspect of online marketing. While social media does have the potential to reach thousands of new readers within a few short posts, there’s no guarantee that those readers will come back. Unless they’ve chosen to follow you on a particular social media platform, there’s no guaranteed connection established and therefore no way for you to reach out to them again. While a small percentage of viewers will follow you based on the quality of the post you’ve shared, the hard truth is that most of them will not follow you, even if they enjoyed it. That’s a huge percentage of potential readers whom are left to the wind. They key to establishing a strong and loyal fanbase is to develop an email list.
With an email list, you have direct connection to people whom you know are willing to receive information from you. How do you know this? Because they chose to sign up. An email list is a true representation of your most loyal followers. Anyone can “like” a page, but not everyone is willing to give up their email address.
Make it available for viewers to sign up to your email list by placing sign up forms on your website and on your blog posts. As your email list starts to grow, cherish it and treat it well. Don’t send emails too often, lest you come off as spammy and risk losing subscribers. Send quality updates regularly but not too frequently. Send special content that only the email subscribers have access to, as to increase the exclusivity.
Programs like MailChimp make it easy to manage hundreds of emails by organizing them and is worth looking into if you plan to take your email list seriously. With a strong email list, your writer’s platform is more likely to consist of loyal, engaged readers.
Get an Edge with Websites like Medium, Reddit, and Quora
There are some tried-and-true, well-established methods of growing a writer’s platform which have stood the test of time, and these methods should definitely not be ignored. But sometimes, in order to get that extra edge, you’ll need to be a little creative in your approach. There are dozens of helpful websites that aren’t necessarily geared towards writers but can be effective if utilized the right way.
Medium.com is a web platform where users can create an account, share their articles, and build an audience. As of a report in 2017, Medium.com gets an average of 60 million visits per month. If you can leverage their readership to drive traffic to your own website, there’s a goldmine of potential readers waiting for you.
Reddit is basically a giant forum with many, many sub-forums within it. Find a subreddit of a topic that particularly interests you or that is relevant to your audience and become a part of that community. Establish yourself as a regular contributor and occasionally post content from your website. Be careful to follow the guidelines and not to come across as to spammy or risk being blocked. Reddit has proven to be a great resource for many authors online.
Quora.com is a website which allows users to ask and answer questions. If there is a particular question that you happen to have the best answer for, your answer will get upvoted and remain there permanently. You can include links to your site on the answer itself allowing viewers to eventually find out who you are.
Be a Guest on Another Writer’s Platform
Another effective and established method of building a writer’s platform is to post articles as a guest on other writers’ blogs and websites. The key is to find a relevant, well-established blog that is willing to post your content on their site. By having your content viewable on a well-established, high-traffic website of relevant content, some readers will eventually lead back to your site and become readers of your own.
Before asking a well-known site to post as a guest, first make yourself known within their community. Comment on their posts and share similar interests. After a mutual relationship has be established, then offer a high-quality post for them to share on their site.
The internet is a goldmine of opportunities for authors to build their audience. Some of these methods such as social media, blogging, and email lists have stood the test of time and are should certainly be utilized. There are, however, methods like Quora and Reddit that seem a little less traditional but are giving writers an extra edge. And let’s not forget the really obscure methods that are yet to be discovered. However it is you’re utilizing the internet to grow your fanbase, if you’re consistent, engaging, and original, and have quality work to share, you’ll eventually establish a very strong writer’s platform.