This is the third in a series of posts about some of the sessions I attended at BlogWorld Expo, New York 2012. The full series is:

Two of my friends, Joanna Penn and Jade Craven, have been reading Platform by Michael Hyatt recently – so I was keen to catch his session at BlogWorld. Having an “author platform” is crucial for today’s writers (whether you’re going for traditional or self-publication).

Michael has had a long career in publishing – he’s the chairman and the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and blogs about “intentional leadership” at

As usual, the post is based on my notes from Michael’s session. Unless text appears in quotation marks, it’s not a direct quote.

What a Platform Is – and Why Writers Need One

Michael explained that a platform is what you stand on to be heard. In the past, that platform might have been a physical stage – today, platforms are composed of people.

A borrowed platform, like a large number of Twitter followers, isn’t really a platform – it can be taken away from you. A really effective platform is one that you own, like a mailing list or a blog.

His publishing company, Thomas Nelson, are turning away potential authors who have great content but no platform.

Building Your Platform Takes Time

Michael blogged for four years before getting more than 1,000 readers per month.

In 2008, though, his readership increased dramatically, to 20,000/month. There were two key reasons:

  • He got onto social media, especially Twitter, and got the Thomas Nelson executive team to join.
  • Some big websites, like Huffington Post and Lifehacker, linked to his blog.

He emphasised that you need to build your platform before you need it. Don’t wait until you’ve written a book before you start blogging or get involved on social media.

The Benefits of Having a Platform

When you have a platform, you have:

  • Visibility – people are more likely to find you
  • Amplification – your readers/fans will share your message with others
  • Connection – you can engage in two-way conversations (e.g. on Twitter or in comments)

A platform means that you don’t have to get past the gatekeepers or spend thousands of dollars on advertising in order to have an audience.

So how do you get a platform? Michael explained that there are five key planks, or steps to follow.

Plank #1: Wow

You need to create a great experience. Give people more than they expect – give them an experience worth remembering.

You need to balance this, though, with actually “shipping” – getting your blog post / ebook / video / etc out there. Keep in mind that there’s often no correlation between how you feel about your work and how your audience feels about it. (You might worry that your latest blog post sucks; your readers may love it.)

Plank #2: Prepare to Launch

Michael said that launch “is a process, not an event.” You don’t just launch a new blog or book on a single day – you have to keep on putting effort into the marketing.

The most successful authors are the people who are willing to take responsibility for the marketing of their book. After all, you’re the one who has the strongest vested interest, and who understands the message of your book.

Set goals – and dare to dream. Write down your goals: you’ll begin to think differently and you’ll do different things.

Assemble a team to support you. Focus on doing what you do best. Hire help with tasks that aren’t your strengths.

Plank #3: Build Your Home Base

Michael explained that your social media framework has three core elements:

1. Your home base is in the centre. This is something that you own and control, probably a blog or website.

2. Your embassies are places where you have credentials and a regular presence. That might be Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or similar.

3. Your outposts are other areas where you and/or your company might be discussed, like other people’s blogs. You won’t have a regular presence in these places, but you can use Google Alerts to monitor what people are saying about you.

Plank #4: Expand Your Reach

You need to get comfortable with marketing yourself. Talk about what you’re passionate about – and focus on adding value.

Don’t make it all about you: focus on your audience instead.

Plank #5: Engage Your Tribe

A “tribe” is a group with a shared passion – and it needs someone willing to lead the group. Your “tribe” could include the people who comment on your blog, for instance.

Make it as easy as possible for people to communicate with you. On your blog, make it easy for them to leave a comment. You don’t need to reply to every single comment (that can often seem a bit weird – you don’t have that much to add to the conversation) – but you do need to be present.

Think of this as having a dinner party: you bring people together, and you stick around. You don’t disappear half-way through the evening!


Once you start, you’ll finish! Keep focusing on the next step as you build your platform.


This is the final post in the BlogWorld series … but I’m off to Winchester Writers’ Conference in the UK this weekend, and I’ll be writing some posts inspired by or based on that. 🙂 Make sure you’re getting the Aliventures RSS feed so that you don’t miss out – or pop your email address in the box below to get new posts straight to your inbox.


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