A lot of people advise you to use a blog to “build your platform” but what exactly does that mean? And more importantly, how do you pull it off?
In its simplest terms, your platform is your stage. It’s where people can find you and hear your message. It is your spot in the public eye. A platform helps you connect with your best clients, your super-fans, those people who will resonate with you.
Here’s how a blog can help you build your platform and find your people.
1. A Blog Showcases Your Expertise
A blog is a showcase for your talent; it helps you demonstrate your expertise. As you add content to your blog, people can discover the depth of your expertise; they can appreciate your original thinking and discover that you have unique strategies and tactics that can help them.
So many people are afraid of “giving away information” but the truth is if you don’t give away some information, people will think you don’t know anything. Think about what you do for people. Will a 750-1,000 word blog post solve their problem? Probably not. I can write a thousand words on how to structure a book, but it can’t possibly contain everything someone needs to know about how to structure their book. What it will do is show someone that I know different ways to structure books and that I am the person who can help them structure their book.
People who are worried about “giving away all their information for free” usually don’t have enough information to be considered experts. One of the best talks I ever witnessed was done by a man who laid out every step of what his business would do for you—he held back nothing. If you took notes, you could do exactly what his company did. At the end of the talk, people rushed to hire him because what he did was so involved no one wanted to actually do the work. It was much easier to pay him. And people did.
2. A Venue to Provide Social Proof
No one likes someone who is constantly tooting their own horn but you can use case studies from your work with clients as social proof that you get results. Choose a client’s situation that you know is a common problem, and tell their story. Define the problem, talk about what you did to solve the problem, and the net (happy) result for your client. People love to hear stories and seeing that you have helped someone in a situation similar to theirs provides evidence of your ability to help them.
Without naming names, you can use representative case studies or even testimonials from people to introduce topics on your blog. You could take a testimonial that thanks you for providing excellent customer service and use that to talk about why delivering over-the-top customer service is important to you. The testimonial from a third party provides the social proof that you deliver on what you promise without you standing there having to say, “Trust me. We give outstanding customer service.” Another person’s opinion (i.e., testimonial) provides validity to your claim
3. Help People Get to Know You
A blog is also an expression of your personality, whether you mean it to be or not. The topics you choose to write about tell people what is important to you and what you think is important to them. Your writing style—whether it’s relaxed or formal—reflects the tone you have when you work with people. Your general attitude about life and your work comes through in your writing. You can express your opinions, your thoughts, your general “take” on things that help people understand where you are coming from and more importantly, why you do what you do.
When you are posting on a regular basis, you capitalize on repeated exposure. Everyone with minimal sales training knows that people start responding to ads somewhere between the fourth and seventh time they are exposed to the ad. If you are doing a direct mail campaign, you need to plan to send at least seven letters, and most likely at least ten letters over a period of time so that people become “aware” of you. A blog does the same thing. No one notices your first few blog posts. But you keep putting them out there and using social media and emails to tell people you’ve got a new post up. By the third or fourth time you’ve mentioned your blog people start to think, “Oh yeah. I should check that out.” They probably don’t, but now you’re on their radar. Over time, more and more people will actually click through and read your posts. It’s cumulative. And it’s a process.
As people read your posts, they gain familiarity with you and over time, feel as if they have come to know you. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. Help them get to know you.
4. Up Your Standings in Organic Searches
A way to quickly up your organic search results is to add content to your site. Putting together a blog post, once you get the hang of it is a fast way to do that. The more posts you have that connect to what your ideal client is searching for, the more likely you are to come up in their search for answers. One of the best ways to find out what people want to know is to start typing a question about your topic into Google. It will automatically display a number of options. For instance, if you type in “How do I find a life coach” Google will automatically display things like “how do I become a life coach,” “how do I find a life coach mentor,” “how do life coaches work,” and “how do life coaches charge.” If you are someone who does life coaching, you might want to write a blog post on how life coaches charge or how they work. You might do a blog post that tells people what to look for in a “life coach mentor” since people are typing in that word grouping. Sure, it sounds weird, but if that’s how people search, then that’s what you should be talking about.
5. Providing Value and Triggering Reciprocity
Giving quality content provides value and triggers the law of reciprocity. Let’s start with providing value. When someone gives you something of value, whether it’s diamond earrings or a chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting (both of which bring me almost the same amount of joy, by the way), it’s hard not to like them. Gifts, small and large, dispose people to thinking kindly about you. So when you give information that helps people, when you add value to their lives, they are naturally going to like you, even if it is grudgingly.
Giving valuable content is really building up credits with people. Most of us know when we are nearing the bottom of our credits with friends or family: We’ve asked for too many favors without giving anything back. If we’re smart, we’ll start depositing credits back into the system by doing favors and going out of our way to be useful. It’s not a tit-for-tat system. Most people are not keeping score. (And you really don’t want to hang with the ones who are keeping score.) BUT… there is a general awareness of reciprocity or obligation when someone has helped you out.
That being said, even though you’re providing value, no one says someone is obligated to buy from you just because they enjoy your blog posts. It’s not a favor you can call in. It’s more along the lines of putting it out there to the universe and trusting that there will be some payoff in the future and it may not necessarily be a direct payoff. Sometimes things come around in convoluted and very indirect ways. So yes, reciprocity is in play when you provide value to people. Just don’t expect a direct return. Be cool.
Build Your Platform
A lot of my blog posts are not very strategic. I am a writer. I enjoy writing and sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, have some fun and hope that you have some fun reading the posts. Technically speaking, I should have been more strategic in building my blog. I should have been more consistent (I’m trying to be, honest!) and probably less chatty. (I’m kind of chatty in print. And after two glasses of wine…)
So, my advice to you, having done it the wrong way, is to say when you first start your blog, put up at least four posts to start. You want to add content as quickly as possible because the more content, the better your organic search results. You really start getting traction on your blog (i.e., more visitors) once you reach a minimum of 50 posts and better yet, when you hit 70.
If you are posting once a week, it will take a year for your blog to get noticed. You want to front load your blog. Post twice a week, even if you are doing one long and one shorter post a week. Get the content out there but don’t just put up a blog post because it’s Tuesday and you always post on Tuesdays. Make sure your posts have a point; that they answer questions your ideal client may have or give them some information that will make their lives easier.
The higher quality and more focused your content, the higher quality and better qualified your reader. If you don’t have a blog, start blogging today. If you do have a blog that’s been neglected, it’s time to re-energize it. A blog is one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways to build your platform and find your people. So get writing!