The key to building a strong Author PlatformThis is a guest post from the awesome Social Media Strategist Robbie Hutchins.

Robbie HutchinsRobbie Hutchins is a Social Media Strategist and founder of Miracle Worker Social Media. Robbie wants authors and entrepreneurs to be excited by the results of their investment in social media. She wants them to have an irresistible urge to see how their campaigns are going. She wants them to want to know what their daily stats show—how their goals are being smashed. And, she wants them to wish they had hired Miracle Worker sooner! Robbie’s innate knack for social media strategy and her passion for best-practice techniques is backed by over 25 years of experience. Robbie understands what technology users need to get the job done and also the mechanisms by which technology can provide the functionality to do it. Find her at http://www.miracleworker.com.au or @miracleworkersm on your favourite social media platform.

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding how to build an author platform. What exactly is it? Why do I need one? How do I start? This post aims to clear the confusion, answer your questions and set you on the path to building a strong author platform.

What is an Author Platform?

Your author platform is not just your website, or your social media, or your book, or your public speaking engagements, or your networking. It’s actually all of these things and more. (Sorry about that!) Your author platform is the combination of every way in which you connect and communicate with your ideal readership both online and off. It’s important that you’re not just scratching the surface and talking at your readers, but actually building relationships with them. The more you’re seen as someone they know, like and trust, the more likely they are to buy your books.

Why do I need an Author Platform?

Traditional publishers look favourably at an established author platform. It demonstrates your passion, credibility and commitment to your craft to have built your own audience. It’s impossible to build an “instant” author platform. The sooner you start growing your list of followers the quicker you will achieve a solid follower base. It may surprise you to learn that traditional publishers rarely take on this task for a writer. The responsibility is all yours.

If you’re planning to publish independently then building an author platform is even more important. If people don’t know about your book how are they going to buy it? It is best practice to promote your ideas and build a following virtually before you’ve even written the first word so that you have a solid group of eager fans waiting to purchase as soon as the first copies are available.

How do I start building an author platform?

  1. Create the best website you can

Start with a website so it can act as your base. You want to use social media accounts to send people here. Have a way to capture names and addresses in a prominent position so you can start building your email list. If you can offer an ‘ethical bribe’ to encourage people to sign up, perhaps a free short story or a download of the first chapter of your book, it will boost the number of names you collect.

While you may be limited by time, knowledge or money, the best advice I can give you is to establish the best website you can within your limitations. It’s an investment in your future as a writer. Over time keep making improvements. You can see some wonderful examples of fantastic author websites here.

If you’re not sure what to include on your website this great list of 11 essential elements will help.

  1. Set up your social media platforms

Social media is a great place to investigate what other authors in your genre are doing. Save your preferred username on as many platforms as possible so they aren’t registered by someone else. Tools like namechk.com or knowem.com make it easy to find out what is available. Set up a basic profile to hold your place. As soon as you can, set up a strong profile directing people to your more active social media platforms. Make sure your website address is clearly displayed on all of your social media account profiles.

Once you have joined a platform use it to network with other authors, podcasters, editors and others who can assist you in growing your business. Follow all the writers you love and pay attention to how they manage their social media. What are they sharing? Who’s following them? What posts are getting the most interaction? What hashtags do they use? Learn from their successes and mistakes. Apply their winning techniques to your own strategy with you own unique spin.

Remember that direct sales on social media is a big “no, no”. You want to introduce yourself, build relationships and direct people to your website where you can then get them to sign onto your mailing list or order your books.

  1. Select one or two platforms at a time and do it well

Think about where your key readers are spending their time on social media. If you’re writing historical romance, for example, Facebook would probably be a great place to focus on. Set up your author page separately to your personal profile and consider what will be of interest to your readers. Start posting interesting and helpful posts. What do your readers want to know?

Could it be worth investing five dollars a day in targeted advertising to attract your key demographic to your page and build up your likes? Ideally use the power editor where you can either target the audience of writers of books in the same genre, or members of book clubs, or a particular gender or age group. The more specific you are with your targeting the better.

Also see what Facebook Groups there are which contain large numbers of your ideal audience and get in there and participate. Be helpful and make connections.

If you write non-fiction, and your audience is mainly business people you might concentrate instead on LinkedIn. Like Facebook there are a multitude of active LinkedIn Groups on different topics and you’re sure to find several related to the topic you have written on.

  1. As you get one or two platforms performing well, move onto the next most relevant one

The key is consistency. You want to maintain the momentum you have on existing platforms. Put systems in place. Make sure you are being effective, posting regularly and plan and schedule your posts. Once all is running smoothly, start to investigate, plan and prepare for the next platform. Always be aware of your target audience (it might be different from one platform to the next), your ultimate goal, and how much time you have available.

It doesn’t mean you can’t use the other platforms. If you’re blogging you’ll want to promote your latest post on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, you should concentrate on building your following and posting regular, quality content on only one or two platforms at a time.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If the learning curve is outside your area of expertise you may be surprised by how effectively a professional can achieve these tasks. It could save you a huge amount of time and stress. An Author’s Assistant or Social Media Specialist can make the following tasks easy:

  • setting up a Social Media Strategy,
  • automating content curation
  • scheduling of content
  • producing eye-catching imagery, and
  • optimising your blog posts for SEO.

You can find Robbie Hutchins site here Miracle Worker.

If you haven’t built an author platform yet the best time to start is right now. I challenge you to do just one thing today to get the ball rolling. Post a comment to celebrate your success below this post. I’d love to cheer you on.