An increasingly-common question I encounter is “What is a platform?” A platform is where you share your message with the world. It might involve literally standing on a stage and speaking, but it’s meant metaphorically for the most part. Book publishers expect an author to have a platform already in place before they’ll offer the author a book contract. It’s become at least as important as the book is, because a good platform is what sells books. Writers aren’t the only ones who need online business platforms, however. Anyone who wants to build an online business does, too.
Online business platforms
Some examples of online business platforms: a website, a blog, an Etsy shop, a CafePress store, a television program, a radio show, and a podcast. In this post, we address these different kinds of online business platforms. What are they, and what are the advantages of one over another?
Website or blog
In case anyone’s not familiar with either of these terms, a website is a collection of web pages you can access through your computer, phone, or other online device. A blog is a specific kind of website. “Blog” is short for web log, and although they started out as online journals, blogs have changed dramatically and are now used for all sorts of purposes. This site is a blog. It has a page with a list of blog posts, and several static pages. Static pages are pages that don’t change, or don’t change much, as compared to a blog page, which changes with each new entry. A home page, about page, and contact page are common static pages on a site/blog.
No matter what other platforms you make use of, you need your own website or blog, and not one of those “free websites,” either. The danger of “free websites” and free blogging platforms deserves a post all its own. It’s important for you to own your brand and you can’t do that with any site you don’t control.
Social media for selling
Social media sites are immensely popular, with hundreds of millions of users. They’re used for business as well as pleasure. I currently get most of my business through them, but it’s not wise for anyone to limit their promotional activity to those sites. The rules can change and those platforms can even disappear entirely, leaving you in a real lurch.
Imagine having a thriving business just dry up overnight. Not a pleasant thought, and you can prevent that by having your own website and email list. That’s the reason there’s a sign-up box to the right. If you haven’t signed up for our periodic tips and updates, please do so now. You benefit and will be able to keep getting value even if facebook dies, and it’s free to sign up.
Etsy and CafePress
Several friends of mine have Etsy shops and CafePress stores. These and other sites like them are wonderful platforms, with a few caveats. Relying on websites they don’t own is breaking the “own your brand” rule. Having their own website in addition to having accounts with those online stores is smarter than just having a storefront on those selling platforms, no matter how successful those online stores are for them. You still need to promote your online store, though you may get some business without doing that.
To bring buyers to your own website, you might be able to put a link to your site in all of the listings you create and emails you send. Then, if/when those selling outlets no longer exist, or are no longer beneficial for you, your customers may go to your website instead. Gathering email addresses of customers (if allowed by the selling platforms) is even smarter, because if/when you’re no longer selling on those sites, you may be able to email your customers and let them know to go to your website for future purchases.
I say “might” and “may” because some sites don’t allow any contact outside of that site. Check the terms of service (TOS). If you’re a customer on any of those sites, you might want to get your favorite suppliers’ email addresses, if the rules allow, so you’d be able to keep purchasing products you love in case anything changes for them.
TV program or YouTube channel
Have you ever wondered if you could be on TV? Twenty years ago, it was exclusive and expensive, but now…you can if you want to. There are plenty of television channels out there, and some are looking for content on a regular basis. It’s something you can look into on your own if you want to.
A YouTube channel is an option that’s open to anyone. You simply record your video and upload it. One thing you should know is that it takes about an hour to upload one minute of content there. If you have a ten-minute video, it will take most of the day. It’s not your computer or your internet connection that’s the problem. Millions of hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every day, and it’s slow going, but many people know it’s worth it. I would just set it to upload, and do something else for a while.
If you have video editing ability, or know someone who does, you have more options with your videos. You can cut out any mistakes, and add a musical introduction or any special effects you might want. If you can’t edit your videos, you can take one of two approaches: script it and practice before recording, or just record it, goofs and all.
A possible drawback to YT video channel: it can take time to have an effect, and it’s unpredictable. That can be said for many options, however. Use good keywords in your description, to help your video(s) be found by viewers. Not all of your videos need to be about your business. Funny or cute videos, especially those that contain animals or children, tend to be viewed more times than most videos do.
Radio show or podcast
This is a wide-open world now, too. Many people are producing podcasts and online radio shows to showcase their expertise, establish credibility, and gain customers/clients. My friend Cliff Ravenscraft, aka The Podcast Answer Man, has created a tutorial that shows you how to get your first podcast online, for free.
You can use a radio show or podcast to reach potential customers and clients, to share your expertise, or establish yourself as an authority in your field. You might want to do a few short podcasts, with simple, easy-to-implement ideas for your listeners to try. Cliff Ravenscraft recommends making your first podcast series about something that is not your “main thing,” so you can get a feel for it, and learn a little before you do one for your business.
You don’t have to use all of the online business platforms that are out there. You might want to have your own website and just one other platform at first. That might be all you ever need, but knowing about the others is good.
What are your initial thoughts on this? Which online business platforms do you think you might use? Share in the comments below.