In parts 1 and 2 of How to Quit Your Day Job and Follow Your Dreams we discussed understanding your why, and what kinds of goals you should be setting. Today we’re talking about establishing your platform.

Welcome to 2012. If you’re going to put yourself out there, you have to build a platform. Your platform is your soapbox, your megaphone to the world. What exactly it looks like is entirely up to you. Sometimes all you need is an email address, others may find they need to be on every service imaginable. Here are some of the guidelines that I’ve discovered both in research and practice:

Who is Your Audience?

There are a lot of options out there, and to really leverage social media properly, you have to know your audience. Do you need a blog to unpack your ideas, or would the conversation focused Twitter be better? If you’re uploading videos, do you want to be on YouTube where the crowds are, or do you need the more the professional Vimeo? Do you need a tumblr account? Pintrest? Noise Trade? Take the time to do the research. Every platform appeals to a different crowd.

You also need to know what kind of content your audience wants. When we started the Macedonia Films blog, we thought we’d fill it up with search engine friendly how-to’s, filmmaking guides, and creative process articles. After a few lack-luster months, we realized what we were doing wrong: as filmmakers, we need to appeal to fans of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and not other filmmakers and entrepreneurs. We decided to focus on the latest films, comic cons, and funny rants. Things couldn’t be better.

Get Started Now

Don’t put off setting up your social media accounts. Start fleshing them out with seed content right away; make sure there’s something for people to engage in when they visit your new profile.

It also takes Google (and other search engines) at least six months to properly index and link to your site. You need to factor that into your short-term goals if you want people to be able to find you when you’re ready to launch.

You should also consider starting an email newsletter list. Sign up for a reputable service like MailChimp. DO NOT abuse people’s inboxes. One email a month is already borderline too much. When people give you their email address, treat it like a diamond; don’t share it with anyone else, and shred any physical email sign up forms when you’re through with them.

Be Consistent

It’s all for naught if you aren’t consistent… and I mean 100% consent. Last time we skipped a blog post, our readership immediately cut to a third of what it was, and it took weeks to recover. Think about it. Do you remember the last time you checked out a band or product online, only to discover that they haven’t updated their news or blog in over six months? What did that feel like?

If you want to capture people’s attention you have to be consistent. What does that look like for you? Different platforms will have different requirements. Blogs and social video sites like YouTube tend to favor 3-5 posts a week. On Facebook and Twitter, we feel people only need to hear from us once or twice a day at most.

You want to post regular content, but don’t over do it. Annoying your followers with too many updates will drive them away. Be sensible and remember that you’re providing a service to your audience. You are there to serve them.

Be a Friend

This really should be point #1, but I wanted to save the biggest secret for those that are committed enough to read this far. The real trick to establishing yourself in this day and age is to develop relationships directly with your fans. Times are changing, especially in the music and film industries. Direct-to-fan marketing and distribution is becoming the norm. Don’t believe me? Google Louis CK, Joss Whedon, and Derek Webb.

If you want to build a strong following, you have to focus on building real relationships. You’re establishing a digital tribe. Take the time to create worth-while content for people, content that’s created for them, not content created for self-serving marketing purposes. Get involved in the comments section of your blog. Don’t put off responding to tweets. Take the time to get to know your Facebook fans.

Audiences today are sophisticated and damn smart. Don’t think you can pull the wool over their eyes. Build up a strong community around what you do, and people will want to support you and see you succeed. Why?  Because that’s what people want for their friends. Use your platform to dole out cleverly disguised marketing verbiage, and you’ll find you’re just another voice lost in the din.

Your Homework:

In the comments share what your platform looks like. What sort of interactions do you want to have with people? What services are you going to use?

Extra Credit:

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but give Michael Hyatt‘s Platform a look. Michael’s a platform guru who’s eager to share.

Also visit copyblogger, they have a lot to say on this subject.

Dan Baker

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Dan works out his social anxieties by producing and directing films. He's a proud New Mexican, and prefers green over red.

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