Why Building Your Own Platform Is Essential

It seems everyone is talking about platform these days. Musicians. Writers. Artists. With blogs and self-publishing and recording software, this has never been easier.

Photo credit: William Warby (Creative Commons)

If you want to be heard by hundreds or even thousands, you really have no excuse. Nothing’s holding you back. But if building a platform is so accessible, why aren’t more people doing it? Why aren’t people sharing their art? Maybe it’s not for a lack of resources. Maybe it’s lack of understanding — how to use the tools they’ve been given.

Maybe you can relate.

But first, let’s define our terms.

What is a platform?

It’s what it sounds like: A platform is a “stage” that gives you and your message leverage and visibility. It’s how you make your work matter, how you change lives. In the olden days, platforms were easy to identify:

  • If you were a musician, it was a record deal.
  • If you were an author, it was a book contract.
  • If you were an entrepreneur, it was a connection with a venture capitalist.

But nowadays, with blogs and Twitter and instant access to the world with one click of a mouse, it’s harder to tell. Now that anyone can build a platform for free, what’s the point?

Why build a platform?

There are some misconceptions about the word “platform.” Some dismiss it as ego-driven aspirations spawned by an obsession with celebrity. Certainly, there’s some of that going on in our culture. But that’s not all the word means.

Platform is inevitable.

Whatever you want to do in the world, you need influence to make your voice count. Even a homemaker or schoolteacher needs authority to lead. And that has to come from somewhere, right?

In the simplest terms, a platform is permission. It’s the right to speak to a group about a certain topic. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with wanting that. If you have something worth saying, you want people to hear it. A platform amplifies and legitimizes your message. It gives you authority to influence.

For example, if you were an opera singer, where you sang your aria would be as significant as how you delivered it. Singing it in a coffee shop versus a packed auditorium would undoubtedly affect the impact. The same is true for your work and message.

Any responsible communicator knows the importance of platform. It extends your reach and magnifies your voice. All so that you can make the most difference.

How to build a platform

There are three important aspects to building a platform; they are:

  1. Gain experience
  2. Demonstrate competency
  3. Generate buzz

The last one is the hardest; the other two just take practice. If you’re just getting started with your dream, whether it be writing or dancing, this is important.

You’ve got to get good.

Before you launch your marketing campaign, spend some time practicing. And thank God that you don’t have a huge platform yet; your lack of influence allows you to fail with grace (and little public attention).

After you get good, you need to demonstrate that you’re good. This can be a demo for your band or an essay for your writing. You’ve got to have “something to show them.” Knowing the right people isn’t enough; you need to have done the work, so that when an opportunity presents itself, you’re ready.

And then comes the hard part: networking. Platform is, essentially, people. It’s human beings giving credence to your art. How does this happen? Through influence. Which happens through relationship. And this is the difficult work of “knocking on doors.”

The best (and only) way I know how to build meaningful relationships is by networking — not the sleazy, let’s-exchange-business-cards kind, but the let-me-do-a-favor-for-you kind. If you do this enough, you’ll eventually win friends, fans, and followers. You might even earn a mentor.

At this point, you’re ready to build your platform. You’ll still need to decide what type of platform you want to build (which is another conversation). For now, suffice to say that if you have something to say, get a platform. It’s not egotistical. It’s necessary making change in the world.

Without one, you’re just another voice in a crowd of noise.

What do you think? Is building a platform essential? Share your thoughts in the comments.

84 thoughts on “Why Building Your Own Platform Is Essential

  1. I had some interesting conversations with editors and other writers about platform building for fiction writers at the recent ACFW conference. The consensus there was that even if you write fiction, you cannot ignore platform or the importance of being involved with social media. You must have a web presence in today’s ever-changing publishing climate.

  2. Working in the publishing industry, yes; having a platform is essential…if you ever want to publish a book, become a speaker, etc. It’s the new rules to the game, and you do have to play by them. I think you’re right on about generosity. If ever a company or an individual is behind on the influence scale, it’s most often because they’re still using old marketing: a one-way megaphone of information. But now it’s a dialogue, and to be listened to and heard, you have to serve others first. 

    I just wrote an article about similar issues for RELEVANT, and through this research what most stood out to me is the example of John the Baptist. This prophet most definitely had a platform, the gospels tell us whole cities came to see him, but he used his platform purely to point to another. He leveraged his influence to lead people to Christ. It’s not self-centered to build a platform, but we need to know what the platform is really for. 

  3. Great stuff Jeff. For some reason, as a Christian/Pastor, networking just always feels “really” uncomfortable. I know there’s building a platform is essential so maybe most of it is in my head. 

    But perhaps that uneasiness is a healthy tension that I should learn to manage rather than a problem to solve? In some ways I feel like feeling weird about my platform, brand e.t.c is the only way it won’t all get to my head. I know God has a real part for me in his story and I absolutely love it but at the end of the day, I feel like I am still just a small tiny voice in the grand scheme of things. Is it weird that I’m afraid of ever feeling too comfortable with my platform or taking what I have to say (though I think its important) too seriously? What do you think? Please don’t hold back. Challenge me if I’m way off. 

  4. I have learned from Fabulous PR Coach Pam Perry that one needs a platform for his business and if he wants to sell books ( which is a business). A key point is that you need to develop relationships with others by  sincerely wanting to adding value to others so that you can gain influence. The issue is how do you successfully carry out this aspect of developing a platform . The article reinforced the need for  me to develop a platform

  5. I wrestle with building a platform sometimes. I know that I have something to say and I want to say it, but also… isn’t it much better if my message spreads organically without much of my effort being involved? If I’m the only “steam” behind my message, then really, how good is my message?

  6. I’ve learned from personal exprience that if you’re going to write and self publish a book, you should start way ahead of the book release, building your platform. If you get your loyal, interested audience ahead of time, they will naturally buy your book or product. The key is you have to have a real passion for something and really want to help people. Most people can tell when someone is fake! Great post Jeff

  7. Jeff – Great post. I think you’re redefining (or properly defining) some terms that make many of us uneasy. I think when we hear “stage”, we define it as “glory”. And for someone like me – someone with a Christian faith-base, I wrestle every day with not stealing any glory from my Creator. With this post, I feel like you’re redeeming our concepts of platforms. Well done.

    1. I agree with what Gary wrote. I think we’re trained in Christian circles to think of promoting ourselves (or our gift or ministry) as inherently prideful and trying to take the glory for ourselves. But if we don’t have a platform, if we don’t have influence to speak into other people’s lives, we aren’t as effective as we could be. 

      I’ve seen this just in my college ministry. When I first started, it took me a long time to meet students and gain their trust before I could speak into their lives. Now that the platform has been built (i.e. – a recognized organization on campus that has existed for years), it’s much easier, because new students see that current students do trust me. The platform has given me the ability to speak into more peoples’ lives.

      Great post Jeff!

  8. I have learned from Fabulous PR Coach Pam Perry that one needs a platform for his business and if he wants to sell books ( which is a business). A key point is that you need to develop relationships with others by  sincerely wanting to adding value to others so that you can gain influence. The issue is how do you successfully carry out this aspect of developing a platform . The article reinforced the need for  me to develop a platform

  9. I’m finding it essential to have a platform, and difficult to build. Shoulda had my book published back in the day when small publishers would take a risk on unknown authors & actually put some money into marketing a book – when I wrote mine about 20 years ago. Now the markets changed – few publishers will consider an unknown, except subsidy publishers. You have to have a platform first – a sizeable audience. However, most speaking venues want “experts” to speak – and having a published work is one of the things that establishes you as an expert. Kind of a catch22.

  10. Excellent! Informative, encouraging, and well-written. I’m just getting started with all this (and need a map! I often feel like Dorothy stepping out of her tornado-blown house, into Oz). This is an amazing new world. I’m not much for talking about myself or what I do (so this is all very much a stretch!), but started a blog regardless– a multi-contributor format, though each blog is independent within a “web”– as a platform for my novel, The Angry Woman Suite. I will be visiting again soon (actually, the next time you post; I’m a subscriber now).     

  11. Hi Jeff,
    I am a friend of Jane Friedman’s and found you b/c of one of her tweets. Thanks for the really grounded and sensible post on platform. 🙂

  12. Hey Jeff, Thanks for sharing this. I continue to be challenged and inspired by your blog, so keep up the good work. Though I must make a confession  – I lack any confidence in my ability to build a platform and get people wanting to read my work. I have increased my readership this year but it’s still not what I would like. Do you have any encouragments or tips to keep your confidence high and to maintain motivation when things seem like they aren’t going well? It would  be so easy for me to be cynical here, and make some sarcastic cynical comment about how it’s easy for you to say this – I know that’s not a good place to be and I’m not going to be that guy, but something inside me does feel that sometimes. Any helpful tips?

    1. start with what you know. ask lots of questions. i’ll be blogging soon about different types of platforms. you don’t have to be an expert to build an audience. thanks for the honest comment!

  13. Jeff, great insight here on building a platform! When we seek to become more influential, there is is this weird guilt we get that we are doing things with the wrong motives. We may think we write only to get more fame instead of really making a difference for people. But when we truly believe we have something to say, platform building is inevitable and essential.

  14. Thanks for this.  I’m definitely in the 101 stages and not sure how to distinguish the exchange-business-cards networking people from those who are out there to help.  But YOU are clearly in the latter camp.  Wish I knew what to do for you beyond recommending your sites to all my writer friends (which I readily do).  

  15. I think a platform is very important. If you have a message worth sharing, you’ve got to get it out there somehow. 
    I’m learning a little at a time how to build mine.

  16. “Before you launch your marketing campaign, spend some time practicing. And thank God that you don’t have a huge platform yet; your lack of influence allows you to fail with grace (and little public attention).”  Loved this! 

  17. Re: “platform is permission.” 

    I can agree with that statement. The way I see it, if you want to reach an audience, any audience, you need a stage. For some, that’s a blog, social networks like Twitter. We’re there, taking the stage talking, interacting. Unlike a stage though, it’s not just you speaking at an audience, the audience is engaging and connecting back (hopefully). 

    Yes, I think building a platform is essential. And these days, it’s both easy and challenge at the same time. Sure, the tools are there. But you have to be different to cut through the noise. You have to be unique. You have to be you. And you have to find your audience. 

    1. Thanks, Ricardo. I agree. Of course, you can step up on that stage too soon or with the wrong motives and totally blow it. Preparation is an important precursor to platform.

      1. I would love to hear more about preparation from you, if possible.  I appreciate your keen insight and help.  I’m breaking into a field dominated by people who have 40+ years experience and there’s a lot of confusion and intergroup confusion.  Preparation here is key!

  18. Hey Jeff,

    You got me thinking. Building a platform is a nice way to express what we’re really striving for as bloggers or entrepreneurs, or musicians…One of my biggest challenges since I’m a kid is keeping relationships. I see how that plays a major role in how successful I am.Thanks for the post!


  19. Hi Jeff,
    When I first starting building my platform by setting up a blog, I didn’t have a clue what to blog about. It was only through joining Twitter and following other blogs like yours that I started to gain some inspiration. Now I have been blogging for the past nine months and although I don’t have hundreds of views a day, people stop by and leave a comment or two on my posts. So at least I know I am reaching out to some people.

  20. I’ve found that “Let me do you a favor” can often backfire if you repeatedly do so. As a graphic artist, I am now called on to use my talents for next-to-nothing.


    Jeff, great post!  I am inspired by your blog even as I prepare
    to set one up to “amplify and legitimize my message.”  I have gain a wealth of knowledge from
    reading your blog posts.  Thanks to you,
    I can boldly declare, “Yes, I am a writer and soon to be author.”  My Circle of Love Novel is titled
    “Unforgettable, My Love Has Come Along.”

    Thankfully, I have
    found my writer’s voice and my audience. 
    I have begun to build a platform (Twitter & Facebook) and the
    experience has been quite exciting as I “generate buzz.”  Phew! 
    Building a platform is a lot of work … but beneficial to all
    involved.  I really want to add value to
    others as I develop relationships with them. 
    Thanks for reinforcing the need for me to build a platform. 

  22. Jeff, I have been working on my book for the longest time, thinking that writing is a solitary process, never really knowing of all the help that is out there, never knowing that I could and should take steps to go public…helping others while helping my self. You Jeff came on my screen …”accidentally” and so did Michael Hyatt and other wonderful writers. All of you have enriched my life – have me running like crazy as well – and have taught me about the possibilities out there. Timidly starting with Twitter and Facebook I have made few but great connections, teaching but mainly learning. Slowly and surely I am building my Platform, and I can already see the difference it makes.  Thanks, Jeff, for everything you do for all of us out here! God be with you!

  23. I have been playing around with my blog for quite some time, trying to figure out how it all works.  I feel like I’m getting better, but am not quite ‘good’ yet.  Thank you for this post – it helps give me a timeline and some direction as I pursue my very own platform!

  24. Oh dude ! I’m starting to like your blog. Hope it grows a lot. And, by the way, it was awesome reading why building my own platform is essential.

  25. I’m so glad that I had not platform and no one read my first few attempts at blogging. Like you said, I failed without anyone noticing. Not that I’m great or anything now, but I have a modest following and I’ve learned a lot in the meantime.

  26. This is something I really struggle with. I am a published author and have a fairly well-followed blog, but my book and the blog are technical in nature. Sometimes I post non-technical things on the blog, but I rarely discuss things that are not in some way related to my subject matter for fear of turning off my audience.
    Sometimes I would really like to discuss other things on my site. I suppose I could start another site, but keeping up with this one is a lot of work (as you well know). How to transform my platform into something a little more personal…. I think about this a lot.

  27. Great article Jeff. I’m a member of Michael Hyatt’s Platform University and it has done so much to help me get started. I must also thank Jon Acuff and Dave Ramsey who were so instrumental in just helping me, “START” Your Tribewriters class has been a huge blessing. Armed with the knowledge you provided, I’ll be launching my first eBook on Kindle Direct November 1st. Sooo excited! Thank you! http://www.ladyjevonnahellison.com

  28. When I sent my first subscriber email out it got sent with the DEFAULT mail chimp language. Fortunately I didn’t have 10,000 subscribers (still don’t). But about 40 people got an email from me that said the following (yes, I copied and pasted it – it was THAT embarrassing…)

    Posts from Confessions of a Terrible Husband

    Designing Your Email

    Creating an elegant email is simple

    Now that you’ve selected a template to work with, drag in content blocks to define the structure of your message. Don’t worry, you can always delete or rearrange blocks as needed. Then click “Design” to define fonts, colors, and styles.

    Need inspiration for your design? Here’s what other MailChimp users are doing

    1. Hah! Oh, man. That IS embarrassing, but I can relate. I’ve done things like that, too. It’s so nice to remember in these times that you are not done yet. That you are a work in progress and tomorrow can be a better day.

      And days like that I’m thankful I don’t yet have a million followers.

      Be encouraged…

  29. I remember thinking at the very start of my writing endeavor that building the platform will be essential, but it will take a long time. I wanted it to be built and in front of me ready to use right now! Well, it doesn’t work that way, and for good reason. When we are just starting out (like I am), we need to practice and we need our audience to be small. Small audiences forgive our mistakes and encourage us to keep going. I am learning to enjoy this time with my small audience, to really get to know them and interact with them. I am learning to embrace this time to hone my craft. Then, if my platform grows over time, I will be ready. Great post, Jeff. Thanks for sharing.

  30. This is usually the killer because “an artist is never done” …

    Knowing the right people isn’t enough; you need to have done the work, so that when an opportunity presents itself, you’re ready.

    Done the work. When are you done? When is it good enough? Is it perfect yet? It’ll never be perfect. Just one more tweak, one more fix. No, not there yet.

    This is what’s painful. I’m great at “doing the work.” I’m less good at “getting it done.”

    1. I can relate. Makes me think of a conversation I once had with a writer where he wanted to know what it took to be good.

      “Good?” I said. “I don’t know. Good writing is subjective. What one person loves, another hates. I’m more interested in being effective. If there is such a thing as a good writer, it’s probably someone who never quits.”

      Skills can be acquired. Discipline can be developed. Bad writers can get better. So maybe the secret to getting the work done, to creating something good and releasing it into the world, is to just keep going.

      That said, I can totally relate to your struggle with perfectionism, Bradley. Here’s a post I wrote about that (and my dog): https://goinswriter.com/overcoming-perfectionism/

      1. OK, “Keep going.” I’m doing that: Write Every Day. That’s probably Step 1. Step 2 is … see Step 1. I’m going to keep going. It’s been fun so far. 🙂 (No, really!)

        Thanks for the comment, Jeff. Much appreciated and confirming.

  31. having a platform may be essential and I can see that it will be, but why is it so hard to do? I have been building ours for nearly a year now, and the little progress I have made has been worth it but hardly inspiring (yet!)
    If you can’t afford professional help (and I can’t) I think building any kind of platform is almost an impossible dream.
    But dreams are free…

    1. Interesting, Anita. It IS hard. Took me four years of failing before I found the right way to build mine. And even then, it took a solid two years to build the foundation. It takes time, but in the end the outcome is worth the effort. Keep going…

  32. Working ourselves through our first year hired by a charity organisation, to raise awareness and of course funds, is for us a challenging and humbling experience. It is much easier to think up what needs to be done than do it and spend the hours networking effectively . I am a knitter and it feels like trying to unravel a finished sweater. It takes patience to find the right thread end to pull. I hope and pray that one day we’ll find it and we will see some progress. Meanwhile we are encouraged by the fact we are obviously not alone in this. PS: I found you because somebody left your book in the waiting area of a car service station – the unthinkable promo you never asked for : ) but it works!

  33. It seems to me like building a platform has a lot to do with persistence and commitment. You can’t just build and then be done (which is so tempting for me to do). If I want to have a platform then it is a weekly and daily endeavor that takes hard work and loads of time.

  34. Jeff, I really appreciate your practical advice on building a platform. One of my regrets is that I waited too long to start due to my perception (misperception) that my corporate job deserved and required all my time. Now I’m making up for lost time with help from you, Michael Hyatt, and others. Thank you!

  35. Thanks so much for all your useful and clear step-by-step instructions, and encouragement, Mr. Jeff. It was a delight to meet you and hear you in person at Brentwood this weekend. Your humble, honest, and approachable manner is inspiring.

  36. When we launched AgentPress earlier this year, we launched from scratch. Meaning, we had no email list to market to. So, we designed a landing page, wrote several PDF reports, and build our mailing list. We grew a mailing list (from scratch) of about 3,000+ names prior to launch. When users signed up, they got a new PDF report every couple of days. Then, we launched with a webinar on how to build a Hyperlocal website that works.

    I’m happy to say that our launch was a success! But only because we took the time to build that list … our permission asset.

    So if there’s any advice I could give someone, it’s just that… Build your list early. And nurture it. It’s the best way to build/grow your business!

  37. Thanks. I appreciate the advice/guidance. I’m just starting down this path myself and it seems to me that establishing that platform and the associated audience must be a heck of a lot easier for writer’s of non-fiction where you are selling people on your expertise about a particular topic. Am I alone here?

  38. A platform is essential, but in my mind you need a message/voice first. Otherwise you are building something without a goal in mind and placing the cart in front of the horse.

  39. You suggest doing a favor for someone to help build a network of peers; however, when you’re first getting started you don’t really have anything to offer except your voice and views. So could you elaborate a bit more as to what you mean by favors? A couple examples would be great.


    Visit my Deadly Magic teaser page to read the first chapter of my novel. While you’re there comment on my blog for a chance to win a Kindle Fire.

    1. I’m an author. As a newbie I offered my blog as a place for people to promote their book, both old hands and newly published authors. As I got more experienced I helped others with promotion. I made friends and started to build a network.

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  43. I believe building a platform is essential for writers getting the word out there about their work. It’s a beautiful means for writers to introduce themselves to the world, and gain followers among those who relate to the topics, themes or submatter the given writer is talking about. It impacts interest also in the genre of literature written by the given writer. I believe everything mention in this article is most relevant in being an overall success in the writing profession. I intend to apply the principles discussed in this ariticle to my own craft as a writer, to further improve upon myself as a writer.

  44. I will tell an example. With your popular own brand you can
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