97 Ideas for Building a Valuable Platform

Chris Brogan speaks

2012 is the year where social media oversaturation hits hard. We will scale back on our participation in social networks, and we will most certainly scale back who we choose to follow as sources. This won’t be because someone is bad or good. It will be based on whether the connection with that person adds value to the stream of information we’re cultivating or not.

In determining how to deliver value and stay relevant and visible in this new landscape, I’ve written down 97 ideas to help you build a valuable platform. Note: some of this thinking comes from writing a new book with Julien Smith that isn’t out until Fall 2012. Want some up front hints? Read this post.

97 Ideas for Building A Valuable Platform

Start Somewhere

  1. Don’t fret as much about the technology. Don’t have a blog? Start one at WordPress.com or Tumblr.com. If you want more flexibility, get your own WordPress blog (affiliate link) by clicking the 4th option on this page.
  2. What are you passionate about? What is useful to others? These two thoughts combined are your best bet at defining your platform.
  3. You might be the “little drummer boy,” worried that what you have to say isn’t worthy. Everyone has something to contribute, especially if you remember to be the real you and not a copy of others you feel are successful.
  4. Get in the habit of writing daily, even if you don’t post daily. Start with 200 words. Then 300. The current best bet for a blog post’s length is between 300-500 words. You can get that.
  5. Remember that there are all kinds of platform-making choices. You can do blogs, video, newsletters, social networks, and many more avenues. What you can’t do is do ALL of those well. Pick a few and work from there. One, maybe two, is a good start.
  6. Don’t be afraid to consider video or audio as part of the mix. We are inundated with text. Why not give all those shiny new smartphones and tablet computers something to consume?
  7. The simplest of messages is often the one we need to hear the most. Paulo Coelho has a world record for how many languages and countries his book, The Alchemist, has been translated into for consumption. The real core of the book is about love and how all things are essentially the same.
  8. People always worry about how often or rarely they should post. The answer is “how often do you have something worthy of tapping into my attention?” Do it that often.
  9. It’s hard to create consistently without inspiration. Read often. Keep your eyes open. Be wary of how your world offers you stories every day.
  10. No matter what other tools you use, make sure you have a website that is your “home base.” Everything else is an outpost. You can spend more time on the outposts, but your goal is to encourage a visit to the home base for a furthering of the relationship.

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Embrace Brevity

  1. We are in a consumption society. People can barely read a tweet. Keep everything brief. Note how a numbered list helps with this? Do similar things. Think bite-sized.
  2. We tend to overwrite. Most people’s first few paragraphs are throat-clearing, and their endings are weak. Try cutting from the beginning, and making sure the ending of what you write lands well.
  3. Short sentences rule. Read The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. You can’t not write like her afterwards.
  4. In video, the goal is under 2 minutes, unless it’s a speech or an interview. A trick: you can break up videos with your own “commercials.”
  5. People can barely read tweets. If your blog post is super long, make it worth it.
  6. Writing commentary about other people’s ideas is great – occasionally. Start formulating your own brief ideas.
  7. Want to master brevity? Learn how to create useful posts on Twitter. It spreads to other mediums quite well. Participate in a few hashtag chats like #blogchat on Sunday nights (US time).
  8. If you can say it with fewer words, do so.
  9. Think of ways to “chunk” your content, so that people can consume it. We’re consuming more and more on mobile devices. How will you serve that marketplace?
  10. Email newsletters were born to be brief. One “ask” per email is plenty.

Video. Video. Video

  1. Find a video recording tool and start using it. It can be your laptop. It can be a standalone like the Kodak PlayTouch. Whatever. Just start recording. Practice getting comfortable. Delete the first dozen until you feel like you can look at the lens.
  2. Get a YouTube account. You can use any other platform you want, but you must also use YouTube. It’s the #2 search engine in the world. Why would you NOT use it?
  3. Practice recording daily. Practice publishing weekly. Even if it’s just a few minutes. (It’s better if it’s just a few minutes.)
  4. Remember that brevity rules. 2 minute videos (or even shorter) get much more play and have many more views until the end than long videos. Yes, interviews are a different beast. Break them up with “commercials” or other ways to segment them.
  5. You can edit just fine in iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. If you graduate to Final Cut Pro or Sony Vegas or whatever, great. But don’t worry about that at first. Just start with the simple and the inexpensive.
  6. AUDIO is the secret to better video. People forgive a lot of visual mess if you have solid audio.
  7. How I learn more and more about video comes from watching and dissecting how others do what they do. Find interesting video shows (or TV shows) and figure out how they get what they get.
  8. Remember: start somewhere. You don’t have to do amazing video. You have to start telling a story that reflects you, and that is helpful to others. This is the core of a humble platform.
  9. Interviews are a great way to get started in video, because you can ask others to talk about themselves. Learning about others is often helpful to people.
  10. The more you practice with video, the more you’ll see rewards. We are a visual race, we humans. But don’t forget to add text in the post that contains the video.

Ideas Drive Platform
Julien Smith and I are writing a book spends a lot of time talking about this. It comes out in fall 2012.

  1. If you’re the same as everyone else, how will we notice you? Ideas need contrast to make sense.
  2. The best ideas are the ones people can take and make their own. Give your ideas “handles” and let people take those ideas with them when they go.
  3. If you can clearly articulate your ideas, even simple ones work well.
  4. Sharing other people’s ideas helps show that you don’t feel you know it all. (Humble, remember?)
  5. Sometimes, a question makes for a great idea. I’ve learned plenty from admitting I don’t know something.
  6. One amazing idea trumps a lot of little ideas. And yet, usually really little ideas can be amazing. Sir Richard Branson’s biggest business idea is to keep his companies small. For a long time, only the airline bucked that trend.
  7. To come up with great ideas, read and listen to other people’s great ideas. To make your ideas great, share them as often as you can.
  8. Hoarding ideas is like stashing ice cubes under your mattress for later. Use them when you get them, and share them liberally.
  9. Never worry that someone else “stole” your idea. Ideas are free. Execution is what makes you money. I’ve met countless bitter people who “invented Facebook” years before.
  10. We love learning from people who have interesting and positive ideas. It’s harder to keep an audience, if you’re forever in the negative and griping camp.

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Be Yourself

  1. The more I act like myself, instead of like what I thought the world wanted, the more successful I become.
  2. Realize that there’s a “hot mess” line, meaning that you have to filter the “you” that you put out there a little bit. People don’t want to hear every woe and misery in your life. (Most times. Dooce not withstanding.)
  3. Realize that being yourself means you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Embrace that.
  4. The “yourself” that most people want you to be is the one that they can learn something from. And yet, if that’s not what you want to be, disregard me and be yourself.
  5. Part of being yourself is untangling from other people’s expectations. This is a very difficult matter, and yet important to building your platform.
  6. “Be yourself” doesn’t mean be only about yourself. Connecting with and caring about others is always a trait that earns more attention.
  7. It’s great to have a lot of passions. When displaying this via your platform, try to tie them to a larger storyline so that people understand how they connect.
  8. Never let your shortcomings become your reasons why not. Richard Branson is dyslexic. Ryan Blair went from gang member to millionaire success story. Excuses are Band-Aids on wounds that don’t exist.
  9. Marsha Collier said it best: “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”
  10. Start where you are. Lots of people worry that everyone’s so far ahead. Those people? They started somewhere.

Humble Is Better Marketing

  1. It’s better to focus on helping and creating useful information than it is to seek and share praise about yourself.
  2. Promoting others does more for your reputation and reach than promoting yourself.
  3. Share other people’s great work, and create great work. Yours will be shared, at some point.
  4. Leaving comments on other people’s sites with your links and promoting your stuff is poopy. It smells of desperation. Don’t do it. The only exception is when you’re invited to do so.
  5. Ask about others first. The most famous people I’ve met do this and do it well. Both Sir Richard Branson and Disney CEO Bob Iger asked me about me before I could start my interviews with them. In both cases, they were sincere and interested. Learn from the big dogs.
  6. The more you care about the success of others, the more you will be successful.
  7. Being humble isn’t a marketing plan. It’s a requirement for doing human business.
  8. Humble doesn’t mean “forgotten,” nor does it mean self-destructive. If you’re too humble, that’s also called “invisible.” Realize when the right times to chime in might be.
  9. Yes, occasionally, it’s great to pat yourself on the back.
  10. Remember that praise and criticism are the same: other people’s thoughts that shouldn’t sway your overall mission. (We tend to accept praise but loathe criticism. Learn to loathe it equally.)

Your Three Roles

  1. Whether or not you want to be, you are now in sales and customer service, along with whatever your main goal or drive might be.
  2. If you want your platform to succeed, you have to become comfortable with selling. Sell yourself. Sell your product. Whatever you’re looking to do, learn how to be open, clear, and honest with how you sell.
  3. Customer service (and use this term broadly) matters. If you’re selling something, serve those who are your customers. If you’re hoping to sell, realize that how you treat your prospects is how you should treat your customers.
  4. Marketing is part of sales. If you’re not finding ways to promote (humbly!) your ideas and your goals via your platform, you’ll not get the chance to have sales.
  5. Listening and responding are core to customer service. It’s amazing how many people miss opportunities simply by missing a reply. (Happens to me, often.)
  6. The old “ABC” from Glengarry Glen Ross was “Always Be Closing.” The new ABC is “Always Be Connecting.” Networks are what make selling easier. Your platform is part of how you network.
  7. Customer service also means sometimes learning who isn’t the best customer. It’s a tough moment when you have to let a customer go, but often times, this leads to improved success. (Tread cautiously here.)
  8. Most small businesses split their time in thirds: 1/3 prospecting, 1/3 executing, 1/3 serving your customers. That’s a good model for us, too.
  9. If you’re doing it right, all three roles complement each other. We buy from people we know. A platform helps with that. Serving the people you care about, your community, is just what comes with the territory.
  10. No matter how busy you are, if you’re not doing one of your three prime roles, you’re not working on your business or your platform.

Overnight Success

  1. Building a platform takes time. Years. But you have to start somewhere.
  2. Doing the work requires more time and effort than not doing it. Unemployment is also easier than working.
  3. No one ever hands you success. Even those stars you sneer at, saying “but they had ____” , really have to earn it.
  4. Success, as I define it, is the ability to choose how you spend your day, and a full belly.
  5. It takes a lot of “kitchen table” time to find ideas that can bring you success. But you need to test those ideas out at the “lemonade stand” to know whether they have any play in the marketplace. And ultimately, the beauty of this platform you’re building will be that it provides a “campfire” around which you can gather and further develop the community. (Something that Julien and I have been musing over for years.)
  6. There are very few successes in the world that happened as solo acts. You need a team, a network, and a lot of goodwill.
  7. Success doesn’t just show up. It comes in tiny molecules daily. If you didn’t work today on building success, how will it come to you tomorrow?
  8. Success is also about knowing what not to do, and what to cut out. Success is about stripping down to the core of what you can do for the world. This takes work.
  9. Never mistake popularity for success. There are plenty of popular people who still haven’t made it.
  10. Success never comes to those who don’t put in the work. If this seems like a lot of repetition, it’s because this one lesson is often skipped over.

What to Talk/Write About

  1. Write about your potential audience or buyer more than you write about yourself.
  2. Sometimes, the best posts or videos come from the frequently asked questions people have.
  3. Share more than just a few tiny tidbits. People know if you’re trying to lure them in deeper.
  4. Interviews make great content, but only if you ask great questions.
  5. Product and service demos can be interesting.
  6. Testimonials are good to talk about, but ESPECIALLY if you can highlight the hero, your customer, and not your product. Meaning, talk about a successful ____ customer, but don’t talk as much about the product as you do them.
  7. Personal posts can make for really great content. And by personal, I mean, connect people with who you are and what you are about outside of your professional role. What else are you into?
  8. Point out the great people in your community. Posts or interviews really make this happen.
  9. Deliver instruction. Teaching someone how to do something never goes out of style.
  10. Don’t forget to do the occasional series.

What to Avoid

  1. Any post bragging about how great you are is a wasted post. You want to feel proud, but it’s just hard for people to feel it with you, unless you’ve built the relationships first.
  2. Posts that are selling, but that are masked such that they don’t appear to be selling aren’t good business. If you’re going to sell something, be clear about it.
  3. Try never to say “you guys.” Address one person, a very important person.
  4. Try never to write about us and them.
  5. Want to wow people? Don’t write nasty posts about your competitors.
  6. Don’t worry about link-baiting. Worry about becoming a trusted and valuable resource.
  7. Before you blog or shoot video in anger, rethink whether it’s worth it.

In the end, it’s up to you. Yes, this will take work. No, this isn’t simple. Yes, there will be mistakes. But I feel that the world is shifting from simply “use of social networks” into “seeking of value.” This is some of the way you can attain that.

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