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Beginner’s Guide to Building an Online Platform

Image from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsesadl/files/2014/01/social-media-cube670x335.jpg

Image from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsesadl/files/2014/01/social-media-cube670x335.jpg

Most of my experience in the world of publishing has been helping friends and colleagues to get their work published, so I never had the need to create a social media presence for what I do. But when I decided to go pro, I realized that my business was going nowhere without an online platform.

Starting an online platform from scratch is a lot of work with little return, at least in the beginning. Nevertheless, in today’s digital market, it’s exactly what I had to do. It’s also exactly what many first time authors need to do, and so I thought I’d share the process with you.

Without further ado, here is my beginner’s guide to building an online platform:

Claim your domain name.

A domain name is how potential fans will find you on the web. You can choose from virtually any name or phrase, so long as it hasn’t already been registered. Many authors choose their book title as a domain name, but I suggest using the name under which you publish. That way you can create a separate page for each book and keep site maintenance to a minimum.

Build a web page.

Take a breath…this isn’t as daunting as it sounds. There are quite a few really good point and click interfaces out there. I like WordPress, but you can also use Wix or Weebly and forward your domain name to your site. Pages you might want to include on your site include synopses of your books including buy links, and a brief biography which lists ways to contact you. While a blog is not mandatory, it’s a good way to pique reader interest, particularly if you blog about writing and the writing process, and/or the subject and genre in which you write.

Claim your social media accounts.

Create a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Pinterest, Storify, and GooglePlus account in your name. If your name is taken, try adding the word “author” or “books” to it. Social media is a great way to publicize your work and draw reader attention.

Link your social media for cross-posts.

You can join your social media accounts to post to each other, which is a huge time-saver. By cross-posting, your blog can post to select social media for you, Twitter can post to Facebook and vice-versa. Same with GoodReads. Some websites (like WordPress) will even let you create a widget that shows your last few Twitter and Facebook posts on your website. GoodReads has code that will display your To Be Read list, or the title of the book you are currently reading in a sidebar, all of which can help make connections between you and your readers. Use a scheduling site like HootSuite to enable you to post during peak hours, if you can’t physically post at those times yourself.

Create social media buzz.

Post to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest regularly. I usually make an advertising post about once a week. The rest of the time I’m reposting materials about publishing and writing that I find on the web and that my followers might find interesting. I also post a notification to social media any time I add something to my blog or earn accolades on the web for my work. I reserve sites like Storify, GooglePlus and LinkedIn exclusively to promote posts about my own work.

Follow and friend like-minded people.

Search up hashtags for your genre and content on Twitter and follow a few of the people that post them. Join Facebook groups for writers and lovers of similar genres and content. Interact regularly by liking, sharing, and retweeting. Engage and interact with your followers and friends and they’ll follow suit. Before you know it you’ll be networking like a pro, selling books with little effort, which, after all, is the primary reason you embarked on the journey to create an author platform in the first place.

Do you have any other ideas for beginning writers wanting to set up an online presence? If so, share your tips in the comments below.