MN Biz Must-Read: Build the Online Platform That Will Guarantee Your Success

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October 31, 2012 ‐ By Andrea Williams

In October, Issa Rae, creator of the popular Web series Awkward Black Girl, inked a TV deal for a new comedy. I Hate LA Dudes was sold to ABC by industry golden child Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal on that same network. In focused efforts to delve into more comedic pursuits, Rhimes’ production company, Shondaland, partnered with Rae to develop the series.

It’s great news for Rae, whose ascent to Internet fame has been fairly monumental. She’s garnered media nods from The Huffington Post, Essence, CNN, and she regularly appears on BET’s late night talk show, Don’t Sleep. Even still, landing a TV show on a major network likely marks the pinnacle of her young career. It’s public validation of her talent and an opportunity to expand her viewing audience into the millions.

So what gives? Why was Rae blessed with such a plum gig while other equally talented filmmakers continue to plug away at their crafts in virtual – and perpetual – obscurity?

The answer is simple. Before Shondaland ever came calling, Rae had already established what few other would-be web stars have: a platform. By dictionary definition, a platform is simply a raised floor or stage. But in today’s online era – in which anyone with a laptop can create their own career success – “platform” refers to the ability to gather a group of like-minded fans and mobilize them in your support.

But building a platform isn’t just important for creative types like Rae. Anyone with anything to say or sell, from event planning services to women’s shoes, needs a platform. The Internet has, in fact, leveled the playing field, but the only way to take advantage is to set up a stage on the 50-yard line, grab the mic, and speak directly to  your audience.

If you’re looking for a blueprint for amplifying your own message, Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World is a must-read. As a source expert, Hyatt is uniquely credible. Before embarking on his own journey to the New York Times bestseller list, he launched the careers of numerous authors as a literary agent and former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. And as far as his own online influence, Hyatt has serious Klout: 300,000 monthly visitors to his blog, 75,000 blog subscribers, 145,000 Twitter followers, and 25,000 Facebook fans.

In Platform, Hyatt leverages all 30-plus years of his publishing career – with a heavy dose of Web 2.0 strategies – to create a step-by-step guide for folks looking to build their own tribe. For the tech-averse and social media-shy, he spends entire chapters discussing how to build a WordPress blog from scratch and how to send your very first tweet. But there’s plenty here for the Internet savvy, too.

Platform is divided into five sections (Start With Wow, Prepare to Launch, Build Your Home Base, Expand Your Reach and Engage Your Audience), and each chapter stands alone as a quick primer on everything from developing an online media kit to writing blog posts more quickly.

Hyatt shines in his ability to provide actionable bullet points that readers can implement immediately. He doesn’t just suggest that readers integrate public speaking into their platform-building repertoire – he gives detailed information on how to build a clean, effective speaker page for a blog or website. Hyatt discloses the model of the camera he used to film the welcome video on his own page, why he doesn’t think “Book Me Now” is the best call-to-action strategy, and the best Wordpress plugin to insert a calendar of upcoming events.

Platform is decidedly fluff-free, so for those who have yet to begin constructing their own platform, reading the entire book from start to finish can be a bit overwhelming. The downside to a meaty read like this one is that there is simply a lot to chew on.

Hyatt urges readers to press forward anyway: “This is where people often get derailed. They can’t see all the steps that will take them to their goal. So rather than doing something, they do nothing. You will never see the full path. The important thing is to do the next right thing.”

Your future depends on it.

MN Biz Must-Read is a new book review column brought to you by the Madame Noire Business page. Have a new release we should take a look at? Email us at tgarcia@madamenoire.com.

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