How many famous people—authors, entertainers, politicians—do you follow on social media? Statistically speaking, it is likely that you follow the Twitter feed for President Barack Obama, or perhaps another political figure. Justin Bieber has been in the news recently, and even amidst scandal, he continues to rack up new Twitter followers. Meanwhile, there are countless musicians, actors, and authors who share regular updates and behind-the-scenes photos on Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest.
There’s something in it for you, the consumer, to follow these social media accounts. It provides access to content you might not know about otherwise. Comedians like Stephen Colbert share jokes on Twitter, musicians like Rosanne Cash share exclusive photos and tour diaries on Facebook, and respected journalists and pundits maintain lively online dialogues by posting new articles and essays.
But of course, there is also something in it for these public figures to maintain these social media accounts. By cultivating a strong social media presence, these figures keep their names before the public eye, and they ensure that they are always looked upon as active and authoritative members of their respective industries. To put it another way: Social media has become the new author platform, for book writers but also for public figures of all kinds.
Changes to Author Platform
Certainly, the concept of author platform has changed. Once upon a time, readers connected with new books—or stayed up-to-date with their favorite movie stars or pundits—by tuning into The Today Show, or a late night talk show; then again, they may have simply scanned the pages of the New York Times. Today, most of us tend to go online, to social media sites and search engines, to find information about authors and public figures. The implication for these authors and public figures is that they have to be there, on social media sites, ready to engage new followers and fans.
Consider this concept as it applies to authors in particular. Once upon a time, authors promoted their books and reached out to new readers through PR initiatives, typically staged by their publishers. These initiatives may have included TV and radio appearances, magazine spreads, and more.
Today, things are different. The relationship between authors and readers depends on the unobstructed flow of information, via social media sites—with the authors themselves, not the publishers, setting the tone and ensuring plenty of engaging content. And no, this is not just something that applies to book writers, but to any and all public figures looking to engage the general public.
How to Mount an Author Platform
For public figures looking to establish credibility, then, it is vital to have an author platform in place. This is how you secure book deals. This is how you win speaking engagements and endorsement deals. This is how you develop industry recognition and prestige, and it is how you ensure you’ve got a growing list of followers and fans.
Some key considerations, as you develop an online platform of your own:
- You need to display some personality; it’s the personalization that makes all of this so appealing to your followers and fans.
- Be authentic, as well. You don’t need to be “salesy,” but rather you need to ensure people trust you.
- Show off your expertise! Whether you’re trying to land a book deal or simply to win more recognition within your field, make it clear that you know your chosen topic inside and out.
More than anything: Ensure that you’re regularly producing new content that will prove utterly winsome to the social media crowd.