Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @MichaelHyatt. Michael Hyatt is the author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World (Thomas Nelson). It is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller. Michael is also the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the seventh largest trade book publishing company in the U.S. For more information, visit www.michaelhyatt.com, where he Hyatt writes about personal development, leadership, productivity, platform, and publishing.
SmallBizLady: Why is it important to have a platform?
Michael Hyatt: Today’s market is more crowded than ever before. To put it simply, there’s a lot of noise you’re going to have to overcome if you want to get anything noticed–whether it’s yourself, a product, or a service. A good platform allows you to cut through that noise and communicate directly to your best customers, your tribe. You can become independent from the old sources we used to have to rely on to get the word out for us, things like television, newspapers, magazines, etc. Sure, those things still work great, but wouldn’t it be nice to not have to depend on them?
SmallBizLady: Why do you think that compelling content and a meaningful platform are essential for small business owners today?
Michael Hyatt: “Compelling” and “meaningful” are words that must be used to describe what you’re doing. If people aren’t using those words, then they probably aren’t talking about you at all. And if there’s one thing a small business owner wants, it’s people talking about them. Talk leads to interest, and interest leads to conversion opportunities. If you don’t compel people, they won’t notice you.
SmallBizLady: What are some of the ways you suggest that people connect with their target audience?
Michael Hyatt: Find out what your target audience is interested in. What are some of the questions they seem to be asking? What problems are they having? Once you find out, answer them. Provide solutions. Become part of the conversation. This can be accomplished through blogging, contributing to social media conversations, or even creating something like an e-book.
SmallBizLady: Why do small business owners need to be clear about whether they are promoting a personal brand, a cause or a product? Can’t they do all three?
Michael Hyatt: It’s very important for small business owners who are getting started with building their platform to be crystal clear with what they are providing. If people are confused by your offer, they will not stick around long. So in the beginning it’s very important to be specific and focus on the best thing you can provide. When you gain more experience, more tribe members, and a history of success, then it becomes a bit easier to branch out and offer different products or get behind a cause. In the beginning, however, start small and start focused. Don’t create confusion.
SmallBizLady: How can someone get over their fear of being overwhelmed when building a platform?
Michael Hyatt: The key to not becoming overwhelmed is fairly simple–start. That’s it. Start today. It doesn’t matter if your website doesn’t look amazing or if you’re not exactly sure about every last detail of what you’re doing. Start building step-by-step. Determine what you can do today…and do it. Then repeat.
SmallBizLady: How do you leverage traditional media and social media?
Michael Hyatt: Social media is much less challenging than traditional media because there are no barriers to entry. There are no gatekeepers. You can get right to the source in a matter of seconds. But there are still rules. Never forget that the only way to become interesting on social media is to be a giver, not a taker. Don’t be the person constantly asking for a retweet or a link. Instead, offer yourself as a resource. Parade your value. If you truly are valuable, people will begin to notice. Of course, traditional media is still a powerful medium, and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to neglect it or forget about it as an opportunity. Just know that it is still largely about pleasing the gatekeepers–PR people, producers, editors, and more.
SmallBizLady: Why do you frown upon outsourcing your social media marketing?
Michael Hyatt: One thing social media absolutely requires is personality. You will not be successful with mediums like Facebook and Twitter without it. Audiences demand authenticity, and they can tell when your posts have been outsourced. Most importantly, social media is a conversation. It’s instantaneous. You must be on top of it and free from depending on someone else to address things for you. Outsourcing will slow you down.
SmallBizLady: How do you go about creating a platform?
Michael Hyatt: To have a platform you must first have a wowing product. In some cases, the product will be yourself. In others, it might be a book, a music album, clothing–the possibilities are endless. But once you have that truly great product, it’s time to get the word out. And that’s where creating your platform comes in. First, you will need to determine your brand. What does it look like? What imagery and design does it have? It needs to be distinct. Then, you’ll go about plugging that brand into all the appropriate online channels–a website, a blog, and social media (Twitter and Facebook are musts). Now, you’ll have gathering spaces for the people who are to become your tribe. Once you have their attention, it’s up to you to engage them by consistently providing compelling content that wows them. Obviously, this is a simplified version of the process, but it’s the big picture concept of creating a platform–product, presence, people, content.
SmallBizLady: How can a platform be used to build a subscriber list?
Michael Hyatt: The tried and true method is easy to understand but not as easy to execute–create great content. Whether it’s a free download, blog content, or a combination of both (which I recommend), if you offer great content and an easy way to access it, subscribers will follow. Just remember…it has to be great! Good will not be enough.
SmallBizLady: Is it important to separate a personal brand and a business brand?
Michael Hyatt: Here’s the thing–the line between personal and business is becoming increasingly blurry. In business, it’s OK to show a little personality…in some cases, customers even demand it. When writing a post for my blog, MichaelHyatt.com, I ask myself a question when considering a “personal” post: Is this relevant, and does it provide value? If the personal story is relevant to my blog’s topic (leadership), and it provides value, then I post it. The great thing is that personal content, when it’s relevant and provides value, will endear your “business” followers to you even more. They like you not just for the service or products you provide–they like you for you as well.
SmallBizLady: Can you explain how to ultimately turn your platform into a tribe?
Michael Hyatt: Once you’ve gained traffic to your platform, your job is to convert that traffic into a horde of raving fans, which is essentially a tribe. To do this, you have to accomplish two things:
- Offer an amazing product or service. Aim to exceed expectations. If you don’t wow people, they will not come back. There is simply too much competition to settle for anything less than great.
- Consistently provide awesome content. This is how you really capture them. They love your product, and now you need to let them love you. Give your customers great content and they will reward you with their attention and loyalty. They will become your tribe.
SmallBizLady: How hard is it to monetize a platform and where should you start?
Michael Hyatt: A lot of times, the hard part is getting past the mental block of “charging” for your art. When I started blogging, I never intended to make money doing it. When someone suggested I start placing ads on my blog, I balked. I thought it would somehow damage my integrity. But here’s what I realized: Professionals charge for their work. It’s what separates the pros from the amateurs. Musicians sell tickets. Artists sell paintings. So you really can monetize your platform without selling your soul. Here are a few good ways to start:
- Sell advertising
- Promote affiliates (the Amazon Associates program is one way I do this)
- Sell products (I started with two e-books)
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.