Whenever I talk with bloggers, podcasters, and other online platform builders, they express a common frustration: they are not seeing their audience grow. They seem to be stuck at their current level.
For example, one of the most popular features at Platform University is our “Member Makeover.” This is where my daughter Megan and I review one of our member’s platforms, including their website(s) and social media channels.
In preparation for this exercise, we ask the member to share his or her frustrations. The most common one is they can’t seem to gain any traction in growing their audience. They get to a certain level and plateau.
If this sounds like you, I have good news. It is usually for one or more of the following five reasons. (And they are all fixable.)
Reason #1: You Don’t Know Who Your Audience Is
We also do a fair amount of coaching and consulting. We always begin by asking, “Who is your audience?” By the time the client gets done answering, he has included everyone. Desperate to attract as much traffic as possible, he is afraid to exclude anyone.
However, success is found in the opposite direction. The more you narrow your audience, the more likely you will be to succeed. Why? Because people can better understand what you are about. You also will have less competition in narrower niches.
The key is figuring out who is following you now. I suggest you start with a reader survey, similar to what I do every year. I use SurveyMonkey, which is free for up to ten questions and one hundred responses. PollDaddy is another good option.
I ask the usual demographic questions about gender, age, household income, martial status, children, education, etc. But I also ask the deeper psychological questions about their habits, frustrations, and aspirations. These enable me to directly address their pain points and dreams in my blog posts, podcasts, and paid products.
And, whether you get twelve responses or twelve hundred, you’ll know more than you do now. Once you have compiled the data, you’ll want to create an audience avatar or profile. (Here’s one example of how to do it from Shae Baxter.) Most experts want you to narrow it down to one, though I think two or three are okay. The key is to talk to specific people with specific issues.
Reason #2: You Don’t Know What Your Role Is
Being authentic is essential to your success in building a platform. This means you must be true to yourself and communicate from who you are—not who you wish you were.
There are three possibilities:
- The Sage. This is the person who is a recognized expert in her field. She has something external to credential herself: a proven track record, an advanced degree, a bestselling book, a successful career or business, etc. She speaks with the voice of authority.
The Sherpa. This is the person who is the trusted guide. He has been to the mountain (however that is defined) and comes back to show the way. He’s made mistakes but learned from them. He can help you avoid the most common ones. He speaks with the voice of confidence and empathy.
The Struggler. This is the person who is the fellow traveler. She hasn’t arrived; she is in process. She reports on her adventures—and misadventures. She takes you along on her journey. She speaks with the voice of transparency.
The problem is many people try to write from the position of someone they are not. The other day, for example, I was coaching a person who claimed to be a Facebook marketing expert. Only problem was she had less than one thousand fans. She was posing as a Sage but wasn’t even qualified to be a Sherpa.
I encouraged her to change roles and share her journey as a “Struggler.” Though he writes as a Sherpa now, Pat Flynn initially started out as a Struggler, chronicling his journey from architect to successful online marketer. In doing so, he found an enormous audience.
Reason #3: You Are Chasing Too Many Rabbits
Recently, someone proudly told me they planned to launch their blog on April 1st and their podcast on June 1st. “That’s unfortunate,” I replied. “You just made it twice as hard to succeed at either.”
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “Man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” This applies to platform-building just as it does to most areas of life. The key to success is to focus.
I recommend you only build one home base (blog, podcast, or vlog) at a time. I didn’t start my podcast until I had been blogging for more than eight years. When I finally launched my podcast, the momentum from my blog landed my podcast in the iTunes Business Top Ten where it stays most of the time.
The same is true with social media channels. Do you need to be active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram? No! Pick the one where most of your prospective audience is found and focus on that.
Reason #4: You Are Not Building Your Email List
I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t get serious about building an email list until March of 2010—six years into building my platform. I provided a prominent RSS button on my blog and thought that was enough.
However, email communication provides many advantages over RSS:
- It is more personal.
- It provides more control.
- It facilitates two-way communication.
- It enables you to track your effectiveness.
- It gives you the opportunity to promote products.
- It provides an easy way for my readers to share my content.
Because of this, I created an e-book to use as an incentive to get people to opt-in to my mailing list. I gave a copy of Creating Your Personal Life Plan to everyone who subscribed. In just nine months, I went from 2,771 email subscribers to 30,855. This was instrumental in causing my traffic to double during that same period.
If there’s one thing all professional platform-builders agree on, it’s the importance of building your list. If you are not sure how to get started, read my post: “How to Get a Ton of New Subscribers to Your Blog.”
Reason #5: You Don’t Have a Support Community
I am blessed to live just outside Nashville, Tennessee, surrounded by other creatives. I am in a weekly supper club with several published authors, speakers, and artists. I love getting together to share our victories and challenges.
But most people don’t have this luxury. They may be the only person they know who does what they do. It’s certainly possible to succeed on your own, but it’s not easy. You won’t enjoy the benefit of shared knowledge and leveraged experience.
This is one of the reasons masterminds and membership sites like Platform University are so popular. Smart people realize they need a community to succeed and aren’t afraid to create one or invest to become part of one. I’m convinced nothing can help you gain traction faster than surrounding yourself with the right people.
Yes, it is possible to break through the barrier that has you stuck. But, you have to be willing to do something different to go to the next level. What got you to this point is generally not what you need to achieve the next milestone.