Starting from Zero: Building Your Platform (Part II)

(Continuing off part I)

So you’ve got a website you can show off and be proud of. You’ve figured out what the actionable step you want the viewer to take is, you explained and showcased your work or project(s), you’ve officially introduced yourself to the world and are patiently waiting for your inbox to fill up with inquiries, contacts, and feedback. Now what?

Unfortunately, the days of dial-up internet and personal homepages are a thing of the past. There is no such thing as a personal homepage going viral based on its quality or niche anymore, not without social media being involved. Your website is a tool – the established conduit of which to take action from – but not the end-all be-all answer to building your platform.

Now that you have (what is essentially) your online headquarters, it’s time to strategically expand yourself across social media platforms tailored towards your goals. But be warned, with great power comes great responsibility and many creatives turn to the darkside or find themselves hitting a wall when it comes to building their audience online.

This blog will go into the fundamentals of social media, its history, the different types and what genres they’re best suited for, and the pitfall many face when trying to obtain followers, subscribers, likes, etc.,

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Why is Social Media Important For Your Platform?

In order to answer this question, one must understand the history of social media. Today’s generation will never know what life was like pre-internet culture and the extra obstacles others faced when trying to find a business to purchase goods and services from. Phonebooks were the norm, magazines, newspapers, TV ads, e-mail, and mail were the go-to alternatives for advertising one’s business. With the boom of the 90’s there was a rise in ecommerce and companies establishing themselves online (at a time when it was deemed radical to operate that way).

More and more people were gaining access to computers and networks and suddenly there were more forms of communication than ever before. It was the early version of the internet culture we have today, but it was missing one major thing that is prevalent, now more than ever, in the present – centralized home page information sharing, a.k.a Social Media platforms.

Back then, if you were interested in a topic or genre such as films, games, or art (to name a few) you had three options for communication with others: message boards/forums, chat rooms, and visiting major websites that allowed you to leave comments. If you wanted to express yourself with your own website, you either needed to know the early form of web development with HTML and PHP (Which at one point was name Personal Home Page) or needed to find a host service dedicated to letting others create their own sites in a shared circle.

This advanced more in the late 90’s and early 2000’s with services like webrings forming to have a shared collective of individuals wanting to express themselves or their interests with their own sites in a social circle. By and large however, lots of people were still metaphorically on their own islands – it’s difficult to connect with people you simply can not find without the right links. Users made due with message boards (many of which can still be found today) but, in an age where text messaging as a form of communication was still seen as silly, many found communicating primarily online to be a perversion of how others are supposed to, so businesses did not focus on it outside of it being a ‘nice to have’ for information…unless you were in the adult markets that thrived on anonymity.

It wasn’t until the mid-2000s, with the rise of Google, Youtube,  Myspace, and cell phone accessibility/capability, that there was a notable culture shift. Millennials and young Gen X’rs were flocking to the earliest major prototype of today’s social platforms to connect with others. Myspace made it incredibly easy to create your own personal home page under their template, and it allowed others to find their friends to share data, post and comment on pictures, share music, etc., Couple that with Google’s search engine and it was never easier to find and share data with one another.

Recovering from the crash, ecommerce made their platforms on social media and operated, suddenly this ‘nice to have’ internet was becoming a viable alternative to advertising and sales for businesses. Major companies began to follow the trend. Though there was (and still is) an issue with online etiquette when it came to anonymity, the cultural shift of seeing online communication as perverse to a necessary convenience happened quickly from the mid-2000s to the early 2010’s. Sites like Youtube and Facebook became viable ways for businesses to advertise, creators found they could launch their multi-million dollar careers entirely online (looking at you Soulja Boy). Major businesses no longer saw the internet as an afterthought, but as their primary means to reach their customers and get a leg up on their competitors. Which brings us to today.

While there’s been plenty of social media platforms that have risen over the years (and more on the way), they all revolve around the same concept of having your own personal home page and sharing data with others. I’ll reiterate, no matter how you shape it or what technique is used, social media platforms of today are, at its core, personal home pages of which to share data.

What Social Media Platform is right for me?

When you understand the purpose of the core of social media, you can better know which platform(s) are best suited for your needs. Choosing a platform to operate on is like choosing a car (especially since it operates like a vehicle for your endeavor); you wouldn’t choose a Mini-Cooper for a heavy duty construction job, and you wouldn’t choose a Ford pick-up truck when you need to reach the top speeds of a Lamborghini. Regardless of what and how many you choose, you must understand one key principle – if you do not maintain it, it will look and operate very badly.

Social Media is a reflection of you and/or your brand. It’s a viewer’s first look at you or your work.  If your account(s) look abandoned or rarely maintained, it can lead viewers to mistrust or become skeptical that you’re legitimate. Suddenly your website becomes your saving grace for legitimacy and not the conduit of which to be actionable. If you can not keep up with 7 cars, do not obtain 7 cars; If you can not keep up with 7 accounts, do not obtain 7 accounts. Much like a car, you can do everything you need to do for your goals by just specializing, maintaining, and upgrading one vehicle – the question is simply figuring out what vehicle that is. 

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

Your choices are (but not limited to):

  • Facebook – Facebook is the top name one thinks of when it comes to Social Media and, though its had its fair amount of setbacks , Facebook is a social juggernaut that will be around for a very long time. They specialize in connecting others.  Regardless of what you do, obtain a Facebook page. It ranks high on Search Engines, it establishes credibility to you or your work, and provides the information to get to your site easily. With this, you can utilize Facebook’s many many functions and features to find others similar to you, learn about and go to events to network, and build community around it.
  • Instagram – This is a very visually focused site that would primarily benefit performers, speakers, artists, dancers, etc., If you do something that is pleasing to the eye on camera, Instagram would be a viable option for you. It’s not great for driving traffic to your site however if you want to do sales. Consider this more of a credible gallery and a way to showcase your work and what you’re doing.
  • Twitter – This platform was primarily constructed to be a “News first” site – something to use where you can share relevant information others are talking about. Great for keeping up with the trends and getting eyes on your services, should you be one that offers them. The problem with this site is that everyone and their cousin is sharing “News”, it’s difficult to stand out when you’re at the mercy of an algorithm or buried under useless posts. Use this platform if you’re going to be consistently engaged with your followers and have things to share, just don’t post anything you’ll regret later on.
  • Youtube – This platform is the reigning and undefeated go-to for video content creators. Though it’s extremely oversaturated with content,  it’s a quick way to link viewers to your work and showcase what you do. If you’re a serious content creator who wants to prioritize video creation, choose this.
  • Pinterest – I’m going to keep this simple. If you blog in any way, shape, or form, get Pinterest. It specializes in connecting those who are in niche’ markets. Though it does take more time to grow your audience in relation to the other platforms, it favors those who are consistent and engaging.
  • TikTok – You may come to regret not having a Tik-Tok in the next five years if you’re creative. While it’s true, the younger generation of Gen Z favors this platform, it is, currently as of writing this, the fastest way to grow your platform and reach a huge audience quickly. People love “new” and its format of short videos is being mimicked across Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, in the form of stories, reels, and shorts. It’s versatile enough so that you can still create engaging content even if you do nothing performance wise.
  • Linked-In – This is great for professionals. The purpose of this site is to share business information and connect with other professionals that you know so that you can invite them to like your page, endorse one another’s skill sets, learn and share events and opportunities so that you can build your connections. This is the easiest way to establish your credibility as a creative and it ranks high on search engines.

Extra Platforms for your Benefit

These extra platforms are for your benefit and don’t require as much weekly maintenance as the major ones above.

  • Deviantart – This is great for visual artists who want to share their work online and connect with people who enjoy the work or network with other artists. The site specializes in browse and search so that one is able to find others’ works and other artists that they would have never otherwise come across.  Also great for engaging niche’ markets to sell to or build a following off of.
  • Snapchat – Gen Z’s favor Snapchat for its ease of use. This is good if you can consistently make engaging content for you, your work, or your project. You can’t go wrong with a Snapchat/Tik-Tok combo if your targeted audience age is Gen Z/Young Millenials.
  • Blogger – The best way to establish yourself as someone who knows what they’re doing in their special field is to write a blog. Does not matter how short so long as the information you’re sharing is relevant to the audience you wish to reach and that you do it consistently (either weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly). You can create this on your website you made earlier, or have a separate website dedicated to it.
  • – Similar to creating a Blog, creating and operating a podcast is a great way to spread relevant information and network amongst those who share similar interests. You can do both (keep in mind the time commitment) and have them on your main site.
  • Writer – If you’re a serious writer, is you starter kit to getting started and joining a community of fellow writers who will give feedback on your work.

I reiterate that any ONE of these platforms can serve as your primary account of which to build a following and that you should only take on more if you’re committed to maintaining those accounts and constantly providing material for them. A lot of the successful business accounts seen with large followings have employees whose sole purpose is to operate and run those accounts and study the analytics of them (which we’ll get to in another blog) . You don’t want to end up having “Triple A dreams on a 0 dollar budget” by trying to mimic every single thing they do on every platform.

Step Two: Choose Your Platform

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels

As discussed above, we’ve gone over the brief history of social media to understand what it really is, spoke of what major platforms are available and what their benefits are, and have gone over the pitfalls. Remember, your social media account is a reflection of you, your work, and your brand. You don’t want to build a platform only to self-destruct and garner a bad reputation after all of your hard work, and you don’t want to leave your accounts abandoned as that reflects poorly on your brand.

In conclusion, I recommend choosing 1 major social media account and 1 minor one  that you’re going to commit to taking care of and growing your platform on to start out. You can always add more later on. It’s better to be great on 2 platforms than be mediocre on several. The common temptation is to branch out to all platforms to reach as many people as possible, but if you’re casting a huge net, you’ll end up catching nothing while multiplying your workload. Work smarter, not harder. Setting a goal of obtaining 50 followers on one account is doable, but across 7 (when the content has to be tailored for the market you’re reaching on that platform) it becomes very trying and time consuming.

Once you’ve figured out what social media accounts you wish to utilize, it’s time to get trained on how to best utilize them. These platforms will be your stomping grounds so it’s best to know and understand how they work to obtain the best results possible. Next week we’ll deep dive into how to utilize each social platform for effective growth. 

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Till next time!