Platform vs. online presence = one and the same?

August 4, 2010

I hate all the emphasis in the publishing world on “platform.” I even hate the word itself. I think it takes away from what writers should be focusing on: writing.

But the reality is, platform is important. I get that. I get that platform is vital to selling books.

Yet I wonder if we’re all confused about what platform really is. Or maybe I’m the one who’s confused. Whenever I hear writers talking about platform, they’re saying how many followers they have on Twitter or how many comments they get on their blog or how many friends they have on Facebook. All of the emphasis is on social networking. And we seem to be striving for quantity, rather than quality… but that’s another post.

I see platform as more than cultivating an online presence. In my mind, platform requires branding yourself as an expert in something and having a means through which to reach potential readers to share that expertise. Creating a platform is far more difficult than creating an online presence.

But maybe I’m overlooking something here. What do y’all think? How much of platform is online presence? Are platform and online presence one and the same? Is it possible to have a platform nowadays without an online presence?

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    15 Replies to “Platform vs. online presence = one and the same?”

    • Wendy says:

      Thinking on this. Platform seems like it has a lot more to do with connecting–actually making a connection with others and maintaining that communication than just being “out there” and visible.

      Still learning so much on this.
      ~ Wendy

    • I get the exact same feeling, Alexis.
      Everyone goes on and on about platform. Does that mean I should be aiming for thousands of followers on twitter and thousands blog views? Should I add that kind of information to a query? And more importantly: is that all?
      I feel quite confused too. When I’m engaging on social media I’m guilty for not being writing. When I’m writing, I’m worrying I don’t have a good enough platform to sell what I’m writing. It certainly makes your head spin.
      Would love to hear everyone else’s thoughts on this…

      • Alexis Grant says:


        If you’re using your social media time productively, I don’t think you should feel guilty. There are lots of ways to build up your writing career other than putting words on the page. I learn so much through my interactions online, and that makes me a better writer — and helps me make the connections I need to make a salary so I can continue to write.

        It does take some work and trial & error though to figure out HOW to be productive online!

    • PurpleB says:

      I totally agree and have been saying it for two years now, I believe quality is better, although I have built myself up, it does not matter whether you have 200 pages or 50 great posts and good read is what makes people come back. For instance, this post! thanks hun great

    • Karen Walker says:

      I think you are right on, Alexis, about platform being what you stand for, rather than # of followers. Your platform would be your expertise on solo travel, your time as a journalist, what you’ve learned about social media. Mine is my spiritual and emotional journey of healing.

    • littlehousesouthernprairie says:

      In ideal world, it should be about quality. and sometimes quality does win. but i do think online presence is not about quality and is a popularity contest, and one that gets results — results of sales that is. not the result of good writing. i’ve read a few books lately that had very splashy/active/”engaged online stuff going on, and … boy, maybe it was just bad luck, but talk about some mediocre books. but who cares what i think, because the most mediocre of them all became a best-seller because of the online presence. sales really are about pure numbers online, whether you call it ‘presence’ or ‘platform’ or whatever. but being a GOOD writer and producing a GREAT read? nothing to do with numbers online.

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Wait, weren’t you trying to get us to sell you on Twitter? I think you just convinced yourself 🙂

        I like your point — that writing is one thing, having an online presence or platform is another. But the latter can complement (or sometimes even compensate for?) the former when it comes to sales.

    • Peggy Frezon says:

      In my understanding, “platform “is all of the ways that you can market yourself and your book. Online presence is certainly a part of it. But in my opinion it goes way beyond this. Your pub creds count–what have you written, where published and who is reading it? Newspaper and media interviews on radio and TV are helpful. Are you an expert in some area? If so, how big is your audience? How do you spread your message? Do you give lectures or workshops in your area of expertise? For you Lexi, your travel experience can be part of your platform. For me, owning a large variety of pets is part of mine. At least, this is my understanding of the vast, complicated and somewhat unlikable word platform!

    • I work for a publisher and you are RIGHT! It’s about positioning yourself as an expert and connecting with people who view you as an expert. Social media is just a means of engagement, just like the telephone, and helps you connect with your platform. You platform building activities including social media, speaking, teaching, consulting, writing articles, and so much more. I go into more detail in this post , but you are dead on sister!

      P.S. I love how you have reinvented yourself and are going after something unique and amazing. I’m inspired by your story!

    • I think you need to find the mix between quality and quantity. I have just over 1000 twitter followers but I know at least 200 of those are bots. Probably more. I don’t count that 1000 as a significant figure.
      I do take more note of the hits on my blog and the comments because those interactions are usually more meaningful and people don’t tend to hang around and comment on the blog unless they are investing at least a little of their time in you.
      Still, if you aren’t making any kind of presence it is going to be hard to build those quality interactions. So again, finding that mix between being everywhere and being meaningful online needs to be observed.
      Thanks for sharing such an interesting post.

    • I think your answer may be in the very word “platform.” A platform is something used to elevate you above everyone else so they can see whatever is going on. In my mind, an online platform is no different; it’s the array of digital tools and techniques used in a way that elevates yourself and your product so that people can see what you have to offer.

      Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear the word “platform,” I automatically think “promotion.” An online presence seems to be a more relaxed approach of showing up to the party, having a cocktail, and participating in the small-talk of the community.

      I think where the two differ is that people going after a “platform” tend to purposely drive towards elevating themselves above everyone else in a particular niche so that people notice them, their expertise or their products.

      Interesting and thought-provoking post.

    • jessiecarty says:

      I think platform is about connecting with you audience. Some publishers might be fooled by 1000 followers and such but I think they should look more at how many people you actually interact with, those are the people who are gonna by.

      look at this blog post and the number of comments? That says more to me than 2000 followers on Facebook or Twitter 🙂

    • Caitlin says:

      I couldn’t agree more with your observations here. I made a point about this on my blog a few weeks back, that sometimes it gets very exhausting to read publisher/editor blogs and to see how they harp on platform, and to go into writer’s communities and watch the aspiring authors frazzle themselves over building a platform, when what we really should be doing is working on our manuscripts and developing our craft and our voice.

      Platform is obviously important, because it shows you can be relied on for the promotion of your final product, but to spend much time focusing on your platform when you haven’t even finished a manuscript seems like a waste of time. Yet I feel like I see way too many aspiring authors doing just that.

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