Last month I joined Platform University, Michael Hyatt’s membership site for book authors and anyone else who wants to build an audience. This is an extension of his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.
Michael clearly knows what he’s talking about. He has over:
- 300,000 unique monthly visitors to his website
- 123,000 Twitter followers
- 92,000 monthly podcast listeners
- 70,000 newsletter subscribers
- 17,000 Facebook fans
Those numbers represent Michael’s “platform”—his online audience. If he wants to sell a book (or anything else), all he has to do is let his tribe know about it.
The whole notion of building an online platform according to Michael’s model is seductive. Who could resist?
Well, I did. I canceled my Platform University membership after one month. Perhaps my reasons will stimulate your thinking.
Begging the Big Questions
The bottom line for building a platform, says Michael, is creating great content. But after consuming dozens of interviews and webinars from Platform University, I found myself still wondering:
- What exactly is great content, anyway?
- How do you build such content in a systematic way?
- What is content anyway? How does it differ from the information, stories, instructions, and ideas that we published in books and articles before the Internet came along?
I never got in-depth answers from Platform University (or from anyone else who’s written about building a platform). These are tough questions—and easy to avoid.
Endless To-Do Lists
What I did get from Platform University is an urgent message to get busy. There’s so much to do!
Platform University abounds in suggestions for getting your domain name, choosing a web hosting service, setting up a WordPress blog, recording podcasts, tweaking your website design, and completing a hundred other technical tasks.
But if you have nothing valuable to say, then isn’t all that stuff beside the point?
Endless Demand for Content
One big problem that we face in the age of online platforms is the implicit demand to keep cranking out content. There’s always another blog post to write. Another Twitter timeline to replenish. Another Facebook page to update. Another Pinterest image and another Instagram photo to publish.
And that’s not just for today. It’s every day. For the rest of your working life. I’m seriously wondering whether Michael Hyatt—or any of us—can meet this expectation.
Is it any wonder that the Internet sounds like a vast echo chamber? Content gets retweeted, reposted, and regurgitated in countless other ways. Fluff abounds, clichés rise to the top, and the repeated strains become transparent. In the place of real ideas, we get lists, link bait, and self-promotion.
Can you believe that there were ever people like Margaret Mitchell, who published one novel (Gone With the Wind) during her lifetime? Or Robert Pirsig, who wrote two books (including Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance) and then declared that he was done? That kind of restraint is looking pretty good right now.
There Are Other Ways to Do It
While consuming content from Platform University, I fell into the assumption that Michael’s way of building an audience is the only way. To be fair, Michael doesn’t directly say do it my way or hit the highway. But then again, he doesn’t point to alternative models.
Yet those models abound. There are many people building an online audience, and they do it in different ways. See the following for examples:
- About My Personal Brand by Patrick Rhone
- notes on writing by Leo Babauta
- Confidence in Your Business by Leo Babauta
- How to Write for a Living by James Altucher
P. S. Michael’s a good writer. If you want to build a platform, first check out his excellent blog, which you can read for free.