I’m currently in the last stages of editing and finalization for my newest book, Welcome Home: The Author’s Guide to Building A Home Base Online, and I’m excited about the possibilities for a book like this.
Many people email me or call me asking questions about building platforms, using social media, and other “Home Base”-related things, and this book is a culmination of most of the answers.
But I know that there will be some people who don’t read it, or some readers who stumble across this website for the first time, wondering what’s it all about. For that reason, this post will be a “quick and dirty” guide to building a platform online, and while the book is (justifiably) larger and more in-depth, this post should be a good primer or outline version.
Let me know if I’ve left anything out, and I’ll either add it here or point you in the direction of the book!
Building A Home Base Online
A “Home Base,” first of all, is not an extension of you–it is you, as you exist online.
It’s your brand, your identity, and your business, and if you’re an author, understanding this concept is crucial. You can’t ignore the importance of having a solid brand platform online, especially in today’s fast-paced electronic world.
So if your brand platform (your Home Base) is you, it should go without saying that you’re going to want to present the best version of you as possible. In other words, your brand platform should look great and be easy to understand for your target market.
Designing your Home Base
I use WordPress (the self-hosted version). I’ve used other systems, and while most have their pros and cons, there just simply is no reason not to use WordPress–it’s the best, and it works well. If you want more information about why I choose WordPress for my clients’ websites, my own websites, and anyone on the street who’ll listen, send me an email or message. Of course, there’s a more in-depth chapter in Welcome Home about WordPress and why I love it for building platforms.
For the remainder of this post, I’ll assume you’ve already been converted to the dark side or you’re on the fence about it–the plugins, templates, and anything else platform-related I mention will relate to WordPress. There are alternatives for many of the popular blogging platforms, but I’ll leave it to you and Google to find them.
When setting up your Home Base, you’re going to want to use a design that’s inviting, easy-to-navigate, and takes note of color balance (e.g. no red-on-black text). I like WooThemes and ElegantThemes for premium templates, but the real good stuff is found using a theme framework. The popular choices include frameworks like Genesis (what I’m using), Thesis, and Pagelines, but there are many others.
When you set up your theme/framework, you’re going to want to set up some widgets and install some plugins as well. A list of my favorites:
- Akismet – This anti-spam moderation plugin comes bundled with WordPress, and I’ve never felt the need to use anything else.
- Disqus – There are many comment engines for your site, but I love Disqus and believe it to be the best for my needs.
- Pretty Links – Since I use affiliate links and links I want to track (without setting up fancy Google Analytics tracking metrics), I love the ease-of-use Pretty Links provides. For example, I’ve set up my first book, Building A Blog for Readers, to be linked by www.livehacked.com/blogging-101 instead of the much-longer Amazon URL.
- Tweet Old Post – This is a nifty and simple little plugin that ensures your old blog posts, otherwise long-forgotten, get some attention. It automatically tweets a link to older posts in the archives.
- BPS Security – I’ve had my fair share of issues with hackers, robots, and Russian intelligence spies (okay, maybe not the last one), and it’s not fun when a virus is uploaded through a comment form or an out-of-date script. This plugin isn’t bulletproof, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.
In Welcome Home, I outline many more useful and helpful plugins–these are a great starting point though.
Setting up Outposts
After you’ve built the framework for a great-looking and useable Home Base, you’ll want to set up Outposts. Michael Hyatt, in his book Platform, uses a similar approach to describe the many different points online that link back to your Home Base. I like the much simpler “anything that you don’t own that points people back to your website” description.
The most obvious example of Outposts are social media profiles and accounts. You can set up as many as you’d like, but keep in mind that an effective social profile is one that you actually use–if you’re not going to actively tweet, why set up an account on Twitter? Here are the main Outposts I use for my platform:
Of course, the whole point of building a platform online is to drive traffic to your Home Base so you can eventually achieve your goals–sell more books, find more clients, make more money, etc. And in order to do that, you need to generate attention first.
You could hire a publicist, do something ridiculous, or spam people on Twitter, or you can focus on the long-term and try to build slowly–the approach I chose. You’ll need patience, planning, and a commitment to constantly and consistently add value for other people, but the strategy works quite well.
To read more about using social media to generate attention, you can read this, this, and this. Basically, the concept is to help people as much as possible, without worrying about getting paid or compensated for it later.
One of the main strategies I advocate for not only adding value but also driving loads of targeted traffic to your Home Base is called guest posting. It’s sometimes deemed “overdone” or at least an over-mentioned topic, but the truth is–it works. I’ve written about it here, here, and here. Also, this strategy is one of the main facets of a module included in all of The Platform Firestarter kits.
The most important ingredient
Above all, the most important thing you can add to your platform and Home Base for great long-term gain is more.
More words, more help, more products, more books, just more.
You need to be adding value at every turn, but you should also be focusing on what’s next. What are you working on that you can launch tomorrow or next week, and when you do–what then?
Focus on creating things that matter, and things that will help others and add value to their lives, but the most important facet of it all is simple: you’re constantly creating something.
I hope you’ll check out the book next week, and if you haven’t already heard, I’m sending free advance copies* out to my newsletter subscribers. So sign up!
Let me know in the comments what I’ve left out of this “big picture” post, and feel free to add your thoughts and opinions too!