In the writing world, your "Platform" is the broad term for "the people who listen to you."
The size of your platform matters quite a lot to publishers. After all, if they're going to invest in your writing and give you a contract, they want to know who's waiting in line to buy this book. They want to know who follows what you say, who's listening to you, and who will help them recover their investment.
The business of Words is really quite a bit about Numbers.
When I started blogging, I didn't have a platform in sight. Neither did I have one, nor did I feel motivated to find one. I have always written because writing is breathing for me. I read to inhale, I write to exhale, and the two make my world go round.
But over time, now a decade of writing, a platform took shape. While I don't have the largest platform in the world, I do feel pretty strongly that I have one of the most loyal.
If you're working on building yours, here are my suggestions as you chart your path, find your voice, and draw your readers:
Start Somewhere. Be intentional about this. Invite a group of people to be your first readers. Ask them if they will commit to reading one post a week. And then commit to writing something every week for your circle of readers.
Be faithful to the audience you have. You may wish you had 200 or 2,000 or 20,000 readers, but you have only 20. But imagine this: what if 20 people showed up at your house every day to have coffee with you, to think and laugh with you, to listen to your insights and perspectives, and to start their day? That would be a sizeable influence and a commitment worth keeping. Be faithful to the readers you have, and they will begin to bring their friends, too. Build a relationship. Answer their questions. Reply to their comments. Make it a dialogue.
Write regularly. Once you have their attention, don't fall off the face of the earth. Decide on a realistic time frame for your posts, and commit to it. I recommend one or two posts a week, and some people choose one or two specific days when they will always post something new. (If you're just getting started and you're feeling prolific, write a bunch of posts and schedule them in advance.)
Pay attention to what gets traffic. Your readers will show you what they like, and their affection shows up in blog traffic. Watch what gets shares, likes, and comments. Do they like when you're funny? Insightful? Political? Lean in that direction. You can provide feedback and an email subscription form on your website, which you can use to generate an idea about what interests your readers. You can compile the data collected through these forms by using services such as simplelists or another listserve tool of your liking. You can use the information to create similar posts in the future.
Have a *very small* editing committee. I have one or two people who read everything as I post it, and they are quick to let me know. "Hey, T? You sound angry today." Or, "Typo in paragraph three." Or, "I'm not sure that's how you want this to read." These people are worth their weight in gold and lattes.
Keep the Long View in sight. Blogs and platforms that grow exponentially overnight are not usually followed by people who will stick around. Those are what you might call "a flash in the pan," a story or person who gets a lot of attention really fast, but nothing that keeps anyone's attention for the long haul. Don't worry if you don't get a thousand readers in the first month. If you draw three, four, or five readers a week with your faithful writing, the audience grows. The numbers add up.
Don't need anything from your readers. This one is crucial, and it's true on a number of levels.
First of all, don't ask them to buy stuff, read stuff, share stuff, do stuff. Just give. Everyone on the internet is begging them to DO. Don't be another request. Just give. If they like what you're giving them, they'll give more back to you than you can imagine. So just give.
Second, don't ask them to listen to what only your therapist should hear. I don't take anything to the blog that hasn't been sorted out in my heart, mind, and life, because I don't want to ask the readers to validate me, my choices, and my issues. I have read blogs like that, I have had acquaintances like that, and I set boundaries real quick. So don't indulge in the shock value of giving your readers too much information that isn't processed on a number of levels. Just give them what's healed and whole.
Ask for favor. If you're not a person of faith, then you can take or leave this one. But if you believe in partnering with the Holy Spirit to write the story of your life, then don't miss out on the favor he can offer when you invite him.
I pray every day (every.single.day.): "Lord, please put my words into the hands of the right people at the right time. I ask for influence and favor." And then see what happens. He's the master networker. And he knows who needs your words.
Be so good that they can't ignore you. Get better at what you do. Chase after your craft. You can start with passion, but that only gets you a seat at the table. Excellence lets you keep your spot.