Before you read on, you should know that this article is part of a series on developing a visibility strategy. This is chapter 4 in that series.
In this chapter – chapter 4 – in our series on creating a visibility strategy, we’re focusing on visibility opportunities. Specifically the platforms we create from which to then share our work. In Chapter 5 we’ll talk about tapping into other people’s platforms and in Chapter 6 we’ll talk about promoting our work and our platform once it’s established.
As a business woman, a creative, a social justice warrior, or a coach it’s imperative that your visibility efforts link to some kind of platform. A landing place for people who want to know more about you. Your platform showcases your ideas, your philosophy, your unique approach. It tells people why they should gravitate to you above all others in your industry.
If you don’t have a platform then you might do the most amazing work in the world but no one will be able to find out more about you or connect with you.
There are so many platforms currently available but in this chapter we’re going to focus on three; blogging, podcasting, and You Tube.
Before we dive into our three communication platforms, let me say a few quick things about websites.
For each platform, you can choose to have a website or not. It’s entirely possible to build a following without a website but for me, the ecosystem feels incomplete without one.
If you think of your visibility efforts in that way – as a building up of an ecosystem – then you’ll be helped enormously when it comes to making decisions about where to focus your attention.
You’ll start with the most crucial aspect of the ecosystem by asking what’s the first thing people need from me? And then you’ll continue to look at the ecosystem and the needs of the people you’re serving and ask; ‘What else is needed to strengthen the ecosystem? What else do people need from me?’
Working that way means you don’t end up overwhelmed or confused about where to focus your attention. You simply start at the greatest need and then build out from there.
I recommend you think of your website is your home base (the very foundation of your ecosystem). It’s your shop front. It’s the thing that represents you while you sleep.
It needs to be clear. It needs to state succinctly what it is you do and who you do it for.
If you do nothing else but that, you’ll be off to the races.
One of the people who does this very well is Donald Miller of Story Brand. (Which is not surprising given his entire business is about getting clear on your messaging.) You arrive at his website and immediately understand that he’s offering workshops on messaging.
I’m constantly striving for that level of clear communication with the School of Visibility website. So know that you might not get there immediately but over time you will. The key is for people to:
- know what you do
- know who you exist to serve, support, or entertain (depending on the nature of your business)
- know how to work with you should they wish.
You can get started with WordPress (be sure to get a wordpress.org account not wordpress.com. You’ll thank me for that down the track. If you want to know more about the difference between them, check this out.) WordPress was the original blogging platform so it’s huge and very popular. It also has a marketplace for developers to create plugins (think of any sort of functionality you’d like for your website and there’s probably a plugin for it) so that offers you a huge amount of flexibility when it comes to designing your website.
I’ve always had a WordPress website and I’ve always had a developer on my team to support its creation and maintenance. If you don’t want to go down that route, you might want something that’s easier to manage from a DIY perspective. Wix, Squarespace, Duda, and Gator are just some of the options out there. If you think you’re going to go deep into sales funnels and offer courses and promote using webinars and have an email list, you might want to consider Kajabi which allows you to do all of that plus build a website with a blog. (Although it is a more expensive option if you’re just starting out and probably not worth the investment until you’re a few years into your business.)
Personally I’d probably opt for Squarespace if I were starting out now. It will make your website look beautiful with the least amount of effort and is an all in one platform so you’ll get lots of bang for your buck and won’t have to buy a whole of other software to complement your website.
The big thing to be aware of is that it’s easy to procrastinate around the creation of a website. So set aside a limited amount of time to do your research, make a decision at the end of that time and go with it. No software is perfect. Overtime you’ll probably want to experiment with something new. The key is to get something up and running and then tweak over time.
OK, so onto the big three platforms!
What is it: Shorthand for weblog, blogging is a platform to express your personal or brand perspectives on your chosen topic. Blogs started out as public journals but were then picked up in a big way by business brands looking to increase traffic to their websites and engage in a longer conversation with their community.
Ease of access: Many companies have made it really easy to start a blog. In the past you’d have to buy a domain name then park it somewhere (with a host), then set up your website, then hook it all up so everything was speaking to one another. Then you’d need a separate email service provider. (Wait, why am I talking about email providers you ask? Because once you have a blog, you need a way to share it. Traditionally that’s been by using an email provider. More about that in coming chapters.)
You can still absolutely go that route and in fact, that’s how we do things at the School of Visibility (we buy our domain names and host them with Siteground, we have a WordPress site, and our email provider is ConvertKit). But the truth is you don’t even need a website these days to become a blogger. You can simply use Medium. You could play around with that for a while, see what people respond to, and then build out your own website in the future. Many people use Medium in conjunction with their website blog to capture different audiences, so your efforts on Medium will never be in vain.
Upsides: Blogs are an excellent tool for raising awareness of your work and, assuming you blog on your own website, generating traffic for your site. The more you post on a specific topic (and use some simple SEO – search engine optimisation – tactics to ensure it’s search engine friendly) the more Google recognises your website as an authority in your niche and the higher up the search page you’ll find yourself.
Blogs are also a great place to house all of your wisdom about a topic. They’re easy for a reader to access and consume and if you make your site ‘sticky’ (which means people stick around) by linking internally to different posts on your site, then you’ll be able to build a relationship quickly with your readers. Just remember that people will often be scrolling through your blog post on their phone so be sure to use lots of headings and other formatting options to break up the text.
Blogs are also easy to share and they’ll evolve with you over time. So if you decide to pivot the focus of your business, you can delete old posts and really control the user experience. Which really brings me to the biggest upside of blogging; if you’re blogging on your own website, you have complete control over the publishing platform, which means you’ve got loads of flexibility in terms of how you choose to present the information you’re sharing with your community or audience. It also means that you won’t be subject to the business or operational decisions of another company when it comes to publishing your materials.
And finally, you don’t really need any equipment other than a laptop to start blogging. If you choose to blog on Medium you can start for free, and if you set up a website you can do that relatively cheaply. Then you’re all set. There aren’t really any other absolutely essential fixed costs associated with blogging.
Downsides: Lots of people are blogging so there’s a lot of noise in the blogging space. It’s estimated that there are over 600 million blogs in the world in 2019. (Click here for the source of this data and many more fascinating tidbits about blogging.) So you need to get on your promotional skates – become visible! – if you want people to find you.
Who it suits best: People who have strong writing skills and feel comfortable communicating via the written word. Also, people who want to write for a living. I, for example, initially started blogging because I’d always dreamed of becoming a writer. Before blogging existed, I assumed that I’d have to write books to realise my dream and that felt like a long way off. Then blogging came along and before I knew it, my dream of being a writer had become a reality!
This is true of all three platforms under consideration in this chapter; they suit people who are committed to developing a body of work over time. If you’re looking for a quick win in business or in popularity, social media can sometimes help with that. But if you’re in this for the long haul, consistent blogging will absolutely reap rewards over time.
Who it doesn’t suit: People who hate writing. Obviously. Yes, you can pay someone else to write for you and if you’re building a business brand, that’s a great option. If you’re building a personal brand though, considering platforms that better suit your communication style is well worth it.
Where to learn more: I learned so much about building a website and using that as my communication platform from my business mentor Marie Forleo and her business and marketing program B-School. In early 2020 she’s opening up B-School again for registration. If you’d like to know more about that when it happens, and about the special visibility package I put together each year as an affiliate of B-School, leave your name here and I’ll be in touch down the track.
A note on gender: There are slightly more female bloggers than male bloggers in the world (51% to 49%). As a gender, we’re also more likely to be online than men are. So if women are a large part of your audience, that’s something to keep in mind (noting that there are variables from country to country). Here are some really interesting US based stats on women in the online space if you’d like to find out more.
Final note on blogging: when blogging first came out it was very random. People published a lot (sometimes multiple times a day) and there was no real curation of the feed. You just started at the most current blog post and then scrolled on through. As the industry has matured, people have recognised the need for more curated feeds which help their community find exactly what they’re looking for. If you’re just starting out, I recommend starting this way. Get a clear sense of a small number of topics you can dive deep on, write a series of blog posts about those topics and then bundle them into one place that’s easy for your community to consume.
What is it: Your very own radio show! In many ways, podcasting is like a blog for your ears. Rather than inviting someone to read your blog post, you’re keeping them entertained while they exercise, clean the house, do the cooking, walk the dog.
Ease of access: It’s getting easier with platforms like Buzzsprout but is definitely not quite as easy as blogging. Also you need more equipment than just your laptop. Don’t panic though; it’s not as stressful as people seem to think. The basics are a computer, a microphone, and some software on your computer – Garageband and Audacity are two free options – to record your episodes. Once your episodes are recorded, you can dive into editing the whole thing yourself or you can pay someone to do that for you (that won’t be free but it won’t cost too much either).
Upsides: There are far fewer podcasters in the world – somewhere between 700,000 and 1 million – than there are bloggers, but the numbers are increasing very quickly. Here’s some interesting data on podcasting in the US. Here’s some data about what’s happening in Australia and in the UK.
Probably the biggest upside to podcasting is that it’s really easy for people to consume the content, which means you’re likely to get more downloads of your podcast than you will people reading your blog or watching your videos, for example.
Because a good number of people listen to podcasts with earbuds, you’re literally sitting in their ear as you talk to them. There’s an intimacy to that which makes for great connection with your audience.
Podcast engagement and retention is also high with many listeners staying engaged for over an hour at a time.
Because you’ll generally publish your podcasts via your host to a whole lot of podcast platforms as well as publishing it on your own site, podcasting is a good traffic generation source and is a great way to get the word out about your brand.
Downsides: Podcasting is a lot more work than publishing a blog post, and takes a decent amount of time to get the episodes just right. Each episode will probably cost you some money to produce plus you’ll need to pay for hosting.
Just because your podcast is being published on multiple different podcast platforms (eg; Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Sticher etc) doesn’t mean people will necessarily find you. Relying solely on people searching and finding you there will not be sufficient to grow your podcasting audience. You’ll still have to promote your podcast and we’ll talk more about how to do that in future chapters.
According to an ABC Survey on podcasting 1 in 2 podcast listeners now claim to be overwhelmed by the amount of podcast choice. So becoming as visible as possible amongst all the noise and choice, is vitally important.
Who it suits best: People who love to speak! 🙂 People who are attracted to producing a show. People who love conversation or who feel they’re natural teachers or entertainers. All of these approaches work well for podcasting.
Where to learn more: Pat Flynn has a great min-class on how to start a podcast. Check it out here.
A note on gender: In the US, podcast listenership skews 52% male, 48% female. Despite that, according to Podcast Business Journal, 22% of podcast hosts are women. So if your audience is women, my bet is they’d love to hear from you. There’s still a lot of space there for female voices.
A final note about podcasting: The podcast shows that work best are intentional. They know their audience well and they know what they like. They don’t approach podcasting as a side component to their business, they approach it as a key component of business. Developing a formula that works for your show – be it asking three questions of every guest, or producing a daily show that only lasts for 5 minutes, or creating long form journalistic pieces – and sticking to it, is what will generate interest over time.
Platform: You Tube
What is it: You Tube is a free video streaming platform where anyone can upload their videos and build a following. Your videos can look and feel like anything at all so you have full creative range to create a show that suits you and your audience.
Ease of access: If you’ve got a computer and decent internet, you can access You Tube and upload your videos for free. Yes you’ll need some equipment but a smart phone and some good natural lighting is where you can start. After that, a small lapel mic is nice and if you don’t have good natural light, you might want to pick up a ring light (also known as a diva light) for your phone or the room you’re working in. These aren’t essential to get started, but are helpful as you’re working to improve your production quality.
Editing is another thing you can do yourself or pay someone to do for you. The quickest route is to film your video on your phone and then edit it in a movie editing app (I use iMovie on my phone and it takes just a minute or two). Even quicker is hosting a facebook live video, saving that video and then uploading it to You Tube. No editing required!
Of course you can always pay someone to edit your videos and as you grow your business, you might choose to improve your production values and have a film crew work with you. That’s completely unnecessary to start with, as you’ll see in this video of Marie Forleo’s where she talks about the evolution of her brand and shows a few samples of what her videos have looked like over time.
Upsides: The biggest upside of You Tube are ease of entry and reach. There’s a large You Tube audience (with over 2 million monthly active users and a billion hours of video being consumed per day). It’s the second most widely used social platform after Facebook. Users can also navigate YouTube in 80 different languages. This covers 95% of the internet population. (Facebook is only available in 43 languages, by way of comparison). Here’s some fascinating stats if you’d like to know more.
A big attraction for some is the fact that if you build a large enough following you can make money directly off the platform through advertising. Again, check the stats for more information. The top performers are earning in the millions.
You can both publish You Tube episodes on your own website as well as on all the You Tube so, like podcasts, that’s helpful from a traffic perspective where You Tube will act as a search engine for people to find you. If course, Google also owns You Tube so when people are searching on Google, the videos that show up in the results will often be hosted on You Tube.
Downsides: At last count there were more than 23 million You Tube channels and while that’s far fewer than there are blogs (which you’ll remember sits at about 600 million), blogs are generally consumed one at a time so it doesn’t feel overwhelming to read a blog. When you jump on You Tube though, it’s a thriving hub in its own right so your users face the same problem that users face with podcasts; overwhelm.
Otherwise there aren’t a lot of downsides to You Tube. People don’t expect perfection so you don’t need to worry about how jangly your shows are in the beginning and if you like talking to a camera, there’s no reason not to build your business around You Tube as your primary communication platform.
Who it suits best: People who dreamed of being Oprah as a kid. 🙂 People who love entertaining or producing creative content. People who have a strong visual component to their brand eg; a makeup brand or a DIY home brand.
A note on gender: 68% of users are male and 32% are female. Also, men spend 44 percent more time on the site per month, and make up the majority of viewers in 90 percent of the You Tube categories. Having said that, if your audience it primarily female, don’t abandon it just yet. Given the size of the You Tube community, 32% of total users is still a lot of people. I haven’t been able to find a statistic on the gender balance when it comes to the production of You Tube channels but if you know of one, be sure to let us know at hello(at)theschoolofvisibility(dot)com.
A final note about You Tube: The videos that do really well on You Tube aren’t always what you might think. ‘Unboxing’ videos for example are hugely popular. That’s where someone receives a parcel in the mail and they film themselves unpacking the item and showing you how the product works. really, who would have seen that coming?!
Cooking shows work really well, anything about pets is enormously popular, and makeup application and hairstyle creation shows attract a strong following. Techie shows and any sort of DIY shows work well. Closer to home for our community, yoga and meditation shows do well.
So in short, don’t feel constrained by the idea that your show is too out there or unusual to succeed on You Tube. In fact, I’d suggest that the more unusual you are, the more likely you’ll get noticed on You Tube.
Now that we’ve done a deep dive into the three big platforms you can create to communicate with your community, let’s end with a few general observations.
Data: There’s data available for all three platforms. Google Analytics will tell you what’s happening on your website, your podcasting host should have analytics for you on user behaviour, and You Tube provides you with analytics on your channel. So drawing on both your own intuitive guidance as well as the data that’s available to you, means you can test and tweak over time until you’re happy that the platform is working well for you.
Simplicity: Don’t choose them all. That would be a classic self sabotaging technique which keeps you inefficiently busy. Choose one as your primary platform. Then down the track if you add more, you can set them up to complement and strengthen your primary platform, rather than detract from it.
Visibility: None of these platforms will give you the results you’re looking for without promotion. Which is why we’ll be covering that in a future chapter. For now, think about the platform that appeals to you. Imagine what it could become and then determine the first step to getting there.
Know yourself: The platform that you’ll be most consistent with and that’ll build the most traction for you is the one that suits your community and your visibility personality (the way you like to show up in the world). This is something we cover in the School of Visibility curriculum which you can find out more about here.
If you’re struggling to choose, here’s a secret about making a decision; the way you behave after you’ve made the choice often determines whether the choice was the right or wrong one for you. In other words, you can spend months deciding whether to start a podcast or become a blogger or a You Tuber and you absolutely need to take account of your preferred form of communication – speaking, writing, or videography. But even if you establish that clearly for yourself, the decision might still be a poor one for you because you’re not able to follow through.
If you want to focus on creating a highly influential You Tube channel, but you can’t commit to a regular publishing schedule, then it’s better to stick to the platform that you know you can be consistent on. For now. (And remember, there’s a difference between pragmatism and self-sabotage. The pragmatist works out where they want to be, looks at where they are now, and works towards it. The self saboteur is convinced that they’ll never be able to pursue that dream because they don’t have the capacity or resources to do it today.)
If you’d like some support in determining what right for you, come and join us at the School of Visibility (we’ll be opening for enrolment soon). We’ll help you work your way through the process of determining the platform and the promotional strategies that’ll work best for your circumstances.
Next up in this series on creating your visibility strategy: Your visibility strategy and the enneagram
Looking for all the chapters on creating your visibility strategy? You’ll find them all here.