As an entrepreneur, building up an audience on social media has a handful of great benefits. Between building brand awareness, gaining credibility as a thought leader, potential book deals, speaking engagements and consulting gigs alone are enough to justify the effort needed to create content online.

Because the benefits of becoming an influencer and thought leader are so profound, questions like "How do I gain a large Instagram following?" or "How do I get more reads on Medium?" both from my own clients and entrepreneurs across the web. Yet, when it comes to social media and content marketing, I believe this platform-specific are fundamentally flawed.

While there certainly are specific tactics you can apply to gain an audience on a particular platform, the real way to ensure you gain traction and stay relevant for years to come is by applying a simple mindset shift: focus on the craft, not the social media platform.

Focus on the craft, not the platform.

Instead of asking how to get big on YouTube, ask yourself how to become a more skilled video editor and more comfortable on camera. The reasoning here is simple: social media platforms come and go with no forewarning. Remember Myspace? How about Vine? 

As useful and incredible these social media platforms have become in marketing, building a business entirely on their backs is a dangerous game. Investing your whole brand, pouring your entire professional identity into a single social media platform is like building your house on rented land. 

This is exactly why I always tell clients, readers and anyone else who wants to listen to me rant for a minute or two that the best way to ensure you'll gain an audience and be timeless across social media and the online landscape for years to come is developing a creative skill set that will not die like a platform can. 

Social media platforms should be the medium you use to express your creative skill, not your final product or offering. 

Want to gain a following on Instagram? Start by becoming a better photographer. Want to become a top writer on Medium? Start by sharpening your skills as a writer and storyteller. Want to gain a following on Facebook? Start by...well, no skill is really needed there, only money, but you get my point here.

Here's how to get started.

1. Learn the skill.

First things first, if you want to gain a social media following, you've got to create great content. To create great content, you have to have a skill. This could be writing, graphic design, video editing or something else. Once you have your skill figured out, use a platform like Lynda, Skillshare or Creative Live to take your know-how to the next level. 

2. Look for opportunities to put that skill on full display.

Here's where the strategy comes in. It's not enough to be great at a creative skill set, you also have to be strategic as to which platforms you invest your time and energy into. By keeping a close eye on the social media landscape by reading blogs like Social Media Examiner and Social Media Today, you'll be able to keep an eye out for opportunities in the marketplace. 

For instance, when I started writing online, I began publishing my articles on LinkedIn. Even though I'd like to think the content was terrific, I got to the platform when it was already saturated, making it difficult to break through the noise. This is when I began searching around and stumbled across Medium, an up-and-coming blogging platform. I began publishing on it when it was still relatively new and grew an audience as a result. 

This doesn't mean growing an audience on a saturated platform is impossible, but it does mean it will take more work and time to do so. Look around for opportunities to get the maximum number of eyeballs on your creative skill. For photographers, platforms like Unsplash and Pexels present terrific opportunities to showcase your work and gain a large following. For writers, Steemit is an opportunity worth looking into. For video creators, LinkedIn video is just waiting hungrily for creative content to go viral. 

3. Build an email list.

As I mentioned, building your house on rented land by investing heavily into a specific platform is risky. To ensure you'll survive no matter what happens to your favorite platform, always build up your email list by pointing your social media followers in its direction. Emails are a whole lot less likely to change than a person's social media profile, so invest in constructing a healthy email newsletter.

Developing a creative skill, whether that's photography or writing, is the surefire way to stay relevant for years to come no matter which social media platforms die or change their algorithms. By making this simple mindset shift, you'll position yourself to reap all the benefits of social media and content marketing for years to come. Best of luck.

Published on: Jun 27, 2018