The term " platform" is widely used in the publishing, speaking and business worlds to describe your ability to reach people who want to hear your message. Your platform reflects your brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and the intellectual property you create. Platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence and income.

Why is platform so important? It comes down to a fundamental truth in the media world: we have an oversupply, and an under-demand, of content. Consider the person you are trying to reach with your message. This person's attention is spread very thin as a result of life in general, just like you. Never mind that hundreds of thousands of books are published every year; your reader is also being courted by bloggers, television, magazines, YouTube, NetFlix, and on and on.

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has appeared on programs ranging from Ellen to NPR to CNN. He's written a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller and has over one million Twitter followers. He grew his family wine business from $3 million per year to over $45 million in eight short years. Vaynerchuk operates a slew of businesses and even boasts a gaggle of fans that refer to themselves as "Vayniacks." In short, he's a walking billboard of what a concentrated platform can do for you.

Where do you begin a task as daunting as becoming a veritable expert like Vaynerchuk?

Building valuable content that an audience will care about and pay to access depends on three components--finding your passion; identifying your audience and its needs; and connecting that passion to that audience with appropriate content.

  1. Find your passion. It is essential that you care about your topic. Ideally, you will be passionate in an area where you're already credentialed. If you're a professional magician who wants to create a platform in the world of deep sea diving, you'll have to work a lot harder than someone who's already in the water.
  2. Figure out short and long-term goals and determine who will create your content. Do you want to create your own content or is your staff aligned with your message enough to do it for you? Your answer to these questions might depend on whether you're creating a platform for yourself or your business (or whether your "self" is your business). If you are developing your personal platform, it's important that fans feel like they're interacting with the real you--not your personal assistant.
  3. Decide on a content strategy. How will you present your content? Through blogging, videos, presentations, webinars, articles, or a book? A mix of these is likely the most effective way to present your content, but it's important to note what your audience responds to. How do they learn best? And what works for your content?
  4. Check and double check that the content matches your audience's needs. Who are they? What do they do? What do they struggle with? What do they care about and who else do they listen to? Knowing what your competitors bring to the table is essential, too. You must differentiate yourself and should focus on filling a hole in the field.
  5. Create new content on a regular basis. Make a schedule and stick to it. Develop an editorial calendar to keep your content consistent. The Content Marketing Institute provides a guide to starting an editorial calendar, pointing out that calendar not only keeps you on track--it helps you think of ways to repurpose your content.
  6. Keep up with new developments in your field. Now that you're seen as an expert, you need to remain one. Your audience needs to know they can depend on you for new information and ideas...if not, you will lose them to the next bright voice in your field.

When passion, good ideas and audience need work together, great content results. Vaynerchuk took what he knew and loved--wine--and spoke to his audience in a unique and much-needed way--casually--in a medium they responded to--video. Above all, he was (and is) authentic. Putting on airs and communicating in a voice that is not truly yours is exhausting. You will not be able to maintain it long enough to build a solid platform and it will fall apart in time because you won't care about maintaining your alter-ego. Be yourself and search hard for that special something that draws others to you.