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Building Your Brand Part 2: Engage Your Audience

September 11, 2013

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it. In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform.

Interested in learning more about platform? Greenleaf Book Group will be hosting the 2013 Author Summit, from September 25th to the 27th. At the Author Summit, attendees will learn how to develop their ideas, elevate their influence, and monetize their content. To explore more about taking a step toward developing your platform and expert presence, visit http://greenleafauthorsummit.com/registration.

Susan Crawford discusses her book, Captive Audience, at the Chicago Public Library
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Platform, Part 2: Influence

Money is personal. Spilling your economic guts to anyone other than your spouse, partner, or family members is unheard of to most people. But not to Suze Orman. Orman, a financial advisor-turned-television host and bestselling author, listens to personal financial pain on a daily basis and gives empowering solutions for people in tough situations. It's especially helpful in today's economic climate. Her advice is often abrasive. She challenges her fans to make immediate, proactive changes in their financial lives. And as creatures of habit, it's never easy for us to make changes like these.

With her loud, in-your-face approach and established expertise, Orman's reach extends to millions of people. They love her, and her Twitter community alone shows it, topping 1,100,000 followers. Her TV program, The Suze Orman show, has been on the air for ten years and continues to be one of the most highly rated programs on CNBC. She's also penned nine consecutive bestsellers and hosted the most successful fundraiser in the history of PBS. That's powerful.

Everyone wants Suze's advice. And when Suze talks, not only do people listen-- they share they they've heard with others. She gets people talking, which helps drive word of mouth. It's hard not to admire Suze's ability to wield the widespread influence and connect. And her path to platform success is worthy of study. It didn't happen overnight. But she tapped into a deep need (personal financial advice) and transformed that into a brand-- one that allows her to continue to capture people's attention.

If ideas are your foundation when it comes to building a successful platform, influence is your most important tool. Without meaningful influence, great ideas can die. So you want to be sure to find your audience, cultivate your relationships through offline and online channels, and build a following.

1. Provide great content. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: You need to begin with a solid content strategy. You need content designed around a problem or pain point for your target audience, content that exists in different formats to help different types of learners. Orman’s audience needs financial advice. She provides it across several media: her website, TV, radio, social media. And Orman not only makes sure that her financial recommendations are top-notch, she also makes them in a way that’s unique and personable.

When you create consistently great content in different formats, you provide value and benefit to your audience and win mindshare. You get them talking. Eureka! That’s influence.

You can read about how to get started on creating content that people care about in Part 1 of Greenleaf’s platform development series.

2. Help your audience share your content, online and offline. People want to share. Sharing information is not only entertaining, it’s educational and gratifying, too. Use our natural tendency to share—your job is to connect with people and give them tools to share your message.

Your content should be designed to resonate and get people sharing. If it’s not worth their time, they won’t share it. And it’s not worth your time to create. So make it shareable, fun, different, or controversial.

It’s essential to have a diversified web presence. A clean, professional, well-designed, and easily navigated website experience is a necessity—but don’t stop there. Start blogging regularly and reach out to other bloggers in your arena. Consider doing a blog swap to build your readers. Maintain your social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and make an effort to regularly post relevant information and interact with your followers. Making a webinar, podcast, or video series is a great way to share your content—and those media are usually the most viral.

According to a HubSpot survey, U.S. Internet users spend three times as many minutes on blogs and social networks than on email. Forty-six percent of people read blogs more than once a day. Is your content part of their conversation? Track your online influence by comments received, feedback given, number of likes, and the frequency of sharing among your readers, fans, and followers.

Face-to-face sharing is also a part of your influence. Offline, conversations happen following a presentation you give or an appearance you make. Always give them a (branded!) handout with your most valuable content—something that people will leave on their desks and discuss with their coworkers.

3. Do some sharing yourself. Linking to videos and sharing links to notable content, even if it’s not your own, is low-hanging fruit you can do every day to create interaction and build up your influence. Show your followers that you care enough about them to share content that others create—use your influence for more than just a personal advertising tool, and it will, ironically, become one. Note that your brand and image alignment matter. So if you’re a health expert, make sure you look like the embodiment of health and that you’re sharing information about well-being.

Your fans will want to know a little about you, too. In return to her fans, who share very private information with her on a daily basis, Orman makes sure that she puts herself out there as well. On Suze’s “About Me” page of her website, viewers find a video—not the usual paragraph upon paragraph of description. The video not only gives viewers a sense of Suze’s expertise—it gives them a sense of her personality. She also has a highlighted section of her website devoted to “scrapbooks.” You’ll find her fans calling her “girlfriend” left and right. 

Sharing notable content from others—in addition to the content you create on your own—will help you build influence and trust. You’re adding value, including people in your conversation, and building your credibility. You’re promoting great content. And you’re coming from a place of contribution. Your fans know that they can trust you to give them valuable information, and they’ll tell other people to use you as a resource.

4. Quantify. Regularly quantify where you are in terms of influence. Analyze the number of online connections and offline contacts you have. It’s a good rule of thumb to measure where you are monthly or quarterly. Track the number of fans, followers, and page hits you have. This is especially important if you’re spending any money on ad campaigns. Make sure your ad spend is converting into influence.

A quick tool for measuring your influence is Klout Score. Klout Score gives you a ranking based on a few different components, including the number of people who see your social media posts; the number of people who re-share your posts; and the relative influence of other people in your network. Our bet? Orman has a great Klout Score.

As you move forward to build influence, focus on setting goals and growing your networks exponentially. Your platform grows with each “like” and each mention you receive. Facilitate the process by providing great content, interacting with your audience, sharing relevant links, and measuring your status. Pay attention to those—like Vaynerchuk, Orman, and others—who have mastered the art of influence. And most importantly: have fun with your influence-building. What’s more exciting than sharing your ideas and making new friends?

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Building Your Brand Part 1: Ideas and Identity

September 6, 2013

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it. In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform.

Interested in learning more about platform? Greenleaf Book Group will be hosting the 2013 Author Summit, from September 25th to the 27th. At the Author Summit, attendees will learn how to develop their ideas, elevate their influence, and monetize their content. To explore more about taking a step toward developing your platform and expert presence, visit http://greenleafauthorsummit.com/registration. 

Ideas Never Run Out

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Platform, Part 1: Ideas

Entrepreneur Gary Vanerchuck has appeared on everything from Ellen and CNN to NPR. He’s written two New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. And he has amassed almost one million Twitter followers. One million! He grew his family wine business from $3 million in annual revenue to more than $45 million in eight short years. At age thirty-five, 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 for what a concentrated platform can do for you.

Becoming a mega-expert like Vaynerchuk sounds incredibly appealing and, for those just getting started, equally daunting. So let’s break down where you should begin. A strong platform starts with strong ideas. Ideas—the content you create—are your foundation; they’re a major reason people will talk about you. Ideas are a form of currency that translates into value for your audience, and the beauty is that that value can translate into money for you.

Building valuable content that an audience will care about enough to use, share with others and, ideally, purchase, depends on four components: (1) finding your passion; (2) knowing your audience; (3) choosing an effective content strategy; and (4) creating solid, new content on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at these to help kick-start your content conquest.

1. Find your passion. It‘s essential that you care about your topic. If you’re not engaged, your audience certainly won’t be. So choose a meaningful topic that keeps you curious, one you spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about.

Ideally, you’ll be passionate in an area where you’re already credentialed. If you’re a fashion designer or marketer who loves fashion, there’s a golden opportunity to create content on the subject of fashion. 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 the Jacques Cousteau types who are already in the water. Take your passion and create content around it. Keep it simple, fun, and engaging, and always look for ways to make it remarkable.

2. Know your audience. The content you create must match your audience’s needs and interests. Be sure to conduct a thorough audience analysis before you begin developing content and interacting. Create demographic and psychographic profiles. You need to know the answers to these questions:

  •  Who are they?
  •  What do they do?
  •   What do they struggle with?
  •  What do they care about?
  •  Who else do they admire?

Knowing what your competitors bring to the table is essential, too. Remember, you must differentiate yourself, and you should focus on filling a hole in the field. 

For example, Vaynerchuk had the foresight to realize that e-commerce would grow exponentially, and he started winelibrary.com in 1997. He also quickly identified an empty spot in the wine-tasting world—non-fluffy, honest feedback. He started making video wine reviews and spoke to his audience on their level, using terms like “sniffy sniff” and “oakmonster.” His reviews were soon reaching over 100,000 viewers per day. He filled a need in the lofty world of wine collecting with excellent, informed content in a guy-next-door voice.

3. Decide on a content strategy. With your passion and audience in your pocket, now you need to decide how you will present your content. Will you do it through blogging, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations, webinars, articles, a book, or something else entirely? A mix of these is likely the most effective way to present your content, and as you craft that mix it’s important to track what your audience responds to. How do they learn best? And what works especially well for your content? You can also look at your competitors—what content strategies are they using effectively?

You also want to figure out your short- and long-term goals and pin down who will create your content. Do you want a blog with one weekly post, or do you want multiple posts per week? What about videos? Are you planning to create your own content? Or do you have a reliable assistant or support team that is in tune with your message and can do much of the heavy lifting 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. As literary agent Rachelle Gardner writes on her blog, “It’s harder than ever to attract people to books. The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.”

Vaynerchuk took the time each week to record himself on camera for his (now retired) video blog, “The Daily Grape.” He was being himself for his fans. And if you look at his Twitter feed, it’s a stream of responses to his followers. No wonder people feel connected to him—they are.

4. Create solid, new content on a regular basis. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. An editorial calendar is not just for newspaper editors. It helps keeps you focused and productive, and can help you envision and manage your workload. The sooner you get started, the better. The Content Marketing Institute provides a guide to starting an editorial calendar, pointing out that the calendar not only keeps you on track—it helps you think of ways to repurpose your content as well. Finally, be sure to keep up with new developments in your field. Once you’re perceived as an expert, you need to remain one. The members of your audience need to know they can depend on you, first and foremost, for new information and ideas. Make it happen through consistently great content.

When passion and good ideas connect with an audience need through a well-thought-out content strategy, great things can happen. Think of Vaynerchuk. He took what he knew and loved—wine—and spoke to his audience in a unique and casual way, through a medium they responded to—vlogging. 

Vaynerchuk’s success all started with his content, and yours will too. The more content you create over time, the more your ideas become the fuel that powers your brand platform.

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International Literacy Day

September 6, 2013

Man Reading

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Every September, the world celebrates International Literacy Day. Originally created by UNESCO, it has been celebrated for almost fifty years and is now observed by all 193 UN member states.

 

Here in the United States, we celebrate with workshops at community centers and schools, author readings at bookstores and libraries, and by reading in our homes, sprawled on the couch with a well-worn paperback whose pages are soft underneath our fingertips. Reading is something we do to relax, but also something we do every day as we commute to work, send emails around the office, or take notes in class. Literacy is fundamental to our ability to learn and communicate, and to find confidence, success, and fulfillment in our lives.

 

While reading may seem basic for many Americans, 774 million adults worldwide cannot read or write—that’s 16% of the adult population.1 Ten years ago, the United States had a similar illiteracy rate: 15% of adults were functionally illiterate, unable to perform everyday activities like reading street signs.2 The Department of Education is currently surveying adults again and we hope that the percentage of Americans who cannot read has decreased.

 

Being unable to read is a life-defining disadvantage. Illiteracy causes adults to rely on others to stay politically informed; renders them unable to make simple health care decisions; and drives a wedge between them and the other members of their communities. Adults who cannot read have little chance to be critical or learn beyond what they are told by others, and, as a consequence, have difficulty developing a sense of self. Illiteracy restricts a person’s abilities and limits his or her accomplishments.

 

Illiteracy is curable, but cannot be reversed without help. Learning to read is tough work. It requires serious brain training that, for adults, can be frustrating and embarrassing. Having people to cheer you on at the end of every page, like they would from the sidelines if you were running a marathon, is key.

 

For those of us fortunate enough to be reading this right now: Today is the day to be someone’s support system. There are a number of organizations that make a profound impact on the lives of adults and children who are learning to read for the first time. Cheer on the new readers from the sidelines by donating books, time, or money. Your ROI here is great: You will empower someone. You will help them gain confidence and find opportunity. You will make a difference.

 

 

Below is a list of national literacy charities. There are hundreds of charities nationwide, some which may be focused on helping areas near you! A quick Google search can help you get involved with local and national initiatives. 

 

ProLiteracy - ProLiteracy is one of the largest adult literacy charities in the U.S. They established the National Literacy Directory, which is the go-to resource for adults looking to improve their literacy skills.

 

Books to Prisoners - BTP believes wholeheartedly that books have the power to radically transform the lives of those in prison. They appreciate donations of all kinds, but particularly educational materials like dictionaries, almanacs, vocational and technical manuals, and textbooks.

 

Reading is Fundamental - Provides free books and literacy resources to children and families who need them most. They believe that books can “launch a life” and motivate children to dream (and achieve!) big. Books are distributed through schools, homeless shelters, and community centers.

 

Milk and Bookies - There are hundreds of youth literacy charities, but this one is unique in that it encourages kids to give to other kids. They help your children put on “book-raising” events as part of their birthday party, class project, or scout troop meeting to start a life-long cycle of reading, giving, and growing.

1UNESCO
2National Center for Education Statistics

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Happy Pub Day!

September 5, 2013

happy pub day

We at Greenleaf Book Group would like to take a moment to congratulate our authors who have books coming out this September.

Amaze Every Customer

Amaze Every Customer Every Time by Shep Hyken

Baby Santa & Missing Reindeer

Baby Santa and the Missing Reindeer by Dr. M. Maitland Deland

Noah's Rainy Day

Noah’s Rainy Day by Sandra Brannan

POWER

POWER by Sarah Morgans and Bill Thorness

small change

Small Change, Big Gains by Thomas H. Stoner, Jr.

Alumni Factor

The Alumni Factor by The Alumni Factor

 

Well done! All your hard work and dedication has paid off, and we’re honored to be partners in your latest and greatest work.

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Happy Pub Month!!

August 9, 2013

Happy Pub Day

We at Greenleaf Book Group would like to take a moment to congratulate our authors who have books coming out this July and August.

 

Win By Not Losing by Dean Harman

theNewerYork: Book 0 edited by Joshua S. Raab

theNewerYork: Book II edited by Joshua S. Raab

Gracianna by Trini Amador

Creative Grieving by Elizabeth Berrien

National Speakers Association: Celebrating 40 Years of Conventional Wisdom

Outside In by Doug Cooper

C.A.R.E. Leadership by Peter van Stralen

Fresh Passion Leadership by Michael D. Brown

 

Well done! All your hard work and dedication has paid off, and we’re honored to be partners in your latest and greatest work.

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