Not too long ago, the internet was a place that offered the chance to make money exclusively to those with sufficient technical skills to build a website or virtual storefront. If you didn’t have these skills, you could always use drag and drop template sites like GeoCities (RIP). But all that’s changed with free content management systems like WordPress that empowers anyone with little or no technical experience to build an effective online platform.
But what do I mean when I say online platform?
Simply put, an online platform is the holistic way of thinking about any online vehicle that’s used to build and engage with an online audience.
But Josiah, I already have a website! That’s terrific, but do you use it as an online platform or is it just another website?
Online platforms go far beyond just a blog, or just a simple Facebook fan page. An effective online platform is built by developing your personal story or brand and represents your personal endorsement to your audience that whatever product or service you’re offering is worth their time.
That’s the high-level concept of how I envision online platforms and how I use them to further my online income goals. For example, with this site, Income Ideas, I create value for my readers by writing unique and informative content about different ways one can make money online. I go beyond just having a website or blog by using Income Ideas as a platform to also offer my personal services of writing compelling content and developing web sites through Legion Web Design.
For you it might be putting your passion for digital photography to work by selling your images at one of many virtual photography marketplaces. Or if you’re good at playing an instrument, you can create online instructional courses and offer private lessons conducted via virtual sessions to generate income while doing something you enjoy. With an ever expanding base of online users, there’s virtually no limits to making money off something you enjoy.
While there are plenty of sites that focus specifically on each one of these methods of making money online, I believe it’s best to create your own online platform to act as sort of a home base in addition to using 3rd party outposts (like Google + or ClickBank) to increase your reach.
I can think of at least three reasons why you need to have your own online platform instead of relying on someone else’s website or platform to promote yourself.
1. Take Charge of Your Visitor’s Experience
To me, the most important reason to have your own online platform is to take charge over your visitor’s experience. If you have a blog hosted by a 3rd party (like WordPress.org or Blogger), you’re limited by the terms of service of those services. In my opinion, a visitor’s experience is the 2nd most important aspect of your online platform (right behind having something valuable to offer, like content).
To get the most out of your online platform, you can either code your site from scratch (which is cumbersome and time consuming, assuming you know how) or use a self-hosted platform powered by the most powerful and popular content management system (CMS) of all time – WordPress.
Having your own self-hosted WordPress platform gives you the ability to sell goods and services, accept payments, have membership options, promote forum discussions, and much, much more. The best part of it is that you don’t need to have any technical skill to pull this off. Plugins and pre-coded scripts are readily available to accomplish just about anything you could possibly imagine, and many of them are free. If you run into an problem, you can just Google it and you’re bound to find a forum discussion or YouTube video about whatever it is you need to accomplish.
By having so many options and the ability to build out your platform to your hearts content, you’re able to have complete control of your visitor’s experiences from the time they arrive at your site to the time they become paying customers or raving fans!
2. Build and Engage Your Audience – On Your Terms
The second reason to develop your own online platform is to build and engage your audience on your own terms. Social channels like Facebook and Google + are great ways to drive traffic to your online platform, but having your own platform to grow and engage your audience will always beat using someone 3rd party platform.
Let’s say you exclusively use one or more Facebook fan pages to promote your product or service.
Plenty of people (successfully) use this strategy and are able to generate a good amount of income just from Facebook traffic. But what if, in the not too distant future, Facebook’s shareholders are dissatisfied with falling ad revenues and propose selling more private data to try and increase revenue. In response to this, there’s a public backlash and millions of people swear off Facebook and close their accounts.
The same marketers who were exclusively using Facebook to generate income would have to scramble to either 1) throw together a site to try and capture as much of that former Facebook traffic as possible, or 2) start over at another social platform. Both options require time and energy to get right and neither one guarantees success.
If, on the other hand these same marketers would have used Facebook while simultaneously driving traffic to their online platform, the Facebook backlash wouldn’t have nearly as much of an impact.
In short – you can only control your visitor’s experience if you own the platform they’re visiting.
3. Unlimited Opportunity for Growth
The final point looks to the future and is only limited by your imagination and ambition. An example of this concept is CopyBlogger.
In case you’re one of the few folks who’s not already a Copyblogger customer or visitor, Copyblogger is a content marketing company that started in 2006 as a blog and has grown from a $1,000 startup into a multi-million dollar software and training organization.
They help teach the ins and outs of crafting great content and have expanded into other niches. Copyblogger created the highly successful Genesis framework (which also powers Income Ideas), as well as multiple ebooks and training courses.
My point is this amazing growth over the years would not have been possible if Copyblogger had limited themselves to just a blog. Instead, they carefully cultivated a complete online platform from which they were able to branch off and offer a number of valuable goods and services to their visitors.
I sincerely hope I’ve done a good enough job of explaining this valuable, yet abstract concept so that it impacts the way you think about your virtual platforms going forward.
It’s an exciting and huge step forward to stop limiting yourself to thinking about your “website” or “blog” and instead, realizing the unlimited potential for your online platform to build your reputation and sell your goods or services. This concept works across every possible niche and online money making idea out there. Whether you want to operate your own ecommerce store or promote a unique service that you’re able to offer, you need to have your own online platform. If you don’t know how to build one, check out Legion Web Design and I’d be happy to help get you started.
This post isn’t complete without your input – do you have an online platform of your own? Why or why not? Drop me a comment below to let me know what’s on your mind!