Nonfiction authors have probably heard the refrain, “Build your platform! Build your platform!” but may not know what a strong platform looks like.
Every platform is different (we are all unique individuals!), but here are 3 specific numbers that can come in handy when proving the size, strength, or impact of your online platform, especially in a book proposal.
1. How many people visit your site monthly?
This is easy to determine if you have Google Analytics installed. Check your dashboard and look at how many people visit your site in a month’s time (the default view). See how that compares month-on-month, and year-on-year. Are you getting more visitors over time? What’s the percentage growth month-on-month or year-on-year? This is hopefully a positive indicator that lends strength to your platform.
Other Google metrics that can be important to your platform include:
- What content is most popular on your site, especially if it’s highly ranked by Google’s search engines. E.g., “My blog posts on how to bathe your cat are the most highly ranked for anyone searching cat bath.” Or, “I receive more than 3,000 visits per month from people searching for cat bath.”
- How long people stay on your site. The longer people stay, typically the more compelling your content is. This is also called “site stickiness.” Such visitors are more likely to respond to calls to action, buy things, click on ads, etc.
- How people find your site. There is no “right” answer here, just insightful ones. For example, if you claim to have impact on Twitter or Facebook (see #3 below), that probably means a good portion of your site traffic should come from those sources. If you claim to be visible though search engines, your metrics should indicate meaningful search engine traffic. If your site is highly recommended by authorities in your community, you should be able to prove it by showing your referral traffic.
2. How many readers can you reach directly via e-mail?
Add the following numbers:
- How many people subscribe to your site or blog via e-mail
- How many people subscribe to your unique e-newsletter
- How many people you would feel comfortable e-mailing personally about a book or product launch
This is the number of people you can reach directly via e-mail, and it’s a number that’s highly attractive to publishers. If you don’t currently have a way of capturing e-mail addresses, then consider starting an e-newsletter, or offering an e-mail based subscription to your blog.
3. What level of engagement do you have through your online channels? (Or: What is your ability to get people to ACT?)
One popular way to determine your engagement is to look at Klout statistics. (Klout measures social influence.) Once you’ve told Klout about all the services you use, it will start to tally how responsive people are. Here’s an example:
In this scenario, since I have roughly 145,000 followers on Twitter, and about 14,000 retweets/mentions, that reflects about 10% engagement. (Note: Don’t get hung up on the Klout score itself; instead, study how well you engage the following you do have.)
Other ways to gauge impact and responsiveness:
Use HootSuite to send your tweets. HootSuite provides you weekly analytics of how your tweets “performed” in terms of clicks, replies, RTs, etc. That way, even if you have a modest following of, say, 1,000 people, you might be able to say that you engage 30-50% of followers in a single day of tweeting. Having a ton of followers isn’t as impressive as actually having their attention.
- Allow people to subscribe to your public updates on Facebook (via your personal profile). This is yet another number that helps indicate your visibility and impact through social networks. Of course, you may have a separate “business” profile page for Facebook; in that case, track how much engagement you have there. (If you have none, it’s time to correct that problem!) But for those who don’t have a business page, opening your profile up to subscribers is a great alternative. Click here for instructions on the Facebook subscribe function.
Track sharing statistics on your own site and through Google Analytics. I use the AddThis plug-in for my site, which publicly tallies the number of times an article is shared. This is very useful data to have on hand when making a platform statement about how well your content spreads. You can also use Google Analytics to help track how much of your traffic comes from social networks where you’re active.
Consider this just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the different metrics you can collect related to your online platform. If you don’t already have Google Analytics installed on your site, I recommend you start today!
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.