A lot of people aren’t making the most of their online platform.

Too often, I see people cultivating an online presence at random. They follow what other people are doing, almost for the sake of it, rather than stopping to figure out what makes sense for their own aims and objectives.

Why does this matter? Time spent online is time that could have been spent on something else. If the time you spend online isn’t benefiting you in some way, you’re squandering the most valuable resource out there.

If you feel that you’re not making the most of your online presence, read on to discover three simple steps to take charge and start seeing a return on your investment.

Step 1 – Cultivate a Compelling Online Brand

Your presence online needs to be both coherent and compelling.

Have you seen that meme based on the idea that people come across totally differently depending on the platform they post on? That might be fine for your average person wasting time online, but if you’re looking to build a platform, it’s not good enough.

To lay the foundations for being able to monetize your online presence, you first need to come up with a cohesive brand. You should come across as your same compelling, authentic self, no matter if you happen to be tweeting, posting on your blog, or sharing some content on LinkedIn. 

One of the things I teach aspiring authors is how to take control of their brand. If you’re like many of those authors, the idea of having a personal brand might seem a little strange at first. Perhaps you feel it’s somehow exploitative or inauthentic.

There’s no need to be concerned. When you approach your personal brand in the right way, you are simply showing an authentic side of yourself that is likely to appeal to others and make them take you seriously. 

It’s a little like putting on your best clothes before meeting someone for the first time. You’re still being your authentic self – just the best possible version of it so others can respect and relate to you. 

So what are some practical steps you can take to come across as coherent and compelling online?

  • Visuals. It’s no good to have smart and sophisticated pics on your LinkedIn if people then head to your Twitter and see you looking like someone totally different. Make sure you have a cohesive visual presence online that is suitable for and appealing to the audience you wish to cultivate.
  • Tone. The people who follow you online will come to expect a certain tone from you, so make sure you know what it is. For example, if you’re helpful and motivational, maintain that tone across your entire online presence. 
  • Message. The need to deliver a consistent message is perhaps the most important thing of all. One time, Ramit Sethi had someone write something on his behalf which contradicted some of his core ideas. If you have other people ghostwriting for you or sharing content on social media, make sure they are fully aligned with your message.

Regardless of whether you’re building a new online platform from scratch or improving an existing presence, coming across as cohesive and coherent is a vital first step.

Step 2 – Look Beyond Vanity and FOMO

Think of step 1 as laying the foundations for your online platform. Once you’ve carried it out, you can start to build something a little more interesting and lucrative.

Too often, people invest a lot of time into their online platform without thinking about how to benefit from it. This ends up being a time drain. Even worse, the sunk cost fallacy leads to people plowing more time and energy into their social media or blog, purely for the sake of keeping it going. 

Ultimately, I think this error occurs for a couple of reasons. First, vanity. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are all susceptible to the validation that occurs from being noticed online. In fact, platforms are engineered to hook us on the dopamine hit they provide. Second, fear of missing out. Too often we spend time posting online just because everyone else is. Whether we actually benefit or not gets left out of the equation.

When people spend time online purely for vanity or fear of missing out, they miss out on the many ways that platforms can be monetized.

The right way to monetize your platform in particular depends on the type of platform you have and the skills you possess. To get you started, here are some ideas that you should consider.

  • Mailing list. Do you regularly have significant numbers of people interested in hearing what you have to say? Think about offering them some incentive to sign up for your mailing list. Creating a mailing list allows you to market relevant offers to your audience.
  • Ads. If you have a website or blog which gets traffic and you’re not running any form of paid ads, you’re leaving money on the table. The amount you get might not be massive at first, but paid ads at least give you a tangible ROI on the time you invest in your online platform. 
  • Affiliate. Affiliate marketing can be a great source of passive income. The key is to know your audience and their pain points well enough that you can offer effective solutions. Never be spammy or greedy. Only promote products and services you truly believe will make your audience’s life better. 

The above ideas are just three of many. No matter how you do it, you owe it to yourself to move beyond vanity and FOMO and start making more of your online presence. 

Step 3 – Launch a Small Paid Product

Of course, running ads and promoting affiliate products will only benefit you so much. If you really want to make the most of your online presence, you should think about launching a product or service of your own.

A lot of people think that launching products ‘isn’t for them’ or that the time isn’t right to start. This is almost always due to fear. No matter who you are or what your background is, there is almost certainly something you can offer that people would love to pay for.

To sound a note of caution, I strongly advise starting small and scaling up. Sometimes, people make the error of getting truly enamored by their idea and spending a massive amount of time before sending it out into the world for feedback.

Let’s illustrate the above with a quick example. Imagine you want to write and sell nonfiction books targeted to your existing audience. Rather than spending months or years crafting the perfect book, start smaller. Maybe write a chapter or a short PDF. Get out into the world for free and get feedback. If it goes well, you have proof that a paid offering is more likely to succeed.

So what are some of the paid products and services you may wish to offer through your platform?

  • Books. I’ve seen books make a real difference in people’s lives time and time again. That goes for both the authors and the readers. Almost everyone has the ability to release a book, and once you’ve seen it work for yourself, you’ll understand just how amazing it feels. 
  • Courses. Teaching others lets you improve lives while making money. A real win/win. Even if you start really small, such as by offering a training program to even 5 people a month, you can see the benefits for yourself.
  • Services. If people are already checking out your platform, it shows they respect your knowledge and outlook. Some of those people are likely to be willing to pay you for services. The type you offer depends totally upon the field you’re in, but consulting and coaching are always valuable. 

The type of paid offering you opt for will depend upon your skillset and the needs of your audience. No matter what you choose, start small and scale up from there. 

What Will Your First Step Be?

As exciting as the thought of profiting from your online platform is, it’s all too easy to not take the first step.

Don’t make that mistake. Think about how you could start seeing a real return from the hours you spend online.

A simple way to start is by making an action plan to make your existing online presence more coherent and compelling, and then brainstorming possible future ways to monetize.

Why not start now? Every hour spent online is an hour you’ll never get back, so start using that time wisely!

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