By Kristin Faith Evans, MA, MS, LMSW
October 25, 2021
“Your writing’s good. But you need to grow your platform.”
Can you relate?
I wonder how many authors have abandoned their writing dreams at this stage on their journey to publication.
I recently attended a Christian writers’ conference. As I chatted with other new authors, a theme emerged. Writers reflected on how they had envisioned completing their books, pitching to agents and editors, and securing publishing contracts. Then, one word quashed their expectations. While receiving feedback about their book proposals, they heard the term, “platform.”
The Disillusionment Stage
When I first began my journey to publication, I resented the need to build a following. Engaging on social media stole time away from working on manuscripts and articles. Nevertheless, I faced the reality of how today’s publishing market operates. I accepted the fact that building a large platform is just part of being an author. But the more I obsessed about social media numbers, the more spiritually-drained and discouraged I became. Disillusionment clouded my focus.
Then, I decided to attend the writers’ conference. While reviewing the schedule of workshops, the number of sessions focused on platform, websites, and social media surprised me. Other writers also felt intimidated by this emphasis and overwhelmed by the daunting undertaking of building a following. One conference award winner said she was working on her book proposal but quit when she got to the platform and marketing section.
“Why do we need to build a large platform on social media? And how do you even begin to get ten thousand email addresses?” These questions echoed throughout the dining hall. It can become easy to view this task as an obstacle in the way of our writing and publishing dreams. Have you ever felt this way?
Parables and YouTube
Following the conference, I continued to reflect on the conversations I had with established authors and agents. Their encouragement inspired me to reconsider my perspective on platform. I viewed their websites, blogs, videos, and social media posts and observed how they were utilizing their influence to minister to their audiences. In some ways, their priority seemed to be building a ministry rather than promoting their books. I wondered if their marketing platform had naturally flowed from cultivating their ministry.
What if we were to re-envision building our platforms as ministry rather than just marketing?
But the emphasis the conference had placed on social media still bugged me. Then, it hit me—in Jesus’ day, traveling from town to town to speak to crowds was the most effective way to share the Gospel. Jesus spoke in parables to make His message relevant to each group of people by considering their culture and how they could best understand His teachings.
In today’s world, building a presence online is one of the most effective ways to share the Gospel. Traveling from town to town can now be accomplished through speaking on a podcast, posting a video, or going live on social media. Clips on Tik Tok, YouTube, and Instagram have become modern-day equivalents to parables.
The Great Commission and Social Media
“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, ESV).
This idea got me thinking about Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations. Then, an aha moment struck me. Social media has opened the door to a great deal of the world! We’re now able to reach people in many countries with just one click—even in some countries in which Christian missionaries are persecuted. What an opportunity we have to reach more people through our writing talents.
Once I began approaching platform from the perspective of the Great Commission, I realized that my message is not my message. Through my blog posts and articles, I share my story in the hopes that I will reach my niche audience and communicate God’s love and truth. But I must continually reflect—in sharing my story, am I sharing His story? Am I showing the world Jesus, His truth, and His love every time I click “post?”
I’ve realized that building my platform is not about me. It’s no longer a means to the end of getting published. The priority is getting Jesus’ story out to the world. Since I’ve begun to look at social media’s potential through this lens, I’ve become more passionate about connecting with other hurting people online. My focus has shifted. Even if my books never get published, I’m ministering to others through my writing and fulfilling God’s purpose for my life.
Our Calling As Writers
So authors, do we need to regularly post on social media? I dare say, why wouldn’t we? Now more than any other time in history, God has created the opportunity for us to reach people and fulfill the Great Commission. Social media swings the door wide-open for us to use our gifts and talents of writing to draw others to Him. Must we diligently build our following and email lists? Yes. An author’s platform is an essential component of publishing and marketing (both traditional and self-publication).
Can we view the priority of growing our platforms as ministry? Most certainly! Our first calling as Christian authors and industry professionals is to share Christ with others. Whether it be through our next book, article, poem, or post, Jesus charges us with the mission to share His love and truth with all nations any way we can.
What about you? What’s your vision for using your influence on social media to minister to your audience?