Growing With Content: How to Start a Respectable Platform Others Will Love

Do you want to build a respectable platform?

Are you wondering how to use content to grow your business?

To learn more about how to start a platform that others will love, this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast gives you insight into the subject.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, you’ll learn 5 tips to help you grow your business with content and the story behind Social Media Examiner’s success.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

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You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher or Blackberry.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Growing With Content

#1: Experiment on someone else’s platform

Back in 2008, I sent a LinkedIn request to Ann Handley, who was, and still is, the chief content officer at MarketingProfs. At the time, I had spoken at Ann’s conferences and written for MarketingProfs on white papers and white paper marketing. The response I received back from Ann in hindsight was very important to me. You’ll hear the question Ann asked me and how I responded.

I also noticed that Brian Clark at Copyblogger had started to get excited about Twitter. I’d also written for Copyblogger since they were my target audience.

So I decided to take Twitter on and approached Brian to see if I could write an article about it. The article was titled “How to Use Twitter to Grow Your Business.”

copyblogger twitter article

This article became one of the most popular articles on Copyblogger for years. It has received 254 comments in total.

A few months later I reached out to Ann Handley and she agreed for me to write an article called “The Dark Side of Twitter: What Businesses Need to Know.”

marketing profs article

About a year later, this article turned out to be the single most popular article for the entire year on MarketingProfs.

Although I knew nothing about either subject, you’ll hear how I developed these articles and hopefully you’ll see that you can do it too.

These articles were published when the market was ready for them and part of the success was because of the people who shared it.

Take-home lessons:

  1. Experimenting on someone else’s platform allows you to make sure that your content will be popular before you decide to either build a new platform with this type of content or start to introduce that content into your existing platform.
  2. Almost anyone is approachable for a journalistic opportunity. When you write for a known platform that is large in your industry, you can leverage your visibility to connect with people. It’s an incredible opportunity for you to get some great content.
  3. You can set the stage for something big.

The success of these articles is what justified starting Social Media Examiner.

Listen to the show to find out the other great benefits of when you publish content on someone else’s platform.

#2: Do a reverse Trojan horse

In the tale of the Trojan horse where the warriors are released, I want you to reverse it and instead think about gathering data while other people march you around.

In January 2009, I conducted the Social Media Marketing Industry Survey, where hundreds of marketers were asked to complete a very simple survey. In exchange for that information, they received the completed report.

This data converted into a rich 26-page PDF file, known as the Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

social media marketing industry report 2009

The first-ever Social Media Marketing Industry Report in 2009.

You’ll find out the type of questions I asked and what the real goal was behind the survey.

Within weeks of this report’s publication, over 40,000 people downloaded it and made more than 400 comments. One of the unintended benefits for me was to become the first person to “claim an industry” in this space.

Take-home lessons:

  1. Make sure there is value or a benefit to everyone who participates.
  2. Let your reverse Trojan horse work for you.
  3. Start to develop some content you know people want as a result of the data you put together.

Listen to the show to find out how this report led to great things, and why it gave me a great deal of certainty when it came to the launch of Social Media Examiner.

#3: Build relationships early

In late 2008, I noticed that Denise Wakeman of the BlogSquad was super-active on Facebook and it became very apparent to me that she knew her stuff. I already knew Denise and when I reached out to her, she encouraged me to attend a conference where I met Mari Smith.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but these two people would be extremely instrumental in the launch of Social Media Examiner.


My interview with Denise Wakeman at the Increase Sales with Social Media event in 2008.

You’ll discover what happened at the conference that gave me the idea to interview “experts.”

jason falls interview

Jason Falls was one of the first people I interviewed for Writing White Papers.

Little did I know when I interviewed Jason Falls that later down the line, he would also be play a vital role in the future of Social Media Examiner. This relationship also led to a speaking slot for me at BlogWorld.

The moral of the story is to build relationships early, as you never know what they might lead to. I’ve been able to build lifelong relationships because of the opportunity I have given others to share their story on my platform when they needed exposure.

Take-home lessons:

  1. Relationships take time to build. You have to think ahead about the kinds of relationships you want to build now and how some of them may or may not benefit you or the other person down the road.
  2. Invest in the success of other people. There is always something you can do to help people. Make sure you offer help with true intention.

Listen to the show to learn how you can be a gift to others.

#4: Go to the well

A “well” used to be where everyone gathered because it was a place they needed to be. So when I say go to the well, what I really mean is attend conferences. Once you are there, take the opportunity to interview people who are there to speak or are on a panel.

You’ll hear how I approached speakers at BlogWorld and the many benefits you can gain from this experience. Chris Brogan recently said that he still vividly remembers his first interview with me 4 years ago.

Chris Brogan shares social media tips.

When you interview high-profile people at events, it’s not only a great way to build relationships, but also to develop incredible content. This in turn drives people to your website. Other people also approach you to be interviewed because they want to be seen on your platform.

Take-home lessons:

  1. You don’t need to work very hard to find people at the well. Just find the right event and go there. Be strategic about whom you interview, either on camera or just with audio.
  2. It’s very efficient. You can walk away from a conference with 10, 15 or 20 interviews that can help your content spread out over time and be very successful.

Listen to the show to find out why these interviews were critical to the growth of Social Media Examiner.

#5: Give awards to others

In my second book Launch, I talk about how everyone is interested in three things.

  1. They want access to great information.
  2. They want access to great people.
  3. They want to be recognized.

In December 2009, I started a contest called the Top 10 Social Media Blogs, where Social Media Examiner readers were asked to nominate their favorite blog. The judges were Scott Monty from Ford Motor Company, Ann Handley from MarketingProfs and David Meerman Scott.

top 10 blog post 09

The winners were announced in January 2010.

Once all the votes were in, the judges helped decide the winners. The number-one winner was Chris Brogan and you’ll hear how we referred to him in the post.

The fourth winner was Jay Baer, who was thrilled just to be recognized. Another winner, Kristi Hines, became a staff writer for us.

You’ll hear the benefits of when you run awards in your industry and the relationships that emerge as a result.

Take-home lessons:

  1. When you reveal the best in a category, it’s a really good gift for the winners.
  2. People love to be recognized. So recognize them.
  3. It can lead to incredible opportunities down the road.

Listen to the show to find out how these relationships go on to greater things.

These 5 tips are how Social Media Examiner went from absolute nothing in the world of social media to what it is today.

I hope you are inspired by this story.

Call in and leave your social media–related questions for us and we may include them in a future show.

Other Show Mentions

Social Media Examiner is 4 years old on October 12. I want to say thank you to each and every one of you. It’s been an amazing ride so far.

The social media jungle is mysterious, always changing, with new species popping up all over the place. We have a lot more stuff in store for you in the future.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on growing your platform with content? Please leave your comments below.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, founder of My Kids' Adventures and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He's also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. Other posts by »




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  • http://navneetsau.com/ NavNeet Sau

    Thank you Michael for this amazing episode. These are really appreciable ways to create content and build relationship with industry expert which you have described here and most importantly I like your way to describe the conferences with “Go to the Well”. Thanks once again for sharing your invaluable thoughts :)

  • Shelia

    Another excellent episode Michael! I love your ability to story tell in a way that encourages me to take action. I’m in the process of rebranding and building a new platform and honing my message — you are key in my growth. Thanks again.

  • http://www.denisewakeman.com DeniseWakeman

    Thanks for the shout out, Mike. I subscribe to the podcast so I’ll be catching up on episodes during a long flight next week. Very proud and grateful to be part of the Launch of your empire. :-)

  • http://jeffkorhan.com Jeff Korhan

    Great show Mike. I would love to hear more stories like this. Now I feel like I know you and everyone else that was part of your journey on a more personal level.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Jeff – I was wondering if something like this would be boring or interesting to folks.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Denise, you were a key player :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Shelia. I hope it helps.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    NavNeet – Glad you like the ‘go to the well” analogy

  • Doug Hay

    Very well done – but don’t slow down. Your articles/blog posts are both well written and relevant to small business. I often share them with my team.

  • Marcelino Latorre

    Great episode as usual buddy, tremendous value.

  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    Another awesome podcast Mike! Tips #3 and #4 are very powerful. Attending Conference is a great way to establish connections. It is essential to connect with people in your industry, especially those who can really teach us how to grow. Thank you for sharing your first hand experiences that helped you when you first started out!

  • http://jeffkorhan.com Jeff Korhan

    I guess we’ll have to see how others weigh in, but I found it to be quite interesting from both a story and tutorial perspective.

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Great episode!

    Thanks for mentioning the importance of thinking like a journalist. I believe some people are scared to reach out to experts via HARO (Help a Reporter Out) or email. Most importantly, write quality content that your clients, customers, or readers want and need.

  • Janna Lowell

    Happy 4th Anniversary and Thank You for all the terrific info you offer so generously ~
    Janna Lowell

  • http://sproutsocial.com/features/social-media-engagement Sarah @ Sprout Social

    Great post, Michael. I loved the interview with Chris and his perspective on how things initially were for businesses online (Eg: “Come visit our website!”) to where they are/need to be now (Eg: Finding people talking about the company/industry). Getting a handle on where people are talking about you is so key!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Doug! Appreciate you sharing us :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks much Marcelino

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks John. Keep up the great work friend

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I am guessing you are a journalist Amanda? – Mike

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks much Janna!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Sarah – That interview was taken four years ago :) .

  • http://raymondduke.com/ Raymond Duke | Copywriter

    Not boring at all. Tons of great insight about how to accomplish multiple goals in what is on the surface just one action.

  • http://raymondduke.com/ Raymond Duke | Copywriter

    Thought you’d be interested in how I came upon hearing this show…

    I recently purchased Steve Slaunwhite’s “Secrets of Writing High-Performance Business-to-Business Copy” on AWAI. In the bonus material,that I was listening to last night, was an interview with you and Steve titled “Writing Winning White Papers”. Listening to this led me to your whitepaper site (http://www.writingwhitepapers.com/blog/index.php) to get more info. On your white paper site I saw the video about you talking about how Social Media Examiner got started.

    Up until this point I knew about Social Media Examiner, but didn’t know the person behind it. It was only after learning about something you had done in the past to find out what you are doing now.

    I see you as someone one step ahead of others. With that being said, I have a quick question: what are your thoughts on white papers as they stand today in 2013, and what do you think about where they are going? What I am essentially asking is for someone that is building a copywriting platform, are white papers still worth focusing on? I know you’re busy, so just a quick answer would be really appreciated.

    By the way, I went to some of the white paper sites you mentioned on the interview with Steve and I found a lot of the white papers to be awful. They’re written without calls to action and include cheesey clipart. Additionally, they are written like blog posts and don’t offer much in terms of benefits for the reader.

    I’m looking forward to the things you’re up to next. Thanks for the podcast.

  • http://glorisurban.com/ Glori Surban

    Fantastic! The first lesson truly justifies the value of guest blogging and how important it is for those wanting to build relationships with other blogger and gaining a wider audience.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Raymond – Glad you found the “old me.” It was more than four years ago when I was a thought leader in the white paper space. I have been off the radar that long so I am not in a position to make a lot of comments about the viability of white papers today. But this is true, great content matters more today than it did back then and content has only become more important. I would certainly explore white papers and ebooks and a viable business path. -Mike

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Glori! :)

  • http://raymondduke.com/ Raymond Duke | Copywriter

    Thank you for the feedback – it’s much appreciated.

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Hi Mike,

    Yes and no.

    I’m a freelance content writer and marketer and social media manager by day; I interview experts for blog posts and articles. I wrote magazine articles for some time, but I haven’t pitched editors in a while.

    I write for a community newspaper but anyone can sign up and write for this particular newspaper. It’s a great opportunity for me to stretch my journalism legs. I have my eye on another local newspaper; I was interviewed for an article two weeks ago. Stay tuned.

  • http://nl.linkedin.com/in/kleinpenning Robbin Kleinpenning

    Thanks for sharing your story. An amazing trip it is! I definitely going to use these tips for my own project! Would you mind sharing how you initially gathered all those 900 B2B e-mail addresses? And furthermore, I’d love to see the e-mail you’ve sent to all those people asking to participate :D And 1 last question: you were saying that all those participants were getting free access to the final report. What was the price you were charging for others to look into the final report?

    Thanks again and best wishes!
    - Robbin

  • Donny Monk

    Thank you Michael for this valuable episode. I’ve listened to your podcast faithfully for quite some time. This particular one has already stirred up the creative ideas for an upcoming project I’ve been working on. I’m going to make good use of contacting people who are potential writers for the publication and I can see how involving so many people will help expand the reach exponentially.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Robbin – Thanks for your email. When folks filled out the survey they entered their email addresses. We asked folks who participated to help get the word out for the survey and help us reach a common goal so many shared the survey on social networks. We ended up giving the report away for free to all, but those who took the survey were the first to be notified.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Donny – Glad to help get those creative juices stirring :)

  • http://www.SelfEmployedKing.com/ Mike Kawula

    Congrats on the Anniversary and Successes again!

    Quick feedback that this format for the episode (doing it solo for a change) was awesome. Great value and takeaways.

    Congrats again.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Mike and appreciate the feedback :)

  • Karissa Letchworth

    I have been following SME for over a year now and I cannot say enough about the amazing content you post. This podcast rings very true for me as I am struggling right now with a client who wants to comment on other forums/blogs more than produce their own content. If you can give any suggestions or tips on how to move them in the direction of producing more content I would greatly appreciate it!

    Congrats on your 4 year anniversary and I hope to see many more years of SME!!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Karissa – Here is an idea, have them read the free chapter here: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/launch/

  • Karissa Letchworth

    Awesome I loved it and will be passing it along!

  • http://www.mackeyproductions.com/ Stuart Mackey

    #1 is huge! I am just having a hard time finding platforms that are looking for my help. I am a video producer and also quite knowledgeable about social media, but haven’t made the right relationship connections yet, I guess. But I definitely will keep my iphone and mic handy for interviews when the opportunity arises.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Stuart – You’ll never find platforms that “are looking for my help.” Instead you need to reframe your thinking and ask yourself, “Where are my ideal customers? How can I help those publications??” Then approach them with a story idea. Hope this helps.

  • http://www.mackeyproductions.com/ Stuart Mackey

    Thanks, Michael.

  • http://www.moflow.ca/ Marlene Oliveira

    Loved this episode and agreed with others about enjoying the shift in format.

    Your thoughts helped to crystallize a couple of ideas for me around creating a research report and creating an award. I don’t suppose that you have blogged or otherwise shared your (more detailed) process on creating and implementing the award? Any useful links/resources on that?

  • http://www.mikegingerich.com/ Mike Gingerich

    Hey Mike, listened to the podcast and you asked for feedback, so here it is!! LOVE this format and the take-home lessons based on your story and experience. The stories are fun and then your intentional summing up and outlining of takeaways is great. I’m going to listen to it again!

  • Barry LeBrock

    Hey Mike -
    Great stuff. I listened to this podcast biking around the mean streets of South Florida. I am a sportscaster with a keen interest in social media/content marketing. The information was very insightful and your delivery makes your podcast an easy listen.
    You said “If you were inspired, leave me a message.” — so here it is.
    Thanks.
    Barry LeBrock

  • Sue Volpi Gelber

    Hi Mike! I’m a new fan. Each podcast is awesome, yet this is a favorite of mine (and the competition with your other podcasts is steep). Loved it, and very much appreciate you. SME and your podcasts make social media feel like I’m a student having an incredible experience in a great online high school. Happy anniversary!

  • Anita Rodriguez

    Thank you, Michael, for this wonderful episode. I am taking baby steps toward building my platform, and your content has been invaluable.

  • Carrie

    Hey Michael!
    Loving your story. Have been reading your articles for a while now, but I am onto the podcasts! Just listened to about 10 in the past couple of days, ha!. Keep it coming! Btw- this was a favorite ;)







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