Continuing my thoughts from yesterday, here is one of my favorite TED talks. Eric Whitacre is a composer who used the medium of the internet to conduct a choir of 2,000 voices from around the world. This project and its resulting song is one of the most moving I’ve ever heard. Listen to what he learned from it:
“So two things struck me deeply about this. The first is that human beings will go to any lengths necessary to find and connect with each other. It doesn’t matter the technology. And the second is that people seem to be experiencing an actual connection. It wasn’t a virtual choir. There are people now online that are friends; they’ve never met. But, I know myself too, I feel this virtual esprit de corps, if you will, with all of them. I feel a closeness to this choir — almost like a family.”
The beauty of a choir is in its celebration of each unique voice. A great question to ask is, “How are you using your voice?” Are you using it to give to and build something greater than you?
Image via Wikipedia
The retail buzzword is “brand”. The health industry buzzword is “wellness”. How about “postmodern and paradigm shift” for ethics or philosophy? Or one of my personal favorites – “leverage” for business.
Relatively new to the scene is “platform” which by strict definition means “a raised floor or stage used by public speakers or performers so that they can be seen by their audience.” Here’s the thesis: the greater your platform, the greater your influence. According to this definition, the people interested in platform are public speakers and performers, but really it’s anyone who either has a voice or wants a voice. I have this sneaky suspicion you’re one of the two.
I might compare ‘platform’ to “Search Engine Optimization“, the process of improving visibility of a website in search engines via “natural” search results. SEO for websites and platform for speakers are increasingly synchronized in pursuit of that influential voice. The difference (if there is one) is really only in your product, whether that’s a piece of plastic from China, a get-rich-quick scheme or some social justice. My concern exists in the increasing dichotomy of platform and product. The pendulum seems to be swinging from what we’re saying to how we’re saying it.
The potential danger intrinsic to this sudden and increased emphasis on platform is in exerting more energy and effort into the volume of our voice vs. what we’re actually saying. Competition for your ear, your wallet and your vote is off the charts. What we’ll see in this next presidential election is evolving socio-digital synchronization – where the candidate who stands on the most electronic soapbox wins. Why not when you can actually pay for followers on Twitter? It’s the new Direct Mail. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign proved it’s not what you say but how you say it.
So you want platform? The first question to ask is “what are you actually trying to say” or “what are you contributing?” This may sound like an old argument of chicken vs. egg or Jim Collins’ ‘get the right people on board before determining the destination.’ However you want to slice it, the bottom line is that our headlines are driving our business, not our content. Do you want loyal customers and committed followers/fans? Then build your platform on the content, not your content on the platform.
Your platform will grow and it will shrink with volatile markets. Impulse will drive the consumer more than intent. Is your product worth riding these storms? Is your message changing lives? Worry a little less about the size of your platform and focus a little more on quality product. You’ll discover that this strategy delivers longer-term life-changing results.