The big buzzword in publishing right now is the “platform.” If you are an author and you don’t have a robust platform, publishers won’t even think of publishing your book, no matter how well written it is, unless you have a robust platform. An author’s platform means she has prestigious speaking gigs, teaches seminars, has extensive media experience, writes guest blogs at one or more well-known websites, maybe hosts a radio show or has a syndicated column, has an active and dynamic online following via social media, an interesting website and newsletter, and, well, you get the picture.
All of these so-called planks make up her platform, from which she can become a self-generating publicity monster and do all the publisher’s selling work for them. (It kind of makes the publisher’s job a no-brainer, if you ask me.)
But the concept of a platform in business is more nuanced and complex. In business, a powerful platform enables a company to generate new customers, products, and services. It attracts mutually beneficial partnerships. A dynamic platform encourages innovation and has the ability to transform whole industries and change consumer behavior. It enables companies to be so resilient that they can withstand seismic shifts in the market and thrive on — or even invite — uncertainty.
Four companies that have defined the modern-day business platform — and set an incredibly high bar that few others can easily achieve — are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, also known as the Gang of Four.
In a smart, fast-paced, and ambitious new business book, The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business (Motion Publishing), technology expert Phil Simon shows how these four companies have pioneered an entirely new business model that’s based on the platform — one that businesses large and small should adopt if they want to survive and grow in the years ahead.
The platforms of the Gang of Four go far beyond mere websites with a few interesting services tied in. Because of how these companies leverage their powerful, ever-evolving platforms, they now influence everyone on the planet.
These companies don’t just attract customers. They curate many passionate users and turn them into partners who also benefit from the relationship, expand the brand, and pay back profits. Think of Apple’s app developers, for example, or Amazon’s aStore sellers. They adapt extremely well and quickly to change, and embrace frequent, intelligent risk-taking and experimentation. Think of how Google expanded its brand from a smart search engine with profitable ads into Gmail, Maps, Docs, Voice, and YouTube, to name but a few.
These companies continually add valuable planks — products, services, or user communities — that extend their platform’s reach. Think of Facebook’s phenomenal evolution from a college chatroom into a global marketing tool for businesses. They integrate multiple devices, websites, and services under one umbrella, and constantly reevaluate what else they could do. These four companies move so quickly and innovate so decisively that they can recognize and incorporate new technologies before anyone else sees them coming.
Simon walks readers through the technological, societal, and economic trends and developments that led to the emergence of the modern-day platform. Then he offers a concise and riveting analysis of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, examining how each company built its platform and became universally admired. We also learn about up-and-coming platform-based businesses to watch, and read Simon’s bold predictions about where technology may take business in the next decade or two.
Okay, but how can the mom-and-pop owners of a neighborhood cheese shop benefit from reading about the mighty Gang of Four?
Believe me, there’s inspiration on every page of Simon’s nifty book, which crackles with energy and “cool” tech talk. You don’t have to be a techie, though, to appreciate or understand the big messages, tips, and strategies here. It’s written to motivate and inspire forward-thinking entrepreneurs — and it will.
If you’re a businessperson, the book offers a wealth of valuable platform-building lessons and practical tips. You’ll learn how to use low-cost or no-cost technology tools to build a powerful platform. He shows how get customers, clients, and partners to expand your business for you, and provides a satisfying solution to the nagging problem of how to generate a profit from your website and social media marketing efforts. You’ll find out how to protect your business from rapid change in your industry, stay ahead of trends, and how to develop ideas, products, and services that are “sticky” and discourage your hard-won customers from going elsewhere.
The book’s footnotes are a goldmine unto themselves, introducing readers to eye-opening blogs, online resources, startup incubators, smart companies, web tools, YouTubes, thought leaders, and plenty more to sate and stimulate hungry entrepreneurs and tech trendwatchers. As one would expect, Simon invites readers to “continue the conversation” at the book’s website, where there are even more tools, blog posts, videos, podcasts, and supplemental materials to help readers navigate the Age of the Platform.
If you’re a businessperson looking for new ways to boost sluggish sales, invigorate your employees, and grow your company, The Age of the Platform provides a jolt of thought-provoking inspiration and fresh ideas. Even a humble author can learn a thing or two about platform building. As Simon advises, you’d better get on the bandwagon, because the Age of the Platform is here, and there’s no turning back.