Platform vs. online presence = one and the same?

I hate all the emphasis in the publishing world on “platform.” I even hate the word itself. I think it takes away from what writers should be focusing on: writing.

But the reality is, platform is important. I get that. I get that platform is vital to selling books.

Yet I wonder if we’re all confused about what platform really is. Or maybe I’m the one who’s confused. Whenever I hear writers talking about platform, they’re saying how many followers they have on Twitter or how many comments they get on their blog or how many friends they have on Facebook. All of the emphasis is on social networking. And we seem to be striving for quantity, rather than quality… but that’s another post.

I see platform as more than cultivating an online presence. In my mind, platform requires branding yourself as an expert in something and having a means through which to reach potential readers to share that expertise. Creating a platform is far more difficult than creating an online presence.

But maybe I’m overlooking something here. What do y’all think? How much of platform is online presence? Are platform and online presence one and the same? Is it possible to have a platform nowadays without an online presence?