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A non-scientific response from yours truly, an English major

Ah, the elusive algorithm. I work here and I don’t know exactly what goes into the special sauce (mostly because I’ve never asked for the nitty gritty details and also because it does get tweaked).

So instead of pontificating about stuff I’d get 80% right, let’s look at my last month of writing.

I had between 15K and 17K followers during this time, which is a lot, and yet, only a small portion of my followers, on average, see and read my work.

Is it because they are robots? From spot checks of the follower emails I get (I look at most of the people, believe it or not), they are not.

Is it because I’m a bad writer? I’m a writer, so I also have crippling self-esteem issues, but my father says I’m an amazing writer, so I’m going to say no.

Is it because of the dreaded algorithm? Well, sure, maybe, but that’s not a bad thing.

Think about your feed on a daily basis. There’s a lot in there, so even if every single one of your followers goes to Medium every day (which they don’t), they have a lot to read, and it’s not always you. Time is the most precious commodity we have, so on a daily basis, there’s only a percentage that have time to give you to view or fully read your post. On top of that, there is some ranking in the feed, so depending on how frequently you write, coupled with how frequently they read Medium and how far they dig into what’s been written from the folks they follow, they may or may not see your post in order to decide if they should read it or not. This holds true, whether or not you’re in a publication.

Best way to get more eyeballs on your writing? Write more frequently — both original stories and responses — to stay top of mind with your audience. Use a variety of tags, to get in front of new eyeballs, and yes, get into publications to give yourself even more of a chance to garner new readers. But remember, all these methods still come up against the issue of time.

My best advice for viewing your stats? Look at them cumulatively, rather than in a vacuum, and watch trends instead of focusing on individual stats. And think beyond stats (although I do love stats, so don’t ignore them, I definitely don’t) — think about the quality of conversations you might have had, if that’s your jam, or the new voices and stories you found from the work you created. The connections and new ideas that are spread, to me, are just as important as getting my work in front of 17,000 people each time I hit “publish”.

Just to round this out, I wanted to show you a snapshot of my first posts on the platform, before I even worked here, and had around 4,000 followers.

Speaking in absolutes, these numbers look way more impressive than my most recent screenshot, but there’s two things to think about here: First, I got a couple viral hits (and some delicious Medium Staff tweets and recommends, something my personal stories don’t get anymore, as a member of the staff). Second, these stories have had a year to circulate. They still get comments and recommends on a weekly basis, particularly those that are more evergreen (like the story about social marketing and making something go viral— those lessons are still applicable today).

I hope this helps, in a non-scientific way, give you some insight into why your posts are actually doing pretty well — and why you should write more, because I like your work, and over 1,000 people agree with me — and I bet even more will in the future, so keep on doing what you do.

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