The secret behind successful Medium stories

When I decided to write this post, I set out with one clear goal. I wanted to find a foolproof secret behind successful Medium stories.

Many have tried, and failed to find a common thread between the most recommended posts on Medium. My gut — and naivety — told me that there must be something we’re missing. I was certain that there must be a reason why some posts generate thousands of recommendations, and why other posts waste away, unread and unshared.

So I hit Google, Medium, and a ton of respected content and research blogs. I hit them hard, desperate to find even a remote hint of any secret link.

Was it the topic? No.

Was it that they are all shared in specific publications? Maybe! But without knowing when an article ended up featured in a publication, it was hard to say for sure.

Is it yet another popularity contest? The more followers, the more reads, the more recommends! Well, not exactly! Of course, audience size does play it’s part. But many reads does not mean many recommends. In fact many recommended posts came from authors with less than 1k followers. So that can’t be it.

One thing you should know about me is that if I set out to find something, I want to find it. Actually I’ll rephrase that. I need to find it. It doesn’t matter how important it is, it’s a compulsion. I channel my inner Liam Neeson — minus the torture, death threats, and kick-ass action sequences. If I look for it, I will find it!

I struggled with this research for what seemed like an eternity. I wrestled the questions, and explored every avenue I could think to explore. And after all that, I would like to report that I have found the key. That I have unearthed the secret behind successful Medium stories only the top authors know. I would like to say that I have unearthed the secret sauce that will get you posting on Medium like the pros.

But I can’t.

As I wrangled with a little “seeker’s panic” — not being able to fulfil my need to find answers — I had a profound realisation. The ‘secret’ I’d been searching for is no secret at all. It has been staring us all smugly in the face since the dawn of Medium — and arguably the dawn of content.

Quality, and audience matter!

It’s not quite the revelation that I was hoping for. To be honest, it felt a little like a cop-out. But in a sense, quality is the common thread that links the top content on Medium.

This likely comes as no surprise to the blogging elite, as quality has always mattered. The only difference is that Medium have it locked down!

You can say one thing can about the team at Medium, they know what they are doing. Their algorithm — designed to unearth high quality posts — actually works. Shocking, I know! In fact, throughout all the research, everything pointed back to the fact that Medium is designed to unearth high quality posts, regardless of the author.

So although I can’t give you one foolproof secret behind successful Medium stories, I can use my reams of research to offer 3 top tips to improve the quality of your Medium posts, and get a better response from your readers.

1. Respect the power of drafting

The most fascinating of all my research is a statistic that links writing time, and post popularity.

Yes! You read that right.

Medium researchers found a direct correlation between the amount of time an author spends writing a post, and it’s eventual popularity.

Now, that’s not to say you should spend a decade writing the same post — unless it takes that long! But to put it simply, there’s no need to rush. In fact, rushing might actually be damaging the potential of your post. Think about that the next time you try and bang out an article in an afternoon.

Spend time crafting every word. Make sure the tone, language, and pace feel right. Treat every post like its the only post that will ever matter to you. After all, it takes time to craft a masterpiece.

2. Write something your friends would read

As I said before, your audience will play a significant part in the success of your Medium posts. That’s basic logic.

So make the most of the audience you have. Understand what they like to read and recommend, and write something for them.

The Medium algorithm looks at ‘Views’, ‘Reads’ and ‘Recommendations’ as an sign of quality. By writing for the audience you have, you improve the likelihood of them viewing and reading your post. By answering a burning question, or simply resonating in some way, your are far more likely to get a recommendation.

The people who follow you are going to make up the largest percentage of your reads, at least in the early days of your posts life. Get to know them, engage with them, and write something they would want to read and recommend.

3. Be grateful for every read, share and follow

My third and final tip isn’t reserved for Medium. In my opinion it is a crucial part of society that is dwindling across content and social platforms.

Be grateful for every interaction that comes from your post. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ‘thank you’ for following, re-tweeting a mention or favouriting a tweet, or responding to a comment. Show the people you are writing for, that you care what they think, and say. Show them that reading your post means a lot to you.

Nothing will build your audience more than engaging with them. So do it!

In summary, the secret behind successful Medium stories is no secret at all. It boils down to two fundamental areas: The quality of your content, and how you treat your audience.

If you want your posts to succeed, focus on writing high quality content that your audience will love. And find ways to show them that you care what they think, and are grateful for their support.

Originally published at on November 13, 2015.

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