Insider’s Guide to Medium

“Medium has become an ideas exchange, where thinkers, creators, and those with a story to share come to find their audience, move people, and move us all forward.” — Ev Williams

Welcome to Medium, a place for personal stories, innovative ideas, and unique perspectives — where notable and influential people publish, converse, and engage without an editorial filter.

People open Medium every day because it reliably delivers smart content, and they write on Medium to exchange ideas and stories through tools that enable seamless, beautiful publishing and dynamic mechanisms for responding and reacting. On Medium, you’re publishing directly into a pulsing network of impassioned and engaged readers, writers, industries, and influencers.

We’re so glad you’ve decided to join. This step-by-step guide is full of tips to help you make the most of your Medium experience and ensure your stories look and perform their very best.

Step 1: Sign up

Sign up for Medium using your Twitter or Facebook login, your Google account, or your email address.

Regardless of which you choose, connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts after you sign up. Medium mines your social graph, so whomever is following you on Twitter that already has a Medium account will automatically follow you on Medium as well. The same goes for Facebook (though Medium can only be linked to personal Facebook profiles, not Pages), giving you a built-in audience right off the bat.

Set up your profile page— which you can access by clicking on your avatar at the top right and then on “Your profile” — with these two tips in mind:

  1. Use your real name as the “display name” on your profile. It will help readers more effectively search for your stories. Your Medium user name will automatically be the same as your Twitter handle if you sign up using Twitter, but you can edit it.
  2. Write a descriptive biography. Beneath your name on your Medium profile is space for a short biography; again, if you sign up using Twitter, our system will pull your Twitter bio to fill this space. Edit your bio to describe yourself and the kinds of things you like to publish, as all of that information is integrated into the search index. This helps Medium users find you when they’re searching for something to read.

Step 2: Write a story

Click the “Write a story” button at the top right of the homepage to open a blank draft, or click “Write here…” at the top center of the homepage to begin writing in a draft window there.

Top right; top center. Just start typing!

You can compose directly on the site, paste in text you’ve already written, or import a piece from elsewhere on the web by clicking your avatar at the top right, and then on “Import story.” Your draft will autosave as you go, and you can access it — and any other drafts — by clicking on your avatar at the upper right corner of your page and selecting “Drafts.”

As you start writing, you’ll notice a plus sign in your left margin. Clicking on it yields the embed toolbar:

Use this to include anything that isn’t text in your story.

These options prompt you to embed an image file; a video from YouTube, Vimeo, or anywhere else on the web; a generic embed from any of our supported sources like Spotify or SoundCloud for audio and Twitter or Instagram for a tweet or post; or a separator (the three-dot image between sections in this post) to indicate a pause or line break.

As you start editing, you’ll notice another toolbar that appears when you highlight a piece of your own text while in draft mode. That’s the text toolbar:


This allows you to make text bold, italic, or hyperlinked; to format text as a header, sub-header, block quote, or pull quote; and to leave a private note on your own draft. Pulling up this toolbar while formatting the title of your story shows you the same options but formats your subtitle differently — more on those differences here. Pulling it up while highlighting the beginning of a new paragraph will give you the option to start it with a drop cap.

Want to get feedback on your story from trusted friends or colleagues before going live with your post? Click “Share” in the top right corner and copy and paste the link that’s generated to send in an email. Want to mention another Medium user in your story? Type an “@” symbol followed by the name of a Medium user and the name will turn green and clickable, linking you back to their Medium profile. (Here, for example, I mention myself: Lily Rudd.)

Step 2.5: Make it beautiful

Many stories that perform on Medium tend to be not only well-written but also make full use of all the writing tool has to offer. Writing a thoughtful, attention-grabbing title and subtitle, adding arresting and high-resolution images and image grids, switching up the text and image formatting with pull quotes, image grids, and drop caps, and utilizing links and embeds are simple steps that go a long way. Medium was built with simplicity at the fore, so don’t be intimidated out of taking a few extra minutes to make your post shine on the page. This formatting post will help get you started, and these tips and tricks will elevate you to expert status.

Want to make sure an image will always accompany your post when it appears on your Medium, Facebook, and Twitter accounts? Medium automatically pulls the first image in your story for this preview display, but switching it to a different image from your post is easy. Click the image you’d like to use for display (so that it outlines in green) and Command + Option + 8. The outline will turn red.

Featured images make a story much more appealing in the wild.

Medium is a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) platform, so make sure the post is laid out to your specifications; that’s exactly how it will appear to Medium users once you hit “Publish.” And since your name and avatar will appear with the post, there’s no need to write a byline.

Step 3: Publish

False alarm! Before you go live, you have a few more options.

If you click the “…” button at the top right, you’ll see a drop-down menu. Clicking “Customize title / subtitle” will allow you to edit the title and subtitle that will be displayed within Medium and when you share your piece — while allowing the title and subtitle in your actual piece to stay the same. If you love the title you used within the post, you can skip this step, but if you want something catchier for social media, for example, this is where you’d switch it in using this feature.

You have the option to schedule a post, publish privately, or reserve rights by clicking the drop-down arrow that says “Publish” and clicking on “Scheduling / visibility / license.” Publishing something as “unlisted” will make your post live on Medium but only visible and searchable to those with whom you’ve shared the URL. It will not appear on your profile or in your followers’ story streams, and your followers will not be notified that you published. If you’d like to make the post public later on, you can — but your followers won’t get notified of the new story.

This drop-down also allows you to assign tags to your story. Tags are the keywords or topics that you think best describe your post; using them not only makes your story searchable by subject matter, but also organizes it with other stories on the same theme. We recommend that you use as diverse a combination of tags as possible — some broad (like “tech”) and some specific (like “internet security”) — to help your post reach a varied audience. Be sure to use all five! And if you’ve connected Twitter and Facebook, the menu allows you to share on social media directly from the post.

When you’re ready, click “Publish story.” If you choose the public option, your post will populate the homepages and newsletters of your followers. For the widest possible readership, avoid publishing on the weekend (most people aren’t sitting in front of their computers then) — and as long as you go live during the week, it doesn’t matter what time you choose to publish.

Step 4: Promote

Medium combines the ease of self-publishing with the network effects of a social platform. Medium amplifies promotion, meaning posts are seen more, and for a longer period of time, than if they were published elsewhere. Part of this is built right into the platform, which makes it easy. But part of it is also in your hands.

The same way you would with anything you write on the web, your Medium posts need some love from your end as well. Make sure to use your other social channels to get the word out about your story. Tweet it! Share it on Facebook! Instagram a picture of yourself pointing to the post on your iPad! Do whatever you would normally do to let your network know you published something great.

Medium offers a great and easy way to tweet part of your story, even if it’s longer than 140 characters. It’s called a text shot, and tweeting one results in 2 to 5 times the engagement of a normal tweet. Give it a try!

Step 5: Engage

There are lots of ways to engage with readers and members of your community on Medium — and we often find that higher engagement from authors yields high return from readers.

Medium has three primary methods of engagement:

  • Responses: Medium posts that react, reply, build on, or add to a story. Unlike a comments, a response has its own URL and is only automatically visible to readers if you recommend it (more on that below) — or if readers click through at the bottom of your story to manually show them. If someone responds to one of your stories, you will be notified by email that a response has been published. Responses live on their authors’ profiles and at the bottom of the posts they’re responding to.
  • Recommends: the little green ❤ button at the bottom of a story, and Medium’s version of a re-tweet. When someone recommends your story on Medium, it is pushed out to all of their followers, appearing on their personalized homepages and newsletters. Recommends determine a story’s long tail on Medium by rippling the post out to different networks all across the internet.
  • Highlighting: a tool that allows you to call out specific lines from a story by selecting it with your cursor and then click the pen icon. You’ll be able to see every highlight on your story — but readers will only see highlights from people they follow.

Recommend, respond to, and highlight responses to your story, and do the same to posts by creators or publications (more on those at the end of this post) that you’d like to be noticed by or participate in. Follow readers who engage with you and follow your new followers back. Here’s more about how to be good at Medium.

Step 6: Make yourself at home

Find your people and make Medium yours. Follow users, tags, and publications that interest you — or who you want to be interested in you. (Again, you’ll find more on publications below.) Recommend posts you like so that we can give you more of them. Get acquainted with the stream of content Medium serves to you so that you can better understand how your own work will surface in the eyes of your readers.

Check on the performance of your stories by clicking on your avatar on the upper right corner and choosing “Stats.”

  • At the top of the page, you’ll see a graph showing views, reads, and recommends on all of your stories combined for the last 30 days. Go back in time by clicking the “Prev 30 days” link and hover over a date to get that day’s numbers.
  • Scroll below the graph to see stats on individual stories, and sort them by views, reads, recommends, or read ratio — the percentage of users that read the story as compared to just clicked on it. (For example: A read ratio of 30% means that 30% of all users who saw the story read it to the bottom.) Click on the title of an individual story to see a daily graph for just that story.
  • Click on “Referrers” under the story title on your stats page to see where on the web your traffic has come from. Click the listing to see all of the tweets that link to your story, and throw your fans a favorite or a retweet to keep the conversation going.
Read the full skinny on stats here.

Extra credit: Publications

If you’re publishing a lot of content around a single topic, want to publish together with other writers in a cohesive way, or want to build a presence as a company or brand, start a publication on Medium.

Sterling Medium publications Google News Lab, Malala Fund, and Bright.

A publication is a branded, customizable space where only writers who are invited to publish there may do so—and where multiple writers can publish under one umbrella. As an editor of a publication, you have control over what gets published there and when, plus access to the publication’s stats. Read more about publications here, and more about tailoring them to your needs here and here.

You might find yourself getting invited to join or contribute a post to an existing publication. This means that an editor of that publication saw you or your work and wants to include it there. If you agree to a publication’s story request, the story will live both within that publication and on your profile page, with your name first and the publication’s name second:

This is how Kate’s 3 Min Read post appears on her profile page.

A few things to keep in mind as you’re deciding whether to accept a publication’s story request:

  • If you agree to publish your piece in a publication, the publication has rights to edit your piece.
  • A story can only live in one publication at a time — so if you say yes to a story request from a publication but end up wanting to include that same story in another publication down the road, you’d have to remove the story from the original pub before adding it to the new one.
  • There are many different kinds of publications on Medium, so make sure that the publication requesting your story aligns with your brand. For example: If you’re writing about technology, it might not make sense for you to be in Vantage, a(n albeit beautiful) publication about photography. But if you’re writing a novel and you get a story request from a publication like Electric Literature, it would make more sense to consider including your piece there.

If you’re unsure of whether you want your work placed in a particular place, get in touch with your contact at Medium.

Don’t be a stranger!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or feedback. We’re here to help you have a great experience on Medium.