Medium For Marketers: 261,661 Views And 5,583 Subscribers In 30 Days — Here’s How

I was a little hesitant to write this post. Medium has been a great source of absolutely free, extremely qualified traffic for the last 6 months and I didn’t really want to share my strategy with anyone.

However, marketing is hard when you’re getting started and Medium is great at driving traffic, so I want to share “how I did it” primarily to help first-time founders get some good traction — to drive visitors, leads and customers back to your web site, without spending stupid amounts of money on Google AdWords or Facebook Ads and getting frustrated.

So let’s jump in and get started.

Why Medium?

There are lots of different places you can post your content online, but I’ve found that if you can write really good content, you have a much better chance of finding a (large) audience for it on Medium.

Much like Twitter and Facebook, Medium has the concept of followers, so people who like your content can follow you. The key difference with Medium is that as soon as you publish a new story, your followers instantly receive a push notification on their phone (assuming they have the Medium app installed) that takes them straight to your story.

Talk about a built-in audience that wants to hear from you.

How I Did It

When I think about the “formula” I used to write my stories on Medium (you can see all of my stories here), it really comes down to 4 things, which I’ve outlined below.

A screenshot from Dec/Jan — one of my best months on Medium so far

Come Up With 20–30 Headlines Per Story

For every story I post on Medium I spend half my time writing the content and half my time coming up with 20 or 30 different headlines. I look at popular stories on Medium and try to create headlines in a similar style. I try headlines containing numbers, I try short headlines, long headlines, headlines with expletives or words that grab your attention, etc.

After writing down a bunch of different headlines, I read through them all and go with the headline that grabs MY attention the most. The headlines that work (get the most views) tend to be those that sound like you’re about to learn something by reading the story, such as:

Tell A Story Based On What You’ve Learned

This can be a tough one if you’re writing about something you haven’t directly experienced yourself. The stories that tend to do the best on Medium are those which includes stories or lessons learned by the author.

When I write for Medium, I think about the lesson I’ve learned as an entrepreneur and try to tell the story behind it.

  • How did I learn the lesson?
  • What else did I try?
  • How did I fail?
  • What would I do differently if I was in that position again?
  • Etc

I’ve found that the more “nitty gritty” I make my stories, the better they do. People love specific details about everything (names, dates, photos, dollar amounts, conversion rate percentages, screenshots, etc). It makes the story feel more real to them. So go for more detail over less.

My most popular story, “This Is How You Identify A-Players (In About 10 Minutes)” has 193,000 views and only went live on Medium 7 weeks ago. It received no promotion outside of Medium (more on that later) and was not linked to or cross-posted anywhere else.

It made it to #3 on Medium’s “Top Posts” page for about 24 hours (a big deal) and was on Medium’s “Top Posts For February” list.

So why did it work so well? First, it’s actionable. It includes 7 questions you can ask during an interview to identify A-players — exactly what the headline promises.

The questions, of course, are based on my experience interviewing almost 1,000 people over the last 10+ years, which is important. The article wouldn’t have worked if I just curated a bunch of stuff I read online.

Finally, the story is full of real examples and actionable information you can use immediately to start interviewing. Interviewing is really hard, especially for first-time founders, so giving as much practical advice as possible was really important.

My point is that the story essentially condenses 15 years of experience into 5 minutes of easy, actionable reading on a topic 1) that’s hard, 2) where there’s a large audience and 3) where there’s not that much honest, actionable information about anywhere else online.

Be Casual, Honest And Genuine

You need to write your content as though it’s an email to a friend. Keep your tone conversational, avoid confusing words and don’t worry too much about perfect grammar. Write “from the soul” and be as authentic, honest and open as you can, even if it’s hard.

Your content should also be (excruciatingly) honest and genuine, too. Stories that routinely get tens or hundreds of thousands of views on Medium are those you know the author would’ve found hard to write. They include a level of honesty that most people would be uncomfortable with — but that’s also why most people don’t make it on to Medium’s “Top Posts” page.

Be honest about what you did right, of course, but be brutally honest about what you did wrong and what you learned from it. Talking about your mistakes shows you’re just a regular human being like everyone else and helps build trust and empathy with your audience.

Submit Your Story To Publications

I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this, but it’s amazing to build a huge audience of followers if you’re just getting started.

First, let me tell you what a publication is. On Medium, a publication is simply a group of hand-curated stories about a specific topic, such as startups, productivity, marketing, etc. Anyone can create a publication and the best publications have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers.

Before you even write your first story on Medium, spend time researching publications. Look for the top 3 that are related to what you want to write about and find those with the highest number of followers.

Keep in mind that this could take you a few hours or even an entire day to do. But it’s worth it.

Once you’ve found a few publications, write your first story using everything I’ve outlined above and then publish your story.

You now want to get you story included in a publication. There are 3 ways to do that:

  1. Be the publication owner
  2. Be an editor of the publication
  3. Be an invited writer for the publication. Your story must first be accepted by the owner or an editor.

Obviously number 3 is our target here. The best way to get invited as a writer for a publication is to track down the person or people behind that publication and share your story with them.

Most publications on Medium include a web site or twitter username, which you can use to reach out to the person behind the publication. You either want to tweet or email them a link to your story and ask if they’d consider making you a writer for their publication.

Another option is to continually publish great content on Medium. If you do that, the owners of the publications will reach out and invite you to contribute. But that takes longer.

Once you’ve been made a writer, you can submit as many stories as you want for consideration. It’s then up to the publication as to whether they publish all, some or none of your stories.

I submit every story I wrote on Medium to one of three publications for which I’m now a writer (none of the publications are my own). Within a few hours each story will reach 1,000 views and within a few days most will reach 10,000 to 20,000 views.

UPDATE: Now that I’ve built a good audience of about 100,000 followers across Medium, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn (yes, 5 shameless plugs in the middle of an article. Genius!), I no longer submit my stories to publications, however it was the main reason I was able to go from 0 to 10,000 followers on Medium in 3 months when I started writing last year.

If you write 1–2 times a week (like I do) and also link to your web site, blog, etc at the end of each story, you’ll quickly build up a weekly audience of at least a few thousand readers and a good number of them will click through to your web site if they got value from your story.

I prefer to link off to an opt-in to join my email list at the end of each article. Something like “If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to my private email list. Click here.” etc. Works really well assuming you share good content with your subscribers and don’t spam them.

Before figuring out which publications worked on Medium, my typical story got about 300 views. Now my typical story averages about 20,000 views within 2 weeks of being posted, not to mention the thousands of shares on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn too.

Wrapping It Up

I’m not the best writer in the world and you don’t need to be either. Just write stories based on something you’ve learned in your life, be honest, genuinely try to help people and most importantly, get your stories approved in publications on Medium with huge built-in audiences.

Get my new book “SANE: How To Build Your Business Rapidly Without Going Insane” at 📚