This is an interesting post, and thanks for pointing out what works for someone who has 50k+ followers might not work for someone who doesn’t have a following to start off with. I agree with that sentiment.
However, I have to say that I started off with maybe 20–30 followers 8 months ago, and now I am up to 518 which may not seem big — but is big for me because that’s more than my facebook following, and way more than my twitter following. 318 of them started following me in the past month. I would say at least a quarter of the 518 people started following me due to comments I made on other stories. According to Medium updates, I am a suggested writer for advice which has also gained me a lot of followers. So appropriately tagging your stories also makes a big difference.
I also got a lot of followers from the story “How Sex Made me More Powerful”, which I have to admit — I believe the title garnered a lot of the traffic. I didn’t pick the title to get views or clicks, but because that’s really what the story is about and I tend to pick titles that describe exactly what I write about. But then again, I also have a story titled Saggy Boobs which I thought would do better than it did….because it’s written better and it’s more personal. However a few factors come into play, like the publication, and I think it was the first thing I published on Medium.
However, I 100% agree with your main point about quality versus quantity. I think it’s better to take your time starting out and realize that traffic and new followers take time.