After one year I have more followers on Medium than after nine years on Twitter

Photo: Noah Silliman via Unsplash

I’ve been using Twitter for almost nine years. That’s a long time for an Internet service. I joined back in the days of frequent outages and when Twitter still had a chance to beat Facebook as the top social network.

I’ve tweeted a robust 3,251 times. That averages out to be almost one tweet per day for 8.5 years. I assume that includes all replies and retweets because I’ve gone weeks at a time not using Twitter at all.

For my efforts, I’ve accumulated ~1,650 followers. I follow 293 accounts. I’ve never played games trying to increase my follower count by following and unfollowing lots of accounts. I played around with Twitter’s promoted accounts feature when it first came out, but it wasn’t worth it.

I joined Medium just a year and a half ago because I didn’t have an active blog and needed a place to post an occasional article. Medium has a nice feature that you can import Twitter followers. That means instead of starting with zero followers, I had 600–700 followers out of the gate.

Now, just a year and a half later, I have over 1,650 followers and it’s growing much quicker than Twitter. I’ve published a mere 34 posts so far. That’s roughly two articles per month since I’ve joined.

In summary:

  • Twitter: 1,650 followers after 8.5 years and 3,200 tweets
  • Medium: 1,650 followers after 1.5 years and 34 posts

Other than starting to post articles more consistently on Medium, I can’t quite explain why I’m growing followers so much faster than Twitter. Every article I post on Medium I also tweet, so Twitter is getting my Medium content too.

Medium must be doing something right

A lot has been made of the evolution of Medium’s business model. The most recent pivot could not have been easy. I give Ev Williams a lot of credit for his willingness to try something new.

Maybe my Twitter vs Medium comparison shows how inept I’ve been at attracting Twitter followers, or maybe it shows that Medium is much better at getting content to the people that are interested in it.

Medium has other advantages over Twitter that likely contribute to my increase in followers:

  • Twitter caters more to people who bring a reputation than Medium where you can build a reputation by creating good content — Twitter always prided itself on the latest celebrity that joined the service.
  • I find Medium’s tags more useful than Twitter’s hashtags. I’ve become one of the top writers for the Artificial Intelligence tag, and I’m sure that visibility has helped.
  • The daily digest email I get from Medium has at least one article that I click on every day. I click on more links from my Medium digest than from my daily Pocket email. Quora is the only service that does a better job of matching my interests with new content. My primary use of Twitter has turned into browsing non-critical news of the day. There is so much “stuff” on Twitter that I go there as a cure for boredom rather than to get caught up on important news.
  • The quality bar is higher for Medium posts than for tweets. It’s easy to detect and filter out the good from the bad on Medium. That means if you write something good, it has a better chance of being seen on Medium.

Part of what makes Medium so good right now is its relative smallness. What happens when the service gets so big the average quality per post goes down significantly? Currently, you get original thought and not countless people and companies trying to game the service.

The echo chamber on Twitter can be tedious, and there is a major problem with bots and accounts that have lots of followers, but provide virtually no unique thought. As a result, follower count isn’t correlated with quality content. It’s difficult to assess what’s real and what’s not (hence the rise of Fake News). If Medium continues to grow, they will face similar issues.

Medium isn’t for every writer or blogger. The limited formatting options can be annoying (e.g. no tables) and bare bones analytics is barely enough. That said, Medium works well for those that want to publish, but don’t want the hassle of maintaining blog software (e.g. Wordpress). Also, Medium is great at spreading the word about quality content instead of being on your own as a completely independent writer.

It’s not always the case, but if you write something good on Medium, it has a good chance of getting noticed. That’s all you can ask for.

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