The 8 Medium Features You Might Not Know About

(For Writers, That Is)

By design, Medium is stripped down, streamlined, and lightweight. This isn’t a result of a lazy product team — quite the contrary. Medium has worked tirelessly to demolish all barriers that exist between you and your written word, and the resulting super simple editor is a tremendous asset in accomplishing such an ambitious target.

Don’t mistake Medium’s approach as limiting. Within the sandbox that Medium has provided for wordsmiths to play, a creative writer is still left with plenty of options. Constraints are a beautiful thing, and Medium has reached an elusive balance to encourage you to stay on track while simultaneously empowering you to add some custom touches. Next time you write a story, see if you can tap into these seldom used off-the-shelf bits.

1. Embedding

Don’t tell your audience. Instead, show them. There are better ways to present another work other than the trusty underlined blue hyperlink. YouTube & Vimeo videos, GitHub gists, Tweets, Vines, Kickstarter campaign summaries, Instagram photos, and SoundCloud & recordings are all embeddable.

Check it out, an embedded tweet!

To embed content, insert the URL and hit return, and Medium will automatically detect and format the link. Alternatively, you can click the the “+” menu on the left side of a fresh line and select the URL option.

You can even embed other Medium stories that are part of a series or pair well with another story. For example, when people buy The Ultimate Guide To Medium — an ebook published right on Medium — they are sent a link to a table of contents, which is nothing more than a Medium story with the 9 Chapters embedded in order.

Here’s what the table of contents looks like for The Ultimate Guide To Medium.

2. Linked Images

Unless you are writing for altruism or goodwill (which it totally OK), you likely want your audience to take an action — join a mailing list, visit a product page, etc. In the industry, these are referred to as calls-to-action. Although Medium’s editor does not allow for custom buttons to be inserted, there is a clever workaround.

Use your favorite design tool (Photoshop, Illustrator, or even Keynote) to create an image, and place it into your story. Then hit “⌘” + “K” on a Mac, or “control” + “K” on a Windows machine to display the hyperlink box. Insert your link.

Scroll down to the bottom of this story to see how I’ve used images to encourage readers to follow me on Medium & Twitter.

You may also use linked images to navigate between stories. In The Ultimate Guide To Medium, the reader navigates between chapters by clicking buttons in the bottom that simply link to the corresponding story. I didn’t use any custom coding or pull in a personal favor to the design team — I simply built images and linked them to URLs. Take a look at the book to see this in action.

3. Tags

For each story you publish, you can select up to 3 tags. Tags will help an interested audience discover your story, and improve search result rankings within Medium.

To add tags, click “Preview/Publish” for drafts, or “Edit” for published stories. Type in your first tag, which can be made using alphanumeric characters, spaces, and dashes (e.g., “Hip-Hop” or “Climate Change”). You don’t need to add a “#” before entering a tag. When you’re done entering your tag, go to the next by hitting tab, return, or adding a comma.

Three tags from a story of mine.

Click “Publish” or “Publish Changes” to save tags. You can always return to published stories to update or remove your tags.

When viewing your story, you’ll see its tags below the Recommend button.

The “Featured Tags” section on your home page is a way to see what is currently popular amongst readers. Use this information to tap into the zeitgeist, to see into the collective conscience of what the community is reading, discussing, and sharing. Leverage relevant featured tags, and you’ll increase the likelihood that readers will find your story.

4. Highlights

You’ve likely noticed the highlighting feature that was released earlier in the year. It’s a great little function for readers, but writers can also utilize this feature to their advantage.

Use highlighting as another way to add emphasis to specific text within your own story.

5. Sharing Drafts

As the adage goes, two heads are better than one. Before you publish your next story, send the draft over to a friend or colleague for a quick glance. Worst case - they will catch a couple typos. Best case — they will shine light on some rough spots in your writing that could use a little polishing.

Click “Share draft” in the header when you are composing your story, and share the specific link via email, Twitter, Facebook, iMessage, etc. Anyone with the link can view your draft — a Medium account is not required — but those who are logged in can leave in-line notes.

6. Note URLs

One of the fundamental differences with Medium compared to other publishing platforms is the focus on context. Medium ripped out the traditional below-the-post commenting system in favor of in-line notes.

These notes have their own distinct URLs, so you can link directly to them in a story as needed.

Click the little link icon next to the original note and copy the sharable link. Anyone who visits that link will be directed to the exact spot of the note. It makes for a great reader experience.

7. Social Cards

Sharing on social media is deeply integrated to the Medium product, and is likely a root cause for virality. Medium stories are shared on Twitter and Facebook using “cards,” which are brief summaries that include a title, subtitle, teaser, and a thumbnail version of your cover image.

An example Be mindful of your thumbnail image, title, and subtitle.

In order to give your story the best chance of spreading far and wide, you will want to make sure that they display exactly as you want them to. Click the “Preview / Publish” button to edit for Medium story listings, emails, and across social networks. You can make a change at any time, even after publishing.

8. Notes

Leave notes on your own story to clarify a point, provide further resources, or callout an update or amendment to the original text. This keep readers from having to scroll all the way to the bottom and then back up to where they left off. As the story matures and reader feedback is collected, adding notes can improve the story over time.

Leave notes that ask questions and encourage a conversation or healthy debate amongst your readers. Doing so will make your story feel much more alive, and you’ll forge a stronger relationship with your audience.

To leave a note for yourself that only you can see, keep it set to private. This a great trick to leave little reminders to yourself and keep internal notes without sharing to the world.

Curious how to get the most out of Medium? I’m Greg Muender, and I literally wrote the book on it. Pick up your copy here, and you’ll get access to the tips and tricks that have been proven to work to get more readers and more exposure.