Find Your Reader
How to Self-Promote Without Turning People Off
Be your own audience editor
Whether your work reflects your personality, your hobbies, your journalistic capabilities or a combination of these, readers will respond to it when they feel like they know the person behind it. Your unique point of view can help you craft social media posts that act as extensions of your brilliant writing.
Maintaining a personal brand doesn’t have to be cringey
In the age of working from home, life seems to bleed into work more than ever before. And readers respond to writers who give them a glimpse of their world beyond just the words.
Writer Mark Stenberg’s Nieman Lab prediction for 2021, “The Rise of the Journalist-Influencer,” suggests that all journalists are simply digital creators by another name. Much like entertainers, artists and influencers, you rely on the internet as a discovery platform for your work. That means designing an online persona around your writing.
But you don’t have to be a “journalist-influencer” to draw eyes to your writing on social. If you’re already writing on Medium, branding should not be a daunting process. Are you writing in a niche that feels necessary, about topics you have expertise in or that are not being covered extensively elsewhere on the internet? Congratulations, you already have a brand. Your work now is to maximize that foundation to grow your readership — and you shouldn’t think twice about doing so.
Here are some strategies that will help you champion your own work — without seeming like you’re constantly humble-bragging:
1. A good self-promo post includes clear, concise copy introducing the story. Let readers know what they can expect from the story, and nod to its wider significance, like Medium staff writer David Dennis, Jr. does below:
2. But if you’re an opinionated writer with a distinct voice, don’t be afraid to show your personality, like Izzie Ramirez does here:
3. A focus on education helps round out the self-promotion. NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang breaks the story down into a thread, tags the reporters who broke it, and shares screenshots of documents to guide readers’ experience of the work.
4. Crediting others can make your storytelling more genuine and thorough. Tagging is one of Twitter’s most useful functions to that end.
Writer Drew Costley cited his sources and thanked them in his tweet:
Vox writer Jerusalem Demsas tags the academics, institutions and journalists whose work was foundational for her own:
Of course, you can also do this on Facebook or Instagram, or any platform where tagging users is available.
5. Give readers a window into your favorite parts of the story. Hunter Harris highlights her favorite parts of this story, includes a smattering of emojis to draw readers’ attention within the feed and drops a shareable screenshot into the thread.
6. Embrace the self-retweet. Don’t be afraid to promote your work more than once. The self-retweet has sparked years of Internet debate, but when you’re a writer and simply want to give your content more exposure, there’s no shame in it.
Social platforms’ algorithms are designed to constantly update and attempt to match users with posts that will spark their interest. The lifespan of a Twitter post — or how long it sticks on people’s feeds — is eighteen minutes on average. That means your post may not get exposure if you only share it one time. Sharing more than once isn’t egotistical — it’s necessary! The chances are many people missed your first post, anyway.
Go beyond a single post
So you’ve tweeted or posted a link to your story. Now what? Here are a few ideas:
- Fun features across social media platforms can play a role in promoting your writing, too. You can host Clubhouse chats with journalistic sources or thinkers — or anyone relevant to your writing — in order to create a dialogue around work you’re proud of.
- If you’re thinking of promoting your writing over on Instagram, a visual-first approach is key. This often means sharing screenshots or building out your work in a simple graphic design program like Canva. Non-verified accounts cannot use the swipe-up feature in Instagram Stories, but you can use a link in your bio to guide your readers toward your content.
- The most successful creators on Instagram aren’t afraid to show up for their audience, and that authenticity helps them connect with readers. Malick Mercier uses Instagram to bring life to his journalism through Live chats, live protest coverage and breakdowns of the latest news saved in a profile highlight. Noor Tagouri uses her Instagram profile to promote her storytelling across platforms — from a newsletter to a podcast — and provide career and public speaking tips. Iman Hariri-Kia, the sex and relationships editor at Bustle, shares roundups of her own writing, and the coverage she oversees, on her Instagram Story. All three creators balance career updates with details of their personal lives on Instagram.
Tie it all together
Reminder: All this promotion won’t work if people can’t find you!
If you’re maintaining an active Medium profile along with active social profiles where you discuss your work or engage with your audience, make sure that all of your readers know where they can find you across the internet. That can mean simply noting that you’re a Medium writer in your Twitter bio, and following accounts for Medium publications and writers relevant to your interests.
To level up, and create opportunities for your readers to move organically from your Medium profile to your Twitter account, link your Twitter account to your Medium account. You can also link your Facebook account.
And if you’re still feeling cringe-y as you craft a tweet about your latest story, remember this: Social media promotion is also good for search engine optimization. The more time your readers spend reading and engaging with your posts, the higher are the chances that search engines will elevate your writing in their algorithms.
Journalistic self-promotion isn’t egotistical. Rather, it can be a thoughtful way to share work you’re proud of and connect with readers. It’s designed to draw more eyes and exposure to your portfolio. With a bit of strategizing and a lot of voice, you can craft a social media presence that matches the quality of your work.