As there is not a lot of original material in this story I thought it would be right to credit the original authors of the material first. Most of the content of this story was taken from the following posts:
I’ve never written a successful post on Medium. Actually, I have never written a successful post anywhere. The only reason I started writing this piece was because at my organization we are focusing on a content marketing strategy and I wanted to share with my team a “condensed” version of the hundreds of best practices I’ve found for writing a good post and increasing the chances of getting traction. As there are no secrets to it and it might be useful for other people also I thought it would be good to share it publicly.
I was going to title this piece something of the sorts of “How to make a post go viral” but as I said I don’t know how to and I don’t want to lie. If this does go viral I will just smirk at the meta premise “Get a successful post by sharing how to have a successful post”. If not I just hope it’s useful material for some of you out there (even though some of the things listed below are intended to help the story become successful). The good thing is that I am not a growth hacker and I am not selling any growth hacking services, I just read a lot about it to implement it in my organization.
Enough preface, these are what I consider the essential tips, features usage, best practices, concrete useful links, etc. that I’ve found while researching the topic (I won’t go into the very, very basics though):
BASICS BEFORE STARTING
Having these in place early on will make life much easier later.
1. Put some love into your user profile.
In case you are not connecting your Facebook and Twitter accounts upload an image to your avatar so that other users know you and feel more confident interacting with you (do we still have to say this people?). Add an image header you like. Approximately 1900 pixels on the long end and a file size of at least 500 KB is ideal. I also recommend you to connect your Twitter and Facebook account, to increase your network.
2. Already have some cool material? Recycle it with the “Import story” feature.
If you have already written something on another blog or site Medium offers an easy way to import it with their Import Story feature: http://exs.ph/1hEKFBM This function will grab all the words and images and deposit them into a brand-new Medium story. After that you can format it however you want before getting it published.
3. Decide what your “second chance” for the post will be (h/t to @meseali for the term).
How are the readers going to come back to you, or what do you want the readers to do next? It is not about getting them to read one article but to reconnect with them afterwards.
In our particular case, depending on the article and audience, we may want them to go to our boot camps’ sites and/or subscribe to our newsletter. Here for example is how I’ve been closing some of our most recent posts:
4. Know all the content possibilities you can embed.
This way you can have them in mind while you write. Videos, Tweets, Code, Music, etc. are all easily embeddable and will make your stories much more enjoyable. See all the different options you have to add some color to your story here: http://exs.ph/1VA5BsG
The best advice is to find your own. But in the meantime….
5. Write as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Here are two tips to keep it as simple as possible. (This is very subjective so you can take the advice or not, but for several of us — both beginners and non-native English speakers writing in English- they might be helpful):
5.1 No more than 25 words in a sentence. Try to get your message across as clearly as possible.
5.2 No more than three sentences in a paragraph (I don’t like this one, neither does the original author but he does have a point in the following):
“With our attention spans getting shorter every day, your article is competing for the attention of readers who have 12 other open tabs in their browser, not to mention never-ending notifications on mobile phones.
Make sure you have the backbone in place.
You have a few seconds to convince the reader that you can fulfill the promise you gave in the headline. It’s in those few seconds that she will decide whether or not to open a new tab. Pull her into your story step by step.
Always remember to let the reader breathe. Avoid losing her attention or risk her getting too tired by sprinkling in a visual, a tweet, or something that changes the rhythm.
End on a high note. The reader is really tired and has been going between so many open tabs and mobile notifications.
Ease up and slow down. Write even simpler sentences. Keep your paragraphs shorter and your message even more to-the-point when possible.
Use the myriad of design possibilities Medium offers.
9. Use an image that makes them stop scrolling
A relevant cover image will engage directly with the people who are interested in your topic.
Pick something high res, but not TOO high res. Approximately 1900 pixels on the long end and a file size of at least 500 KB is ideal. Also, make sure the thumbnail Medium creates for its feed works.
10. Show some effort to make it shine
There’s a direct correlation between the time spent writing a post, and how popular it becomes. Hard work matters, so do it.
In addition to crafting the best piece of writing you possibly can, make it pretty.
Just cutting and pasting your text into the editor and pushing “publish” means that you’re missing the chance to make something attractive and engaging beyond the words. People like to see images, laugh at GIFs, take breaks while they read.
Make it easy. If your paragraphs are too long they’ll look like an endless slog, too short, and you’ve written a grocery list. It’ll be different for every kind of post, but a solid rhythm is essential.
FINAL CHECKS BEFORE PUBLISHING
Is everything in place? Just one last check…
11. Tags in your article
For each story you publish or have already published, you are able to choose up to three tags. Take advantage of these! http://exs.ph/1UwH0T7 When you are choosing your tags look at the number to the side of it. This is the number of stories tagged with it. Usually the more popular ones have more followers, but this also means you might get lost in the crowd.
12. Write a title that gets them in the door
Provide context about the story, but don’t give away the punch line. Your first three words and your last three words will be noticed the most. Make those six words count. Check this header title analyzer to help you out: http://exs.ph/1LqbmBU
13. Don’t use distracting links
There is a difference between giving credit to reliable resources and flooding your article with links just to prove to your reader that you wrote a high-quality piece.
Always ask, is this resource really relevant? Does your audience really care?
14. Ménage à trois increases chances of success
Long-form, data-backed, and learnings that do the leg work for readers.
Writing long form (1000–1500 words) always pays off. Sharing learnings increases the share rates up to 45 percent, and even further when backed with data or weird science.
15. Choose your title and subtitle
Not everyone does this, and I haven’t seen it mentioned in many guides but I like to curate the title and subtitle. Especially to be sure that the subtitle when shared on Facebook won’t be just a phrase cut in the middle without sense. To do this, before publishing, go to the three-dotted circle and choose “Change title/subtitle”.
BE CAREFUL: If you choose a title this way instead of the automatic one be sure to also add a subtitle. Otherwise it will leave the empty space and not look good.
16. Request notes before you publish.
You can invite collaborators and editors to look at your post before hitting publish. These folks can then add notes throughout the article, much like a collaborative document in Google Drive for instance. Bonus: Anyone who contributes to your final article gets a nice automatic mention at the end.
Where the real challenge lies.
17. The art of asking people to recommend or share
Ask the reader to recommend or share the article. You wouldn’t believe the difference this makes. People are not mean — if they don’t share, it doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate your article. It’s just that some people simply don’t have the habit of sharing as much as you do. But often if you ask them, they are kind enough to share your work with their networks.
In my case you can see how I integrated in #3 the “second chance” with asking them to Recommend and Share.
In our line of work we talk with A LOT of people. Why not just send it to them so they can read it? If it is good enough material they will help by sharing it (as long as you are providing value in your article and not just spamming or promoting).
18. Send the first bomb all together
Try to match all of your sharing and spreading of the message. Share the article on your social media accounts as soon as your email campaign is on its way to people’s inboxes.
Send the first shot all together consistently across all channels, instead of weakening them by separating into different times.
Whenever you post something let the rest of your team know so they can help you spreading the word to different networks.
ACTIONABLE FAST TIPS
For the whole list: http://exs.ph/1JMUh7j
Bring your first audience from outside. It is way easier for your story to get noticed on Medium after some initial exposure. Email your close friends and also share your article on your social media accounts.
Link images. Click on an image in the editor and press Ctrl+K or ⌘+K to insert your link. (You can also drag and drop an image.)
Upload two or more images at the same time and you have a beautiful image grid. Below is an example of this:
Write a creative response to popular stories on Medium. When recommended by the author, you will appear right below the end of the article and you will be exposed to a huge audience. Each response you write becomes also a story, so it can become one for your more successful stories. See this example: http://exs.ph/1UPhZ5R and the first response: http://exs.ph/1inAoej
23. Get people to tweet
If you want your readers to tweet a certain sentence of your story, you can add “Tweet this” text next to that specific sentence. (You can generate the tweet link on tools like clicktotweet.com) Here is an example:
Want to improve your @Medium writing? — Tweet this
24. Se7en minutes
Medium’s data team found that 7-minute posts capture the most total reading time on average.
25. Continuous beta editing state
Listen to your audience and keep editing even after you publish your story. If you see a certain section of your story getting more attention, turn it into a bigger text to make it evident using the quote tool on Medium editor.
Make notes public. Your audience engages more with your content when they see proof of other people already being engaged.
27. Highlight it for them
If you want to draw your followers’ attention to a particular section of your story, use the ‘highlight’ feature to highlight that sentence yourself as the author or insert a note next to it to explain it a little further.
28. Engage with the people that shared in Twitter
Go to your Medium stats and click on ‘Referrers’ on a specific story. Click ‘Twitter’ on the list if you have it. You will now see all tweets about your story. Engage with those people. Since they also have a Medium account, if they follow you on Twitter they also automatically follow you on Medium.
29. Share TEXT SHOTS on your Twitter account
The folks at Medium are pretty smart, they look at what people do with their platform and then they build it in as a feature to make it easier for the user. Like our good old friend FAKEGRIMLOCK says “CAN’T FIGHT HUMAN NATURE. IT BIG.”
So the next time you want to share your article just highlight any sentence on Medium and click the tweet button. The shot will be created automatically: http://exs.ph/1UwELPK Stories shared with text shots have been shown to have 3–5× more engagement than stories without them.
30. Be human. Connect!
Connect and engage with all the people who recommended, shared or commented on your story.
31. Be nice, and spread the love
Let people know you’re listening. When someone shares your Medium post on Facebook — even if they’re a stranger — go ahead and comment, or, at the very least, toss them a like. And it’s always easy to favorite a tweet about your post, or even retweet it.
Don’t ask people to like you. You want everyone to know how proud you are of your post, but you don’t want to sound like you’re selling them a used car. Be open and genuine, and careful about using things like “please RT,”.
But, ask people to like you ;-) There is a way, subtly and usually in private, to go ahead and ask, especially friends and acquaintances who can act as influencers.
32. RESOURCES AND INSPIRATION
Take advantage of the tools that will save you time and always look at those who are doing it right:
Photo resources — free high res images:
Inspiration on beautiful designs
- Lessons From The World’s First Space Elevator Bootcamp
- The Mercenary
- When the Rivers Run Black
- Einstein’s Camera
- The Future
- The Boy Whose Brain Could Unlock Autism
Finally, try to close your article with a farewell message (see what I did there?). All of the above will help you in the process of creating better and more beautiful looking stories and this might give you a better chance of getting some interest, and hence shares, likes and recommends.
One should write for oneself but also for the reader, (let’s be honest) who doesn’t like to receive those notifications letting us know that what you wrote is appreciated by someone? If this is the case, it might just get you pumped enough to keep on writing, and hence improving. There is no real substitute for effort.
So no matter what, keep on writing, keep on trying different things, put a little bit of yourself on each article. Those that follow you will be grateful, even if they are just a few.
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