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An Infallible Guide: How You Can Be a Top Medium Writer — Key Learnings From My Experience

Dakota Shane
Jan 16, 2017 · 10 min read

During my first year writing on Medium, I was fortunate enough to be in the top 10% of readers and writers on the platform as well as be a suggested Medium writer for Social Media.

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I was stoked. Busting my ass had paid off, at least by the numbers. I’ve learned a lot about navigating Medium and what works on it, so I wanted to share those learnings with you.

Medium is very competitive, which is why I think I’m in a particularly good spot to share some insights and tips with you all. I don’t have 30,000 followers. I’m not a serial entrepreneur who’s sold 13 companies. And I’m sure as hell not Barack Obama.

So if I can find success on Medium, you can too.

Let’s get started:

1. Have a niche, even if you don’t stick to it all the time.

Having a niche on Medium is important when it comes to growing an engaged following. By consistently writing on certain topics, you will slowly but surely begin to position yourself as an authority in whatever area it is you cover.

This does not mean you have to stick to your niche in all of your articles. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of Medium is the lack of one-dimensional influencers. It’s awesome to see CEOs writing articles about music, and artists writing articles about politics.

That being said, if you meander too much and too often, it will be hard for audiences to know exactly what value you can provide them.

In the beginning, try to be a one-trick pony. Once Medium grows, your audience grows, and someone needs assistance in your area of expertise, who do you think they’ll reach out to? Hopefully you!

Some of the most popular writers on Medium do this and have risen to the top as a result. Jessica Semaan is the poet on Medium. Benjamin P. Hardy is the self-help aficionado on Medium. Sarah Cooper is the quick-witted, hilarious comedian on Medium. They have a niche, and they excel at it.

While I might not be on the same level as those mentioned above, my hope is to be the “social media marketing guy” on Medium. I think have a solid start — although Gary Vaynerchuk is making a little difficult for me ;p

It doesn’t necessarily matter what your niche is because Medium is bound to expand it’s reader base.

2. Being genuine works.

Just be yourself. Imposter syndrome can only get you so far. Perhaps that’s something that resonates with my readers. I don’t try to be anyone I’m not. I’m a kid who is starting a social media agency, and loves to write. I’m not yet at the level where I can work with Coke and Nike and Google. My clients are much smaller. But that’s okay.

It’s good to lay things on the line. No one likes anyone with a stick up their ass. Be yourself. Be different. Be interesting.

3. Adding value is always the best course of action.

At the end of the day, people don’t want their time wasted. They want to read content they will gain value from.

There is a time and place for writing for yourself. I do it all the time. Many of us do. It’s therapeutic and helps our brains get kickstarted. But here’s the thing: If you want to write for an audience, then you’re going to have to make some sacrifices.

If you aren’t giving others a reason to read your content, as in adding value, then they won’t read it. Plain and simple.

After you have finished writing an article, try your very best to honestly answer this question:

If the answer, deep down, is no. Then try a different approach. Perhaps a more somber article would do better if you switched the tone to comedic, or vice versa.

4. # of Comments as a key indicator of success.

Don’t get me wrong, Reads are great. Recommends are even greater. But one of the most undervalued metrics, in my opinion, is the number of comments you’re receiving on your articles. Medium is trying it’s very best to be a conversational platform, so their algorithm factors in the number of comments when deciding which articles to promote.

Get your audience in on the fun. Invite them to give their own opinion on the topic you cover, and never shy away from productive debate. It’ll only benefit both you, your audience, and Medium as a whole.

5. Scrappiness is key.

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Be scrappy. If you have a certain publication you‘ve wanted to get on for a while, then do everything in your power to get on it. Send the editor a witty email and make an intro, Tweet at them with a link to your work, connect with them on LinkedIn.

Don’t be creepy, but do everything in your power to make sure your content is seen by the amount of people it deserves to be read by.

One thing to always remember is this: Have your work finished. Don’t reach out to an editor of a publication with an idea. Bring your A-Game, and have proof of it. A finished product is proof.

If you have what it takes, you will eventually get discovered if you are scrappy enough.

6. Read Medium all the time.

You’ve gotta be a student of the game to excel at it. Lebron can recount, play-by-play, games in the NBA Finals from years before he was even born. He’s a true student of the game.

If you want to see what works on Medium, then you have to read Medium. All the time.

You wouldn’t try and create a documentary before you watched one, would you? I hope not.

This worked particularly well for me in one of my articles:

I was able to see every single person and their dog was talking about how amazing Snapchat was, so I decided to challenge a handful of those notions.

You can do the same! Listen, evaluate, and respond.

7. You’re gonna have some stinkers (off-days).

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Experimentation is a key ingredient in discovering what truly works for you. This is why it’s crucial to take chances. Try writing a topic you feel a bit uncomfortable in. Try putting a twist on the tone in your articles, in the call-to-actions in your articles, and everything else.

Numbers don’t lie. You’ll be able to find out what resonates well with your audience, on Medium as a whole by diversifying what you put out.

Sometimes, you’ll have some stinkers. It’s inevitable. We’ve all been there and had them. If you haven’t, then you’re not taking enough chances.

I’ve had some articles completely fall flat, and others take off into the Top 20. Yet, as cliche as it sounds, I learn way more from my failures than I do my successes on Medium.

Embrace the stinkers you have, learn from them, and move forward.

8. Oftentimes, Medium is a skimming platform — not a reading platform.

Use this to your advantage. You don’t have to describe every tiny detail to tell your story in text blocks longer than the Old Testament.

Unless you‘re writing a poetic piece, fictional piece, etc. then be sure to keep it short. Keep it concise. Make your point, and be gone. Oftentimes, Medium readers are too busy doing awesome shit with their lives to waste any ounce of time.

Again, make your point and be gone.

9. Leverage Twitter, even if it’s just to say “Thanks”

Given Ev Williams was the co-founder of Twitter and is now the founder & CEO of Medium, the two platforms go, more or less, hand-in-hand.

Prior to writing on Medium, the only reason I ever logged onto to Twitter was to keep up with the news or read stream-of-consciousness Tweets from washed-up celebrities. I never had much use or love for the platform.

Today, the sole purpose of my Twitter account is to say “thank you” and connect with those people who share my Medium articles. I don’t try to gain thousands of followers. I barely ever Tweet if it is not related to Medium or conducting research for a client.

It’s not that I don’t know the value Twitter holds. I work in social media marketing 7 days per week, so I’m aware of the power it holds. It just isn’t my type of platform. I enjoy long-form, less frequent, deeper interactions with people as opposed to frequent, short interactions.

*Bonus Tip: Use the Referrers option as a networking tool.

The Referrers button on Medium is clutch! This feature tells you the sources of your article’s traffic. To view it, go to the Stats page.

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Inside the Stats tab
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Screenshot of Referrers feature.

The way I use it is as a networking tool. If I notice a sizable amount of traffic has come from a blog post, or a certain publication, I will reach out to the owner/editor and introduce myself. I’ll say thanks, and connect with them.

Because these people liked your article enough to share it to their own audiences, it’s likely you two share similar interests. Every so often, this can lead to some great business opportunities. If it doesn’t lead to anything, at least you got to meet an awesome person!

What’s still missing from Medium?

Medium is not perfect. There is a lot of ironing that needs to be done. If an adequate compensation model does not unfold for writers, they will not only outgrow the platform, but Medium’s success will never be able to hold a candle up to the platforms like YouTube — whose compensation model has paved the way for 19 year old content creators to buy million dollar houses.

If a stronger community does not unfold, I’m afraid writers will grow sour — after all, writing is a lonely profession, and an even lonelier hobby.

These are a couple of the problems. But nothing great is without it’s problems. And if we’re all patient and stay faithful, I’m sure everything will pan out as it should.

On a small scale, Medium is emblematic of real life.

Your successes don’t mean anything if you don’t continually bring your A game.

Networking is key to success.

You have to provide value to others.

You have to develop a specific skill-set to rise above the noise.

You’ve got to be as consistent as you are spectacular.

But most of all, you’ve got to be patient.

Dakota Shane’s Handy Resource Selection

From now on, I’m going to be sharing a helpful tool, resource, or piece of content that will help you effectively market your services, develop better strategies, and/or create better content at the end of my articles.

Here’s the first:

For marketers, content creators, and influencers it’s easy to think we know our audience better than anyone else. After all, we built that audience.

The fact is, audience insights and analytics are an absolute must when it comes to effectively marketing on social media, through content, or any other channel.

For this reason, I highly recommend using Simply Measured’s Freebies. Here, you’ll find detailed reporting, stats, and insights for your audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google Analytics.

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[Note: I am, in no way, affiliated with Simply Measured or getting compensated by them. I just think they’re a terrific resource.]

With these reports, you’ll be able to see where your audience lives (thus, which times would be most suitable to post, which posts your audience was most engaged with, and tons of trends that’ll shed a ton of light on why your best content is performing the way it is.

I highly recommend using it! Go check out Simply Measured’s Freebies ASAP.

Call to Action

If you want to put yourself in the best position possible to succeed on social media, check out my booklet titled: “The 7 Mindset Shifts for Successful Social Media Marketing”.

In these 12 short pages, you’ll discover the indispensable strategies needed to unlock your full potential on social media for your business, personal brand and more.

Click here to receive your free booklet now!

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Dakota Shane

Written by

I help make content marketing simple. Columnist: Co-Founder: Copy Buffs (a copywriting agency). Follow me on Twitter.

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

Dakota Shane

Written by

I help make content marketing simple. Columnist: Co-Founder: Copy Buffs (a copywriting agency). Follow me on Twitter.

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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