A Guide to Self-Promotion for Medium Writers

Why you need it, how to do it.

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Writers are often introverts —we recharge when we’re alone. That makes sense when you consider how solitary the work of writing can be.

Conversely, we want attention. Not necessarily on us, but on our work. We want readers. We want to be bestsellers. We want to go viral. Sometimes we want those things to the point of distraction.

It’s a weird thing — wanting attention, without wanting to be looked at. But there it is.

I know what you wish would happen. You wish that you could just write. You want to post and leave the rest up to fate. If your story is good enough, people will find it.

Unfortunately (trust me, I wish the same thing), that’s not how it works. There is too much competition for attention. Medium has some mechanics in place for helping to boost some posts, namely curation, but self-promotion is still part of your job if you’d like to earn an income from your writing.

I thought I’d put together a little guide for you, offering best practices for self-promoting your Medium posts.

Start with Social Media

Social media is the thing we love to hate. Everyone thinks about leaving Facebook, but we’re all still there. And even if you’re not, millions are.

The main Social Media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. The good news is that you don’t have to be everywhere. Pick one, maybe two, platforms that you enjoy best and focus on those.

Medium allows you to integrate your Facebook and Twitter accounts to your Medium account. It’s super easy to just click the icons on the left side of your published posts to share them on these outlets. (By the way, you can share other writers’ posts the same way.)

You can also highlight portions of text from your post and Medium will turn them into a visual card you can post to Twitter.

To use Pinterest or Instagram, you’ll have to manually post to those platforms, since Medium does not integrate with them. Both are visual platforms, so to get the most from them, you’ll want to pay attention to the photographs you use for your post.

You can use a site like Canva to add text to a photograph and make it the right size for the platform.

Learn more about that here.

On Instagram, you cannot use live links in your posts. Instead, add your photo and a description of your post, then point your subscribers to the link in your bio. Update your bio to include the link to your most recent post. Alternatively, you can leave a link in your bio to your Medium profile page, which will show your most recent posts.

On Pinterest, SEO matters quite a lot. Pinterest is one of the biggest search engines on the Internet. Make sure to use keywords in your Pinterest post that users might search for. Also, tag your post and use appropriate hashtags. Photographs matter on Pinterest. I highly recommend adding text to yours, to entice users to click.

Hashtags matter on Twitter as well. Users follow or search for popular hashtags. If you’ve mentioned another person in your post, try tagging them on Twitter.

Facebook posts rely less on search than Pinterest and Twitter do. It is easy, however, to boost a Facebook post to make sure that it gets in front of more readers who might be interested in your Medium post. To do that, you’ll need a Facebook Page. Learn how to create one here.

Here’s a tutorial for boosting a Facebook post.

Facebook has several groups for Medium writers that offer daily post-share threads. You post your link to the thread, then read and respond to several other writers’ posts. They’ll send some reciprical traffic your way.

I belong to two Medium writer groups on Facebook. Join me here and here.

You can also find other Facebook groups, perhaps that relate to the topic you’re writing about, that allow self-promotion. I’d love to have you join Ninja Writers. Our self-promo day is Friday.

You can tag anyone you’ve written about or mentioned in your post on Facebook.

There are other social media sites that you might find useful.

Quora is question and answer social media platform. You can search it for questions that pertain to your topic and link to your post as an answer. (This is also a good way to find ideas for posts to write.)

Reddit is a large social media platform. I don’t know much about how to use it, because to be honest it scares me. If you decide to give it a try, be sure to follow the rules for the page (Subreddit) you’re posting to. It’s best to interact with the the site regularly and share lots of things that aren’t your own work.

A Google search might turn up forums or groups dedicated to the topics you write about.

Build an Email List

I know I sound like a broken record, but if you’re a writer, you need an email list. Now. Not when you have enough followers. Not when you’re more successful.

Now. Today.

I’ve written several posts about how to start an email list. You can find them here.

When I talk about email lists, which I do a lot, to groups of writers I see two things. People are prone to either be too afraid to email their lists at all, or bombard their lists until no one is paying attention anymore.

I know this is vague: Use your list enough, but not too much.

A lot of it depends on what you teach your list to expect from you. If you tell them you’re going to send one weekly newsletter, do that. If you’re going to email more often, let them know that, too.

I sometimes write on Medium four or five times in a day and that would be too often to send an email notification for each one. Usually I send an email in the morning and one in the late afternoon or early evening.

I personally do not create newsletters. I just send short, informal emails — plain text only — that link to my posts and invite readers to check them out. Maybe one or two sentences per link. I also sometimes link to things that I didn’t write, but that I think my readers would find interesting.

Share Your Friend Link

If you’re writing to earn money on Medium, your posts are part of the Medium Partnership Program and behind the platform’s paywall. Generally, readers who are not paying Medium members can read three posts a month before they hit that paywall.

Writers have access to a ‘friend link’ though that they can share as widely as they like. It allows readers to bypass the paywall. When they click that link, they can read your post without using one of their three monthly freebies.

If someone who is a paying Medium member clicks your friend link and reads and responds to your post, you’re paid just as if you’d used your normal link.

I highly recommend that you share your friend link widely. I use mine on social media and when I send emails.

Your posts benefit from wider readership, even if those readers don’t directly add to your pay. Those readers might share your post via Twitter or Facebook. They might become paying members when they run into the paywall reading other posts after yours. And Medium shares your posts with more readers when they see that you’re getting traffic.

To get your friend link, click the gear icon at the top of your post. Click ‘share friend link’ and copy the provided link.

A Word About SEO

A very quick word, because this is definitely not my area of expertise.

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. Using SEO refers to using keywords in your titles, subtitles, and the first words of your posts that will encourage Google and other search engines to serve up your post when people search for what you’ve written about.

Medium is an interesting platform. Speaking purely about income, SEO doesn’t matter much. You only get paid when people who are paying members of Medium read and respond to your posts by clapping.

In my experience, readers who visit via Google and other search engines don’t add to your bottom line. It’s nice to see the traffic, of course. But usually those readers aren’t Medium members and do not clap for my posts.

It still helps to have a clear, concise title that lets readers know what to expect when they click to read. And a subhead that offers a little more information. It will help you with internal traffic within Medium and with your other self-promotional efforts.

Rachel Thompson of Bad Redhead Media has a guide available for using SEO to optimize your posts.

Make a Plan

It’s impossible to know exactly how Medium’s algorithm’s work, but anecdotally, I’ve noticed that my posts perform better when they get early traffic.

It might be helpful to have a plan — a checklist — to make sure you stay on top of your self-promotion.

Here’s what mine looks like.

After I post, I immediately share my friend link via Twitter and Facebook.

On Facebook, I share my link on my personal wall, my page, and if it’s a post bout writing, I share it in the Ninja Writer group.

I send two emails a day with friend links to one or two posts.

I share my friend link to Quora, if that makes sense, and sometimes to other forums where I think they might be appreciated.

Right now, I don’t use Pinterest or Instagram much. It’s on my list to experiment more with them.

Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.