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How I Gained 10,000 Followers on Medium in 4 Months
I only wrote five articles too
I started writing on Medium because a friend told me to.
At the time, I was working on a startup idea and they said it was “easier to attract investors” if I had a large audience.
So I published my first article on Medium in February 2022 and my writing journey began.
Starting off, I had nothing. If you see my initial follower counts below, I started from zero on almost every platform.
Yet eleven months later, my following on all these platforms ballooned. Medium leads the pack at 12.8k followers, with LinkedIn quickly closing in at 12.1k.
Medium also spurred the growth of my newsletter and Twitter followings as well.
But the most surprising thing about this growth was that the majority of it came at the very beginning. In fact, I crossed 10k followers on Medium in my first four months on the platform.
Although I can’t attribute exactly which stories drove which followers, I can approximate it based on the number of “fans” who clapped for my articles. And it turns out that 3 articles I wrote drove almost 90% of all my followers.
Since then, I’ve received a lot of questions about Medium growth from new writers, and three questions keep coming up:
What topics should I write about?
How do I get more views on my articles?
How do I distribute my articles to more readers?
Let’s look at each of these questions in more detail.
1. What Topics Should You Write About?
The best performing genre on Medium is stories. So when starting off on Medium, write more about your life stories.
Personal brands are built on the back of stories. My entire career is built on the story about why I left Netflix. The more I write, the more I notice how other internet personalities built their personal brand around a story as well.
For example the CEO of Gumroad wrote the most liked article I’ve seen on Medium. In the article, he details his struggles as an entrepreneur growing his company and amassed over 115k claps!
When I partnered with a publication on Medium called Entrepreneur’s Handbook, they sent out an email of all the award winning articles on their publication.
Lo-and-behold, every single award winning article told a story.
There is nothing more compelling than a good story on Medium, so start writing yours!
Some Tips on Story-Telling
When it comes to story-telling, my main tip is to tell your best stories first.
Some writers want to build a big audience before doing a grand story reveal.
This is a mistake because a breakout story on Medium will increase views on all your subsequent articles.
Plus, there’s a risk of losing motivation and never writing your story if you keep delaying it. So you might as well write it now.
Two questions to guide you include:
If you were to die tomorrow and leave the world with one story, what would that story be?
What’s one story you find yourself repeating to friends?
My story on leaving Netflix was both the one story I wanted to leave the world with if I died tomorrow, AND friends continuously asked me why I left this job.
Others asking about your story is validation to write it.
So remember, stories win on Medium. They form the foundation of your personal brand and give people a reason to follow you.
2. Pay More Attention to Headlines
Many writers treat the headline as an after-thought. They spend 95% of their time on the article and only 5% on the title.
But content is like a funnel. 95% of people will read the headline, and only 5% will read the article.
Most writers benefit from spending less time on their articles in favor of improving their headlines.
In the book “Copywriting Secrets,” professional copywriter Jim Edwards says that he spends 50% of his time on an article tweaking the headline!
The Medium algorithm is designed to make Medium more money. And Medium only makes money when readers click on articles.
You have to make your headlines compelling to drive more traffic to your articles.
Taking Inspiration from Other Headlines
I have two tips on improving your headlines. The first involves searching around Medium for other high-performing articles and tweaking their headlines.
For example, if you wanted to write an article about career advice, search around Medium for other popular articles on this same topic.
While doing this, I stumbled upon an article about career advice that got over 7k claps last year.
Make a list of headlines that stand out to you. Once you have this list:
Take a headline and templatize it
Tweak it to fit your own story
Instead of the title “Amazon Sr. Software Engineer at Age 27…” you could change this to “<Your company> at age <age> — <#> important lessons I’ve learned so far in my career.”
Then try A/B testing different variations of your headlines by putting them next to each other like this:
Amazon Sr. Software Engineer at Age 27–8 important lessons I’ve learned so far in my career
8 important lessons for a successful career (and life) from an Amazon Sr. Software Engineer
Amazon Sr. Software Engineer at Age 27–7 Pieces of Advice for a Successful Career (and Life)
And ask a friend which one they would click.
Now you’ve got a headline that is even better than the original ones you tweaked! So remember:
An average article with a great headline will outperform a great article with an average headline.
3. Your Job Isn’t Over After Clicking Publish
You’ve finished writing an article, and finally hit publish. Unfortunately, a lot of writers on Medium stop here.
But your job as a writer has just begun!
Distribution is a critical part of writing. Just as how products don’t sell themselves unless you market it, you need to spend more time distributing your articles if you expect to see success.
How to Distribute Your Articles on Medium
I never only post on Medium. I squeeze as much out of each article by cross-posting on multiple platforms, and breaking it into smaller posts as well.
My distribution strategy looks like this.
When starting off on Medium, you should start a newsletter as well because you can copy-paste your article over.
I recommend Substack because they have an in-built recommendations system to help you grow. You can see a bend in the growth curve for Lenny Rachitsky in his newsletter after they launched this feature below.
Next, post your articles on LinkedIn and Twitter. However don’t dump your article links there and call it a day.
Cross-posting successfully on multiple platforms means following two rules:
Your posts on other platforms should have value as a stand-alone post
You have to tailor your content to fit the format of each platform.
For example, Aldric Chen is a great writer on Medium, but I noticed that he promotes his articles on Twitter by linking straight to the article.
This won’t get any clicks. However, what’s worked for me was taking parts of the article and putting highlights inside the cross-post itself.
My cross-posts all follow the same structure where I:
copy-paste my intro into the cross-post
delve into one key insight from the article
give three article highlights to entice people to click.
You can see how I do it in my LinkedIn post below.
This post passes both of the above tests because there’s value in this as a stand-alone post. Also notice how I cut parts of the article out to format it for this LinkedIn post.
I’ve rarely seen a pure copy-paste strategy between platforms work.
Sometimes I’ll even modify the intro to fit the format of the platform. In this cross-post, notice how I modify the article intro in my opening tweet to follow Twitter’s style.
Each platform has different guidelines. Always respect the rules of each platform and provide value upfront. The community members will reward you for it.
When I started out, I remember being jealous of my friend who told me to post more online. I had zero Medium followers, and they had 30.
When I caught up with my friend two months after, he checked my follower count and gasped, “Holy shit, how did you do that?”
Writing more stories, focusing more on headlines, and spending more time on distribution will hopefully help supercharge your growth on Medium the way it did for me.
And if you get a big spike in followers, DM me — I’d love to see it!
Want to Start Writing on Medium?
This article is an excerpt from my video course “Beginner’s Guide to Medium” where I discuss this in further detail.
Find me on social media here.