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How to Succeed on Medium: Four Strategies That Actually Work

How to grow your following, increase your engagement, get curated, and earn more income through the MPP

Nico Ryan
14 min readMay 30, 2019

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[*Update*: I’m very fortunate to be able to say that my success on Medium has grown significantly since the publication of this piece. From November 2019 to February 2020, I earned $10,500+ and my stories accrued 300k+ views.]

As both a ghostwriter and an author writing under my own name, I’ve been publishing content on Medium for three years now.

I’m currently having my most successful month ever in terms of engagement:

In the last 30 days, my stories have:

  • Been viewed 14,514 times
  • Been read 4,045 times
  • Acquired 722 fans.

I’m also having my best month yet in terms of my earnings via the Medium Partner Program (MPP).

I earned $347.15 USD for May:

For the current pay period, my two most successful stories are:

  1. How Emotional Trauma Drives Nearly Everything We Do, published on ’s Publishous, which generated $114.13 in 30 days
  2. How to Become an Exceptional Writer by Studying Philosophy, published on The Understanding Project, which generated $52.31 in the same amount of time.

On the one hand, my engagement statistics and earnings pale in comparison to a number of Medium’s most successful (and inspiring!) writers, including

, , , , , , , , , and my friend .

On the other hand, however, Medium’s public data suggest I’m well above average in terms of earnings.

On May 6 2019, Medium reported, “7.1% of active writers earned over $100.”

Given that I earned roughly 3.5x that amount for May, I’m very grateful (and extremely humbled) to say I’m presently amongst a tiny group of people excelling on this platform.

As more and more writers recognize the opportunities Medium provides to creators to build audiences, reach people with ideas, and earn meaningful income by publishing stories, questions about how to succeed on Medium proliferate.

In this article I’m going to share with you four strategies I’ve used to succeed as a writer on this platform — strategies that you, too, can use to grow your following, increase your engagement, get your stories curated, and earn more income through the MPP.

These strategies are based on the lessons I’ve learned (and mistakes I’ve made) over the past three years whilst publishing content on Medium.

First, though, a quick caveat: there’s no way to achieve overnight success as a writer on Medium (or anywhere else for that matter).

You must commit to playing the long-game if you truly want to do well on this platform.

Fortunately, Medium makes it possible for newcomers to succeed over time: the Medium staff and Medium algorithm recognize and reward high-quality content better than any other platform I’ve ever used.

Essentially, if 1) you can write really well and tell captivating stories and 2) you’re willing to consistently a) share your best work and b) interact with the Medium community, you will succeed here.

In this sense, then, it’s a question of when — not if — you’ll start earning decent income.

Here are the four key strategies I’ll be discussing:

  1. Write articles people actually want to read.
  2. Publish nothing but your very best writing.
  3. Actively participate in the Medium community, and be genuine at all times.
  4. Take advantage of and contribute to Medium-related Facebook groups.

Strategy #1: Write Articles People Actually Want to Read

This first strategy might sound like a ‘no-brainer’ but I’m constantly surprised by the evident lack of thought some writers put into the question of how to create content people actually want to read.

When you publish ideas on a social platform like Medium, your goal ought to be to write articles people can’t help reading, engaging with, and sharing with others.

You obviously can’t succeed as a writer if you don’t know how to create stories people truly want to read.

The Medium staff has been very upfront about its desire and intention to support writers who publish articles that genuinely help others, claiming:

  • “Medium exists to help readers discover great stories.” (source)
  • “We developed the Medium Partner Program to pay self-published writers for stories that strike a chord with members.” (source)
  • “People turn to Medium to help them understand the world more deeply and find worthwhile ideas they can apply in their lives.” (source)

Creating compelling content requires explicit strategizing; it doesn’t happen by accident.

In order to convince people to engage with your work, you must think about and approach your writing in a different way than you would if you were merely writing for yourself, e.g., writing in a personal journal.

As I recently explained,

People don’t want to read your personal diary entries. They want to read articles that promise them a return on their investment, i.e., a tangible benefit for having taken the time to read something.

In order to write articles people actually want to read, you need to recognize that, all things considered, we read things for one or more three main reasons:

  1. To learn how to do something, such as fix a problem or acquire a new skill
  2. To better understand something, i.e., to gain knowledge and insight (whether ‘practical’ or ‘philosophical’)
  3. To feel something, i.e., to experience one or more emotions.

Thus, people read for reasons having to do with 1) curiosity, 2) knowledge, and 3) emotion.

If you want readers to engage with your writing, you must appeal to elements of curiosity, knowledge, or emotion in everything you publish.

Every aspect of your writing — from your title, headings, and cover image to your sentence structure, text formatting, and voice/style — must ultimately serve one or more of these three dynamics.

Help, inspire, or teach your readers something of value — that’s how to create stories people actually want to read, and those are the kinds of stories Medium rewards with curation and publicity.

I’ve written an entire article on how to use The H.I.T. — Help, Inspire, Teach — Strategy to craft content that genuinely connects with your readers by writing to and for them rather than to and for yourself.

I suggest taking 15 minutes to read that piece.

You will not succeed on this platform if you ignore or significantly under-attend to the needs and wants of readers — period.

Focus on publishing stories that provide real value to other people and watch as your follower count, ‘claps’, highlights, comments, curation rate, and income all start to rise.

Strategy #2: Publish Nothing but Your Very Best Writing

To state this as straightforwardly as possible:

You should only ever publish the very best articles you’re capable of writing. Everything you share on Medium should represent your finest effort.

Take your time when you write and craft exceptional stories. Don’t settle for anything less.

The Medium staff has been very clear about its commitment to rewarding writers who share first-rate content:

“[W]e are looking for quality [content]…across all areas of knowledge and human experience (at least those that people want to read about). When we say quality, we mean more than good writing (though we like that a lot). We also mean information quality — accuracy, insightfulness, and offering something uniquely valuable to the reader.” (source)

Unless you’re an extremely rare breed of writer, you simply can’t create “accurate”, “insightful”, and “uniquely valuable” stories in an hour or two or, indeed, in a mere few hundred words.

I regularly spend 5–20+ hours working on a single Medium article.

Is this overkill? Perhaps, but my strategy is to try to publish some of the very best content on this platform, and it’s working quite well for me so far.

Medium doesn’t reward surface-level stories that have been hastily slapped together or that are incomprehensible and full of errors.

The Medium staff has said as much:

  • “The best way to make sure we see your story is to focus on quality. … When we find something we love, we reach out to the writer. … So, we encourage writers to do the type of work that has lasting value.” (source)
  • “We want you to put your best work on Medium, and we regularly feature stories we think are great.” (source)
  • “Our goal is simple: put terrific stories in front of our readers”. (source)

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

If you regularly publish low-quality, error-laden, disorganized, and uninspiring content, it doesn’t matter how many of your friends ‘clap’ or otherwise engage with your stories.

As your name becomes ever more associated with lacklustre content, the Medium curation team will learn to ‘look the other way’ whenever you share something.

Consequently, every one of your Medium stories should be:

  • Easy to understand (i.e., intelligible and logically coherent)
  • Completely free of grammar, spelling, and syntax errors (or as close to error-free as possible)
  • Organized in a way that makes sense (don’t randomly ‘jump’ from topic to topic in your writing)
  • Written, at least in part, for the explicit benefit of the reader
  • Free of redundancies and rambling text
  • Aesthetically pleasing (i.e., attractive to the eye in terms of images and the formatting of text)
  • Where appropriate, supported by evidence (i.e., backed by legitimate citations).

I’ve published tens of thousands of words on the topic of how to become a better writer.

The following articles can help you further refine your technical writing skills, writing habits, and understanding of how to convey your ideas effectively through your writing:

Take the time to learn how to write clearly, coherently, and persuasively; your readers will appreciate it and the Medium curation team will reward you for it.

More generally, dedicate yourself to producing art that’s better than it needs to be; show the world, as Seth Godin put its, that you “care enough” to share only your very best work.

Strategy #3: Actively Participate in the Medium Community, and Be Genuine at All Times

Medium is a community-driven platform.

It’s a place where readers and writers gather not only to discuss and engage with ideas but also to form relationships, both personal and professional.

Sometimes, the ideas shared are lighthearted and silly; at others times, they’re serious, complex, and emotionally taxing.

In both cases, however, what’s clear is that one-way, authoritative, and elitist communication is the antithesis of how Medium works.

Rather than being a forum where a select few experts write at masses of faceless content consumers, Medium is a space where anybody can share virtually any idea or story and they can interact with virtually anybody else on the platform.

The interactivity Medium makes possible — in the form of comments, highlights, private messages, tags, and so on — is not only one of it’s most defining features, but it’s also something to which you need to pay attention if you want to succeed here as a writer.

One of the most effective ways to ‘get your name out there’ and to build your reputation on Medium is by interacting with other people’s stories on a daily basis.

Numerous popular and up-and-coming writers spend an hour or more per day networking with other Medium users by reading, commenting on, highlighting, and ‘clapping’ their stories and by engaging in conversation through private messages.

, a rising star here on Medium, stresses exactly this point when she says:

“Medium is, in essence, a social media platform. … [S]uccess on Medium [thus] requires a consistent commitment to engagement. … If you’re not reading the work of other writers [and] clapping, highlighting, or commenting, you’re slowing down your [own] growth potential…”

Writing brilliant content isn’t sufficient to grow a following and earn an income on a social site like Medium; you also must support, interact with, and (where possible) help others, and you need to do it often.

I engage with dozens of Medium stories every day, being sure to leave meaningful, detailed, and thoughtful comments on other people’s articles as frequently as I can (here’s one example).

I also try to respond to every person who leaves a remark on one of my pieces; but, admittedly, it’s becoming ever-more difficult to reply to each comment as my numbers continue to grow.

One rule I’ve set for myself is this:

If somebody takes time out of their day to write a detailed response to an article of mine, I’ll put in just as much (if not more) effort to write an equally thoughtful and comprehensive reply in return (here a few examples: 1, 2, 3).

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you try to game the system by relying on bogus ‘growth tactics’ like clap-for-clap or follow-for-follow nonsense.

Those approaches don’t work on Medium, as people see them for what they are, i.e., disingenuous and sleazy ‘hacks’.

Medium isn’t Instagram; it’s not a home for tweens and teenagers who are trying to become ‘influencers’ by any means necessary.

Instead, it’s a place where adults of all ages who love to read and write choose to create and enjoy art for art’s sake — or at least to come together to learn, teach, debate, or otherwise explore various facets of the human condition.

Part of playing the long-game on Medium is acting authentically every time you engage with others on the platform.

There’s no way to ‘hack’ Medium. Algorithms or not, we’re all real people here. We can ‘smell’ dishonesty and disingenuousness from a mile away.

Moreover, the Medium staff hasn’t shied away from warning people not to use the platform for overt marketing purposes, insisting:

“Readers tell us that they find repeated calls to action — to sign up for a newsletter, to clap — annoying. Consider eliminating CTAs altogether.”

So, as my friend

— owner of The Startup, one of the biggest Medium publications ever — would say, “forget the growth hacking bullshit, and focus on telling better stories.”

To this I would add: Publish only the very best articles you can, and put serious effort into building genuine relationships with your readers and with other writers.

Showing others you care about what they have to say is the only way to authentically encourage people to also pay attention to what you write about.

The more people pay attention to and engage with your writing, the more popular your stories will become, and the more often the Medium curation team will feature your work.

Strategy #4: Take Advantage Of and Contribute To Medium-Related Facebook Groups

First things first: Once again, I’m not advocating engaging in any sort of spammy, get-rich-quick, or trick-the-algorithm-type tactics with this final strategy, nor am I telling you to try to use others for your own benefit.

With that disclaimer out of the way, the final strategy for succeeding on Medium involves taking advantage of existing Medium-related Facebook groups in an effort to further connect with and help other writers and thereby grow your online network.

I’m currently a member of four such groups on Facebook:

  1. Medium Dreamers
  2. Medium Magic (created by )
  3. Medium Mastery (created by ) and
  4. Medium Writing.

Each of these groups is dedicated to the same core objective: to create a space within which Medium writers can help each other succeed on the platform by sharing tips and tricks, supporting each other’s work, and working together to increase the visibility of members’ writing.

Many people in these groups are deeply dedicated to their art and to helping their fellow writers achieve their goals.

(A few, unfortunately, seem to be more concerned with acquiring claps than with building a community, which is to be expected in any ‘promotion’-type group.)

Using Medium-related Facebook groups to your advantage involves doing the same sort of networking on Facebook you do here on the platform, i.e., participating in discussions, asking and answering questions, sharing insights, supporting people’s articles, leaving helpful feedback, and so on.

I have experimented with two other ways of networking on Facebook, each of which represents my effort to ‘give back’ to the community without asking for anything in return.

First, I published a post in which I offered to provide detailed feedback for free on members’ draft articles.

I invited people to email me a copy of a story on which they were working at the time, and I sent back a bunch of notes detailing how I believed they could make the pieces stronger.

Second, every week I post a thread in which I invite all members of the group to share a published Medium story with me that they’d like me to read.

I provide a list of acceptable genres and I promise to look at each piece but to engage only with the articles I find interesting and valuable.

Here’s one of my recent posts:

Participating in the above-mentioned four Facebook groups has undeniably led to the growth of my Medium profile, greater interest in and engagement with my stories, and an increase in my earnings.

For instance, I earned 26% more money in May than I did in April, which coincides with my increased activity on Facebook.

Participating in and contributing to Facebook groups are, thus, one more way to connect with and help your readers and fellow writers.

As such, these groups represent one more facet of an effective long-term strategy for achieving success on Medium.

The Takeaway

As far I see it, Medium is one of the greatest ‘gifts’ given to people who love to read and write in a long time.

It’s a place where anybody can share virtually any idea, insight, or experience and can interact with a community of like-minded individuals who are eager to engage in real conversations and help each other succeed.

From the perspective of a reader, for a mere $5.00 per month, you get access to some of the most inspiring, ‘raw’, and thought-provoking content being published today.

From the perspective of a writer, you’re able to build an audience, connect with other artists, and potentially earn big money doing what you love, i.e., writing.

Like any other aspect of social life, Medium is a ‘game’ with a set of rules and procedures that rewards certain kinds of behaviour and discourages others.

Fortunately, and in an effort to help writers understand exactly how to succeed on the platform, the Medium staff has evidently tried very hard to make the parameters of this game as explicit as possible.

These parameters include:

  • Publishing amazing stories people love to read and share with others
  • Avoiding sleazy marketing tactics intended to push people to third-party websites
  • Fostering a sense of community by cultivating a space in which people can help each other and debate things that matter.

Having written on Medium for three years now, including publishing multiple stories per week for the past 14 weeks, I believe the following four strategies represent your best bet for growing your audience, increasing your engagement, getting curated, and earning more income via the MPP:

  1. Write articles people actually want to read.
  2. Publish nothing but your very best writing.
  3. Actively participate in the Medium community, and be genuine at all times.
  4. Take advantage of and contribute to Medium-related Facebook groups.

To these I’ll add one final suggestion: Be patient and work (really) hard for a long time.

One last thing: Get more stories like this one here.

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Nico Ryan

Ph.D. Candidate | Technical Writer-Editor | Philosopher | TikTok: vm.tiktok.com/tyB9vb | Website: nicothewriter.com | Newsletter: eepurl.com/c87lPj