NEW WRITERS

How to Get 200 Followers in a Relatively Short Time

No, I’m not going to sell you a course or ask you to do anything unethical

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

Maybe it’s because I’m a former college teacher, but no matter how many years I stay on this platform, I will always have a soft spot for the newcomers.

There’s nothing like publishing over and over and over again on here, only to find that you have a total of 4 followers and have earned 6 cents. You can be the best writer in the world, but if no one knows you’re here. what good does it do?

In this article, I will show new writers how to leverage elements of the Medium landscape to get noticed, get followed, and get read.

Before we get started, let me give you a short list of what you won’t see in this article:

  • You won’t see an ad for my “How to write on Medium” course that costs hundreds of dollars. I don’t have one of those. All of the information here I am giving away free because I remember how much it sucks to be a newcomer.
  • You won’t see recommendations to blindly follow Medium users with whom you have nothing in common, in hopes they’ll follow you back. That doesn’t work.
  • You won’t see recommendations to go promote your work on external social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) That may bring you traffic, but those aren’t paid Medium members, so you won’t reap any financial rewards.

With that on the way, let’s get you on the fast track to getting noticed on Medium.

Step 1 — Go to the About Me Stories publication and read at least 10 writer bios

Publications are places where writers on Medium share their work on a common topic or topics. Publications have one or more editors who accept stories, and they generally have more than one contributing writer.

Publications are sort of like magazines. If you’re at a news stand and you want to read about sports, you might pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated. If you’re on Medium and you want to read about relationships, you could read P.S. I Love You. If you want to read about building a business, you could have a look at Entrepreneur’s Handbook.

About Me Stories is a place where you can write your own personal biography, to show your human side to your readers so they develop a connection with you. You’re going to write your own biography to submit to About Me Stories.

However, before you submit to a publication (any publication, not just this particular one) you need to invest a fair amount of time reading stories in it to figure out what works and to get familiar with the writing style. So your first assignment is to go read at least 10 writer bios in About Me Stories. If you have time to read 25 bios, that would be even better.

Important: As you read bios of other writers, you are likely to find people you personally relate to, and you’re going to want to connect with them. Don’t do that — yet. Write their names down and make it a point to come back to them. Let’s get your own bio done before you start connecting with other writers.

Step 2 — Write your own bio and submit it to About Me Stories

The first step is to read the submission guidelines over and over until you feel like you could take a test on the guidelines and pass with 90%. This is good advice for submission to any publication, by the way.

Now write your title and subtitle and upload a featured image. The image should be of you and it should show personality. If you have a favorite hobby, a photo of you doing it would be good. A photo with your pet would be a great featured image if you are an animal person.

Then tell readers about yourself and let them know what topics you plan to write about on Medium. Again, the key is to show personality. You don’t want to come off as a robot with a Medium account. You want to leave your readers wanting more. The submission guidelines have a number of suggestions for things to talk about.

When you are done, proofread your story — I recommend reading it out loud, to yourself. Then go back and read the submission guidelines and make sure you followed every last one of them. Then submit it for publication.

If the editor contacts you and asks for changes to be made, don’t be offended. They just want your story to be as high-quality as it can be. Readers will stay longer and will interact more with a high-quality story, so this is a win-win for the editor and also for you.

Once published, readers may well leave comments. Two things here:

  • Reply to every one of them. If there’s an opportunity to start a conversation, start it. At the very minimum, say, “Thanks for reading!” or “Thanks for stopping by!”
  • If a reader comments on something specific in your bio, take note. If they say, “I like it that you enjoy underwater basket-weaving, I’ve always wanted to try that!”, that’s a hint that you should write a future story about underwater basket-weaving.

Step 3 — Now go back and clap for and comment on stories you previously read, and follow writers you connect with

Now that you have something for others to read, go back to the About Me stories that were your favorites.

If you liked the writer enough that you’d want to read more of their work, click their screen name and then click the Follow button on the page that comes up. (You can give this a try with my screen name if you like.)

If you want to show appreciation for their story, there’s a clappy hands icon at the bottom of every story.

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The clappy hands icon

Many new users don’t know this, but you can tap the hands icon up to a maximum of 50 times, giving the story as many as 50 claps. (If you want to try this out, go to the clappy hands at the end of this article — not the ones above — and attempt to give it 51 claps.)

In the old days, Medium used to pay writers based on the number of claps. These days, writers are paid based on read time — however, by clapping for a story, you’re telling the algorithm, “I think more people should see this,” so in a sense, you’re helping to promote another writer’s work.

If you want to leave feedback, there’s a word bubble icon you can click on to leave a comment.

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The word bubble icon for leaving comments

Note: You should keep your comments relevant to what the writer talked about in their story. It is considered bad form to drop links to your own story or promote your own work in another writer’s comment section. (I hereby give you permission to ignore this rule for the comments on this story. Drop your links!)

Step 4 — Write at least one short form story every day

The advice you’ll get from the top writers on here is, to gain a following, write at least one story every day.

The thing is, though, when you’re a new writer on here, that advice is hard. Coming up with a title, a subtitle, a featured image, and 500–2000 words a day is tough. If you can do it, fantastic. If you don’t, though, there’s a way to get started publishing every day with a lot less effort — the short form story.

A short form story on Medium is 150 words at most in length. (In the editor, hit CTRL-A at any time and the number of words will appear in the upper left of the screen.) The first sentence of the first paragraph should be bold. There’s no title, subtitle, or featured image in a short form story, although it’s fine to have an image after at least one paragaph.

If you want to see what a short form story looks like, here’s one I did recently on a New Year’s Day tradition in the southern U.S.

Where to get ideas for short form stories?

  • If you’re on Twitter, any one of your past tweets could be inspiration for a short form story. In fact, short form stories were introduced as Medium’s version of tweets. With a 150-word limit, you can embellish a bit beyond Twitter’s 280-character limit.
  • Any image in your phone could be inspiration for a short form story — that’s how I came up with the idea for the one about the New Year’s tradition.
  • For that matter, any image on your Instagram page could be a source of inspiration.

If you can at least get one short form story done per day, that should get your reader count, and therefore your follower count, up more quickly. Medium’s algorithm is known to reward writers who publish consistently with more traffic than ones who don’t.

Here’s an article I published that goes into more detail on short form stories:

Step 5 — Find other writers in your niche(s) and read their work

Let me share with you one of my favorite tricks on Medium! You can read the very latest stories in any topic by going to

http://www.medium.com/tag/(your topic)/latest

So, for example, let’s say you like to write about relationships. You could go to

http://www.medium.com/tag/relationships/latest

to view the latest stories by your peers on that topic. When you find something you like, give the writer a follow, leave them some claps, leave a comment, or all three. Many of the writers are going to be curious who you are and check out your profile — and hopefully they’ll do the same for you.

Another strategy is to read Top Writers in your niche(s) of interest. To do this, put top-writers at the end of the URL rather than latest. So to view top writers for relationships, go to

https://medium.com/tag/relationships/top-writers

Note: Only the most popular tags have top writers.

Top writers are probably less likely to reciprocate when you clap and comment on their posts — but the other clappers and commenters may look you up and give you a read and maybe a follow.

You should spend the majority of your time writing. I recommend a ratio of 70% writing/30% finding and supporting other writers. As you begin to build a following, shift that ratio to 80% writing/20% supporting others.

Step 6 — Get accepted as a writer in ILLUMINATION and publish a story there

ILLUMINATION is considered among the friendliest of Medium publications for new writers. In fact, ILLUMINATION’s creator, Dr. Mehmet Yildiz, created the publication specifically because he wanted new writers to have a space to feel welcome, where they weren’t on the outside looking in. The list of topics for which they accept stories is very wide.

The publication is known to have a very tight-knit community. Writers are encouraged by their peers to do their best, and the publication takes steps to publicize its writers’ work.

I have to admit that I did not go the ILLUMINATION route myself when I first became a writer on Medium, but that was because I was not a new writer — I already had 16 years experience writing a well-read blog in my home city. For new writers, though, this is a step I would absolutely take.

Step 7 — Publish in other newcomer-friendly publications

Here are some more publications known to be friendly to new writers. Once again, read the submission guidelines to each, and make sure any story you submit meets the guidelines.

  • Writers’ Blokke — One of my personal favorites. You can write on most any topic you want as long as you keep it positive.
  • The Innovation — This was the very first publication I got into on Medium. “We want to help you help other people make their lives and businesses better and more effective every day.” Startups, entrepreneurship, creativity, design, motivation, self-improvement, and sustainability are good topics, as is any other topic you feel fits in with the mission statement.
  • Be Unique — They accept unique takes that start a discussion or make a difference. They are very friendly to new writers and have a fast turnaround time on submissions.
  • Curious — “Find out what others have already figured out.” If that describes your story, this could be the place to submit.

Step 8 — Repeat steps 5, 6, and 7

As you branch out from short form stories into longer articles, keep repeating the process. For example, if you've just published an article on creativity, pull up the latest or top writers in creativity and connect with fellow writers. Some of them will visit your profile and find you have a story of interest right at the very top.

(Maybe) Step 9 — Join Facebook groups specifically for Medium writers

I say “maybe” because the law of diminishing returns applies to this piece of advice. Also, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and spend hours reading other writers’ stories. Remember the 70/30 rule I talked about earlier. You should spend most of your time writing. If you want to learn more about Facebook groups for Medium writers, I wrote about that topic not long ago:

Work it, work it, work it

If you work the steps below and don’t give up, you should easily be able to accumulate 200 quality followers in 60 days — maybe even 30 days.

  • Leverage the About Me Stories publication
  • If you can’t write a full story every day, at least write a short form story
  • Connect with other writers in your niche(s)
  • Get a story accepted in ILLUMINATION and then branch out into other newcomer-friendly publications
  • Wash, rinse, repeat and maybe consider Facebook groups for Medium writers

If you’d like me to read a story you wrote, feel free to drop a link in the comments. Don’t forget to give the clappy hands icon below a try!

Let’s keep in touch! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Need some amazing photos for your stories? Here’s an article of mine that lists a lot of good sources:

Written by

Beliefs | Intuition | Dreams | Journaling | Connector | Inspirer | Former College Teacher | https://www.buymeacoffee.com/paulryburn Twitter: @paulryburn

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