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7 Meaningful Things We Can All Do to Succeed Here on Medium, Together

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These double as your new Ascent submission guidelines.

I am on a mission to help content creators. It’s all I think about, each and every day. You could say I’m pretty serious about it. In fact, it’s my dream.

How serious, you ask?

Serious enough that I quit my job a full year ago to pursue this. Serious enough that I’ve spent the last year living well below my means. Serious enough that I still show up here, here, here, and here every. single. day.

What can I say? When I see something I want, I like to go all-in.

Since leaving it all behind, I’ve devoted my life to building my brand, and I want to help you do the same. I’m passionate about this community. I’m committed and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

I’m not interested in settling. I don’t intend for The Ascent, as a publication, to simply end up as “middle-of-the-pack.” I don’t just want top-100 status on Medium. I want top-10. I don’t just want 40,000 subscribers. I want 40 million.

But even more so than that, I want The Ascent to be a platform — a community — in which everyone can share their personal stories and advance.

And I really think we can all get there together.

I believe in hard work and sound strategy. I also believe in investing in yourself, committing to the process, and documenting the journey.

These are the basic principles that govern my life, as well as The Ascent.

I want this community to feel like a support group for you. I’m hoping that, at the end of the day, those willing to contribute time and energy here are looking to help one another as much as they’re looking to help themselves.

Stick with me and help us build this thing. We’ll all go places. That’s the goal.

But first, let’s establish a little credibility…

I’m a guy who knows what it takes to succeed here on Medium. I’m a hacker trapped inside of a marketer’s body, and I’ve spent time with the very best.

Before this, I spent nearly 7 years working for Gary Vaynerchuk, who has even more followers here than the guy who created this place, Ev Williams.

I went to work for Gary back when his company was a little startup of just 10 people (in fact, I was employee 10), and since that time, I’ve become an expert at hacking attention and growth throughout social media culture.

Even once the company eclipsed the 700-employee mark, I was still one of the biggest “Medium experts” in the building. People used to routinely book time with me just so I could teach them the finer points of the platform.

So, I guess you could say I’m a guy who knows what the f*ck he’s talking about when it comes to Medium. (Just kidding. I’m really not that arrogant, but I am confident in my abilities, and just a little fired up at the moment…)

But, while I may not have millions of views here (yet), I do have thousands. In fact, here’s what I’ve accomplished on Medium in just the last 30 days:

So, now that we’ve gotten my credentials and experience out of the way, let’s sip a little ice cold Ascent Kool-Aid, shall we?

Here are the things we can all do to succeed here on Medium, together:

① We can break all the rules.

But before we can break the rules, we just need to understand them all.

Photo by Camille Orgel

Medium has become a really interesting place to try and build an audience through your writing. If you’re serious about being here, I’d advise you to keep your ear to the ground and follow any changes as they’re implemented.

There are two easy ways to do this:

  1. Keep tabs on Medium’s official blog (or on Ev’s column, specifically)
  2. Install Medium’s app so you can track all platform updates

Also, you can learn all the rules (especially the sneaky ones) of Medium directly from the writers on this platform. All you have to do is search phrases like ‘success on medium’ and ‘medium followers’ to unearth the very best.

You can even learn some Medium success tactics right here, from me:

I Bet I Can Make You A Top Writer on Medium in 7 Days’ Time

Once you understand how Medium allows you to do cool things with images and embeds, for instance, you can start breaking the rules by inserting graphics and icons with transparent backgrounds, to suit your needs.

Or, once you understand the rules around Medium’s highlighting feature, you can begin utilizing it in new, creative ways, like highlighting a single sentence in your own article to better help it stand out.

The Ascent has a few rules, too, I guess…

This is our current publishing process:

  • Every weekday morning (9 am MST), we review submissions
  • Articles that have already been published by the author get accepted or rejected first, then tweeted out if it’s the former
  • Article drafts (which we prefer to receive) then get reviewed, and those that are accepted get scheduled out to Medium and Twitter, 1 article per hour (or 1 every 30 minutes if it’s a busy day) throughout the day
  • Each day, 1 to 4 of the best posts get featured at the top of our homepage, then the 25 most recent stories get featured below that (25 is the maximum number of posts Medium will allow in any one section)
  • Once a month, we take the highest-performing stories of all-time and add them to our Hall of Fame. Other top stories can be found on the trending section of our homepage, below the two sections mentioned above

In summary, we’re committed to learning and breaking all the rules here to gain whatever competitive advantage we can, and that includes being as transparent and open as possible in terms of how we operate and function.

If the articles we’re featuring daily are among the most informative, innovate, and aesthetically pleasing on Medium, it will benefit all those involved.

② We can listen to and respect the data.

It’s time we all got real transparent about the behind-the-scenes numbers.

Photo by Curtis MacNewton

Currently, The Ascent receives over 65,000 page views and 100,000-plus total minutes read every single month. These are not numbers most publications would openly share, but we’re not most publications, now are we?

Transparency with respect to data is another way we can all succeed here together. It has worked for Medium itself so far, so I see no reason why it can’t work for us as well.

Examining optimal post length on Medium

At The Ascent, the majority of the submissions we receive are 1 to 3 minute reads, which is great, but data suggests we could be doing better.

Back in late 2013, Medium’s then head of Data Science, Mike Sall, wrote an article detailing how 7 minutes was the optimal post length on Medium.

Having done a bit of digging, I was able to uncover a more recent article detailing the habits of the top writers on Medium. This one states that 7 to 8 minute reads are ideal on this platform, so not much has changed.

Here are some more key stats I found (source):

* Writing for a 6th grade reading level = +25% recommends
* Articles averaging 12-15 words per sentence = +20% recommends
* Easy to read sentences = +43% recommends
* Power words like Great/Top/Best in titles = +21% recommends
* Using sentence-case titles = +20% recommends
* Using direct calls to action = +25% recommends
* Publishing on Tuesdays & Saturdays = +33% recommends

Now, I’m a big believer that every sentence in an article should either have meaning or create value, so if you don’t have 7 minutes worth of valuable information to cover, a well-written 4-minute article will do just fine.

However, spending a little extra time to analyze the data and consider how it can be applied to the stories you’re telling will only help to benefit you as a writer and The Ascent as a whole.

Regardless of what story you’re telling, consider your audience, respect the data, and make sure you’re formatting your articles so it’s easy for (y)our readers to extract value from them. We’ll all benefit in the end.

③ We can test and learn, then optimize and adapt.

Sound strategy comes down to a willingness to embrace change.

Photo by Monica Silva

When it comes to writing or content creation in general, I take everything I consume around the idea of success with a grain of salt.

Why? Because while I do believe that there is much to be learned from those who came to a platform and found success there before I did, it’s hardly an indicator that there is only one way in which to succeed.

In fact, there are many ways to succeed on each and every platform, and what happens for a lot of people is they simply find a way that best fits them.

You can learn a lot from other successful people’s experiences, but you can learn even more from your own. Get out there and taste what success is for you.

Ask yourself: Why do I write on Medium? What does success look like for me on this platform? Who would find my story valuable or interesting?

Then, reverse-engineer what that path of yours to success looks like and get to work making it a reality.

Get creative in your testing and learning. Try titling, tagging, or formatting your articles a little differently. Experiment with images, GIFs, and embeds in your stories. Figure out what’s working for others on this platform and then, rather than stealing it verbatim, adapt it as a tactic to test out on your own.

Only then will you have found your true brand and voice, and once others discover and follow it, we’ll all succeed as a whole.

④ We can expand our networks at scale.

Good networking involves creating a value exchange.

Photo by jens johnsson

Since I’ve gotten really serious about my writing here on Medium in the last 30 days, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in followers and engagement.

People tag me in more of their articles, they leave private notes and public comments in mine, and I get more emails, tweets, and requests on LinkedIn.

This is all great, and it’s a positive byproduct of my level of activity across all the social platforms in which I currently spend time.

We call The Ascent ‘a community of documenters’ because that’s exactly what it is: a community, first and foremost.

Everyone here is on a journey of some kind.

Some people are looking to improve themselves (mentally and/or physically), some are working to overcome a challenge, some are looking to create a new life for themselves, some are looking to create better relationships, and some are looking to build something really great.

Whatever the case may be, we’re all here, and we’re all goal-oriented to some degree.

Learn from one another, inspire one another… and even more so than that, connect with one another in a meaningful way.

Here are some things you can do to expand your network:

  • Comment and engage on the other Ascent articles you find interesting. We have a lot of writers here and they all have great stories. Commend them. Offer them valuable insights and feedback when appropriate.
  • Tag people in your stories. Not just as a tactic, either. Throw them a public shoutout if they’ve inspired you or your writing in some way. They’ll notice, no matter who they are, trust me.
  • Connect your Twitter account to your Medium profile. When we (or anybody else on Medium) tweet your post, you’ll automatically get tagged. Start conversations around your writing and get more eyes on your work.
  • Follow those who engage with your work. If you’re more of a creator than a consumer of content on Medium, start following the accounts of people who engage with or clap for your stories. Most will follow back and you will have made it easier for people who liked one thing you wrote to see more things you write, from this point forward.
  • Invest time into networking on Twitter. A lot of people still don’t know this, but if you have your Medium account connected to Twitter, and someone who also has Medium follows you there, they’ll automatically start following you on Medium as well.
  • Follow our podcast to meet and connect with the cool people I know. Recommend me people you think I should interview or meet, or who just have great stories, even, and I’ll reach out to them. More than likely, I’ll be willing to introduce you to such people, too. All you have to do is ask.

If everyone who comes into contact with The Ascent brings with them a willingness to collaborate and communicate with one another, we will all be in a much better position to succeed.

⑤ We can utilize platforms & tools to ↑ our reach.

A successful content strategy involves 1/3 creation and 2/3 distribution.

Photo by Barn Images

I would love for The Ascent to eventually be in a place where we can consistently drive hundreds or thousands of views to every influential article on the site organically.

Sadly, however, we’re just not quite there. Because of our current size, the number of new writers we welcome each week, and the volume of content that lives on (and gets pushed off the front page of ) our site every day, we’re lucky if 1 in 10 posts actually attracts significant viewership on its own.

However, we’re constantly looking to improve.

Here’s how we can all improve our distribution, together:

  • Expand your network on Medium and grow your following. (For more on this, please re-see item ④ above.)
  • Build an email list. Right now, our major downfall is we rely solely on discovery and timeliness within Medium to organically grow our publication. We’re working to change that and think you should too.
  • Warm up your audience on social. Are you big on Twitter or LinkedIn? Let your audience know when a great, new post of yours is about to go live. When you get an article accepted by us, you likely can revisit your draft to see exactly when your article is scheduled for posting.
  • Share your live content to other networks. This is something we’re actively looking to do more of on our end, but you as a writer can employ such tactics as well. Submit your work to sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon if the topic makes sense, for instance.
  • Link to your work on Quora. Quora is a great place for people looking to spread thought leadership on a given topic, and it drives a lot of organic traffic as well. Chances are good that if you wrote and published an article on The Ascent, you can take a few pieces of it and repurpose them as answers to questions on Quora, linking back to the full body of work here.

And above all, let’s communicate with one another. If you come across a great way to distribute your Ascent content, let us know. If you just have an idea or would like to partner on something, let us know that, too.

My inbox and Twitter are always open, for starters.

⑥ We can increase the quality of our content.

And I’m willing to bet we can do this pretty drastically.

Photo by Dung Anh

This one’s a little more abstract than the rest of the items on this list, but I truly think it’s just as valuable.

Don’t be afraid to tell your story.

I’m convinced that one of — if not the — greatest assets we all have at our disposal at any given moment is our personal story.

As you know, I frame up every podcast interview with the same 3 questions:

  1. Where did you come from?
  2. What are you focusing on right now?
  3. Where do you see yourself going?

Past. Present. Future. It’s where short-term living and thinking meets long-term goal-setting and foresight.

For me, the answers to these seemingly simple questions are what dictate everything I’m about in terms of my personal brand and sharing my journey.

There are way too many people here on Medium who like to talk at or down to others, perhaps even without really realizing it to begin with. They offer up life advice and information on how to be successful without ever validating who they are or why they are the ones delivering it in the first place.

Did you see how I framed up the beginning of this article?

I framed up this very piece by first communicating my mission and underlying passion behind everything I’m sharing here. Then, I explained exactly how my unique experiences have qualified me to deliver everything you’ve read since.

Before I can expect my audience (or anybody who I’m lucky enough to have land on a piece of my work) to consume an article of mine that’s going to take any real time, I need to communicate to them who I am and why what I’m talking about is even relevant to them and the larger conversation.

Capture an audience’s attention with the high-level goals & philosophy of what you’re doing, then present them a ton of value through the individual stories, methods, & tactics.

If you follow this method when it comes to your writing here, we will have more shining examples of what makes this community great, a stronger brand message we can rally others around, and others will have a better sense of how exactly to help one another throughout each’s personal journey.

⑦ We can get started on all of the above, right now.

Start documenting your journey & sharing your story with others via The Ascent.

Photo by Nadine Shaabana

As I said in the beginning, I really think we can all find success here on Medium, together.

These are our new submission guidelines. They’re a little different from those of other publications, you may have noticed…

This is our philosophy — our religion. Everything The Ascent stands for, represents (at least at a high level), and is all about, at the end of the day.

As for the actual process to go about applying to be a contributor and submitting work here, you can still find those directions here:

Write for The Ascent on Medium

Like I said, I am on a mission to help content creators. If I can help inspire and, to some degree, influence a higher form of personal storytelling here on Medium, I will have succeeded in creating momentum behind that goal.

The Ascent, LLC’s ultimate mission as a company is to be an accelerator for social good, so we’re constantly working on arming our community with the tools, resources, and information necessary to impact & impart real change.

The Ascent publication plays a key role in driving progress around that mission. As you’ll come to learn and see in the near future, there will be other elements and platforms added to the mix to help us reach those goals.

We’re excited and hopeful for you to be a part of our company’s future.


7 Meaningful Things We Can All Do to Succeed Here on Medium, Together was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



This post first appeared on The Ascent, please read the originial post: here

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