A couple of weeks ago Ev Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, came clean about some of the problems he was facing with his online publishing platform Medium.
He explained why 2016 had been a stellar year for Medium with “key metrics, such as readers and published posts up approximately 300% year on year.” Williams acknowledged, though, that the main ploy he had hatched for monetising the business – a native advertising solution – hadn’t worked out how he had envisaged. He added that he was having to make 50 staff – mainly in sales – redundant, while he and his team pondered a new direction for the platform.
So is it time, as some critics appear to have done already, to write off Medium as a long-term publishing prospect?
Almost certainly not. Williams has shown time and time again that he is one of the savviest tech entrepreneurs, so you wouldn’t bet against him coming up with an effective and interesting solution to his current troubles. Besides, Medium has two key things in its favour: Firstly a lot of love from the tech community; and secondly, a fairly sizeable stash of VC cash.
So why the love for Medium?
Medium is essentially a blogging platform hosted by Twitter which has become known as an important online receptacle for intelligent, thoughtful and longform content. There is a mixture of contributors to the site from individuals though to brands and mainstream publishers.
The reason that is become so interesting to brands is the quality of its readership. Not surprisingly for a publication that has come from the tech space and has close links with entrepreneurs and the VC community (and media in general including PR), it boasts a highly educated audience. Medium in fact claims that 95% of its readers have been to university.
As for which brands are using the platforms, startups predominate. The best are the bigger startups, or scale-ups as they should perhaps be called, like messaging service Slack, which publishes the type of thoughtful, intelligent articles that do well on the platform on a regular basis.
Other high profile brands that have experimented with Medium include Starbucks, whose content stresses its social responsibility output as well as highlighting community issues.
From a branded content perspective, though, Medium is a great place for any B2B brand which focuses on the tech community, or indeed the media. The nature of the platform means that high-quality content, no matter where it emanates from, often finds an audience via social shares.
Building an audience
It is fairly simple to build an audience on Medium too. Obviously content can be shared via the traditional social channels – especially Twitter – while Medium also helps by pushing content to its readers on a daily basis via email. You can also follow people on Medium and hope that they find your content interesting enough to follow you back. If they do follow you ,each time they go to their Medium home page they will see the most recent content from the people they follow, including yours, presented there.
Another way to grow a readership is by recommending other people’s content. This is the Medium equivalent of favouriting on Twitter, and once again it will get you on the radar of people you want to engage with very quickly.
Medium works especially well as part of B2B sales-driven content marketing strategy. For example, if you have written a white paper about your industry or an extended piece of thought leadership, previewing those articles and posting them on Medium is a great way to generate interest from an audience who otherwise might not be aware of your brand.
As long as you have the content Medium is a highly effective promotional tool. For some brands it makes sense to post on Medium the thought leadership that they place elsewhere (perhaps on their own site). The most effective way to do this to publish the article on their own website and then add the content to Medium a few days later. The Medium content should include a few tweaks and additions to aid SEO for the host site. For example, it is always worth adding a line in the introduction which includes a link to the blog or website where the content was originally published. Also at the end it is worth adding a line saying ‘this content was originally published…’ – and then give the link to the website.
Here at Clarity we are strong believers in the power of Medium as an outreach channel. We recommend it for our B2B clients and we have our own blog there too.