One of the most buzzed about new social media tools, Medium is a two-year-old blogging tool that has gained acclaim from such publications as Slate, The New York Times, and The Atlantic that you should consider integrating into your marketing toolbox.

Ok, but you’ve already got WordPress installed on your server, integrated a variety of social media plugins, read through Entrepreneurial Insights article on using WordPress, developed a content roadmap, and are ready to start using. Maybe you already are using it, or another blogging tool, like Tumblr, Blogger or Weebly, to great success. So why exactly would you even consider using Medium?

Well, Medium is blogging with a twist: a blog that emphasizes quality of content over authorship. On first read, that may sound terrible for branding – a concept in which attribution is everything. But depending on your brand, and on your strategic marketing and branding goals, this may, in fact, make Medium a perfect fit for your social marketing mix.

Medium logo dark

© Medium

In this article, we will explore, 1) the history of Medium, 2) the purpose of Medium, 3) the benefits of Medium, 4) setting up a Medium account, 5) using Medium for Business, 6) Medium’s key terminology, 7) best practices for using Medium, and 8) a case study of successful Medium usage.

HISTORY OF MEDIUM.COM 

Twitter’s co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone founded Medium in August of 2012 and launched it as an invite-only beta. It began as Williams’ personal project; having stepped aside as chief executive officer of Twitter in 2012, he decided he wanted to blog again. However, the available tools did not impress him. Williams, as the founder of Google’s Blogger, one of the most popular blogging platforms available, decided to get back into blogging and developed Medium.

Medium was opened to everyone with a Twitter account, and using either Chrome, Safari or Firefox browsers, as of October 2013. Some pundits posited that some of Medium’s bloggers are paid professional writers, whose news-quality posts have increased Medium’s cachet. Some have been, the firm acknowledges, but most professionals are not paid, and most contributors are individuals. Medium has not yet introduced an open advertising model but plan to in the future.

Ev Williams: How Medium is changing the publishing world

PURPOSE OF MEDIUM.COM

Medium is designed to be an elegant blogging tool and is meant for individuals who are more interested in producing and sharing high-quality content, rather than promoting content of varying quality for self-promotion or branding purposes. As blogger Joshua Benton describes it on Nieman Lab:

“Topic triumphs over author. Medium doesn’t want you to read something because of who wrote it; Medium wants you to read something because of what it’s about. And because of the implicit promise that Medium = quality.” 

However, somewhat paradoxically, given that you, and multiple authors are fighting to be discovered, promoting your content on your other social networks, particularly Twitter, can help users assess your piece’s quality.

Medium is also a direct competitor to a new crop of elegantly designed blogging platforms that emphasize quality content, such as App.net, Branch, and Svbtle. These blogging platforms, some claim, are pushing back against a blogging ecosystem that emphasizes SEO, quantity of content, and self-promotion over deeply engaging and compelling content.

BENEFITS OF MEDIUM.COM 

Medium alleviates much of the pressure content marketers deal with building audiences. The most popular content, as determined by Medium users Recommendations and Medium’s paid content curators, enjoy increased visibility. Because Medium puts a premium on quality content, as long as you produce quality content you don’t need to amass a large following on Medium. Important for you is to ensure that your content roadmap must focus on high quality content, with an eye towards current trends, rather than a conventional roadmap based on posting frequency, grey and black hat SEO tricks, and follower engagement. In fact, contrary to blogging conventions, your default Medium view is not-reverse chronological order (the newest stuff at the top). It’s the content that’s been curated by paid Medium editors and/or up voted by Medium users the most.

Moreover, because Medium curates content, you benefit from third-party validation that your content is valuable. While votes and Moderator opinions may not quite measure up to the third-party validation of a favorable newspaper article about your brand, it is extremely helpful to assist potential readers to navigate an Internet landscape dominated by content of all levels of quality. Medium also promotes your content. When you have assigned your topic to a Category, it will add it to the Category Page and links to it on the pages of other Posts in that Category. Moderators may also add your content to additional categories, increasing their visibility.

Medium has received much critical praise for its elegant magazine-like design and robust and easy-to-use text editing features. One Slate contributor writes of Medium’s text editor:

“But as someone who writes a lot of stuff and has used a lot of different writing software, I’m telling you that I was blown away by the quality of the product as a writing tool. There is a lot of talk about What You See Is What You Get writing and editing tools, but Medium delivers on a level that makes previous WYSIWYG tools look like a lie.”

Medium’s WYSIWYG tool emphasizes writing. There are no sharing tools and minimal customization options. There also are no commenting options, allowing readers to concentrate on the story you are presenting in text or photos, or both.

Further, Medium and Twitter are linked, allowing brands who have significant followings in the latter an easy way to engage Twitter followers with longer-form content.

SETTING UP A MEDIUM.COM ACCOUNT 

MediumSignUp

© Medium

Medium account creation for businesses is a quick and painless process. Visit the Medium homepage and click New Story. This will prompt you to login to either your Twitter or Facebook account. (Note: you won’t be able to sign into Facebook as a page, but you will be able to sign in as an individual account holder). This will enable you to create an organization profile page. Once you have logged in, you can begin creating content immediately.

USING MEDIUM.COM FOR BUSINESS 

As with using any blogging tool, Medium can increase your reach and visibility. Well-written posts can drive traffic to your other digital assets, especially your website and/or its sales landing pages. Your Medium blog can serve as a forum to engage customers and/or target consumers, and gain product and brand insights. And it can help you generate leads. But because of its unique nature, the tried and true methods for accomplishing these objectives don’t hold. The best and efficient way to accomplish these objectives is through the creation of high-quality content.

Blogging 

In most cases, Medium should not replace your existing corporate blog because you cannot host your Medium-published content on your domain. Instead, Medium should be used for strategic, high-quality posts, for branding or traffic-generating purposes. You should not include backlinks, and a dozen mentions of your name in a 400-word piece. In fact, quite the contrary. Your Medium posts should be unique, useful, and compelling. You might write a piece in support of a particular cause in which your firm’s corporate social responsibility department is investing. Or you might write an instructional post about a supplemental good (i.e. if you sell skis, write a post about how to find good ski apparel). Your emphasis should be on organic and authentic content that is compelling and useful.

You can also use some traditional blogging marketing methods when using Medium. These methods may include such as cross-posting content from your existing blog, which will allow you to take advantage of Medium’s user base in addition to your following. 

Extending your online reach and visibility 

Medium is not great for SEO because of its inability to be hosted on your domain name. Also, author tags refer to your Medium name rather than your Google+ profile, which diminishes Google authorship’s role in your search visibility. However, Medium is good at promoting its content within its ecosystem of writers on site, and frequently, popular Medium articles are shared with and proliferate throughout other social networks. Producing high-quality content increases your chances to increase your visibility on and off Medium.

Medium is also a new social media site, which, while still getting its sea legs, has a high profile and successful entrepreneur as a founder, plenty of capital, and many enthusiastic users. You can take advantage of some of Medium’s buzz now before it becomes mainstream.

Expanding your network 

Read through the blogs in your category, and related categories, to gain product and brand insights, and network with those authors. Further, engage the active and popular writers in those categories to get them to promote your content and/or write about your brand. And look at posts by those in categories that might indicate they belong in your target market to generate sales leads.

MEDIUM.COM TERMINOLOGY 

Medium does not have a surfeit of unique blogging terminology beyond that common to all blogging platforms. Nevertheless, here are a few key terms necessary to use and understand Medium properly: 

  • Collection: as per Medium: “A collection serves as a publication.
  • Upvote: giving a Medium post a positive rating
  • Downvote: giving a Medium post a negative rating
  • Category: A topic on which one or more blog posts are created and by which these posts are organized
  • Post: an entry in a blog, which may be composed of links, text, audio, video, or photo files
  • Views: the # of people who clicked on the story
  • Reads: whether the story was read, according to a proprietary algorithm developed by Medium
  • Read Ratio: if a piece was read, how much of it was read, again, according to a proprietary algorithm of Medium’s creation
  • Recommendations (Recs): the number of times Medium users recommended the piece to others. Recs increase visibility on Medium.

BEST PRACTICES 

Unlike traditional blogging platforms, the normal rules of thumb: posting a steady stream of visual and video content can greatly increase your followers and overall marketing efforts and consistent follower engagement can help you expand your reach and visibility do not rule the day here. It’s critical to read through Medium’s About page, which features, instructions, writing guidelines and best practices for a thorough understanding of what separates this tool from others. Then:

  • Focus on high-quality content. This can include well- (professionally) written content, and professionally shot photos and/or video of general interest or interest to a great number of Medium users. Creativity is also highly encouraged.
  • You should organize your content into collections, and embed your collections on your corporate website. You should also submit your content to the collections of other medium users to increase your work’s visibility.
  • You should promote your corporate profile – followers will receive copies of all of your new content. You should put just as much effort into promoting your collections as users have the ability, and may choose, to follow your collection and not your corporate profile.
  • Avoid the hard sell. Philosophically, Medium is a channel designed to subvert conventional online sales and marketing methods. Find ways to become a part of the conversation, rather than to dominate the conversation.
  • Genuine, useful, and compelling brand content will win the day on Medium, not dry product launch announcements or company press releases. Brand storytelling is key here, and increasingly key on all social media platforms.
  • Follow Medium’s best practices for posting. These include keeping posts to an average of 400 words; choosing a high quality, horizontal photo, use Medium’s formatting features, proofread, and submit your post to Medium collections.
  • Think about what strategies will help you stand out on Medium as the site grows in individual and corporate users.
  • Engage other users by reading through, commenting, and recommending their content. Other users may reciprocate with recommendations of their own.

CASE STUDY

Of the relatively few brands already on Medium, one notable brand is ESPN. Late last year, Medium partnered with ESPN to provide a forum for World Cup fans to write about the tournament and selected the best submissions to feature prominently on the websites of both firms. While Medium undoubtedly benefitted from World Cup fan traffic to its pages, ESPN was able to gather user-generated content from fans about the World Cup and mine posts for potential consumers. Medium’s ESPNFC page notes that the submitted stories netted “tens of thousands of readers” (impressions), and while it is unclear what the specific metrics for a successful partnership were, it appears from a cursory view of the Medium page on the World Cup, that a wide variety of high-quality content was submitted.

WorldCup Medium

© Medium

Perhaps this partnership is to test the waters – for Medium to develop a firm revenue model while it operates off its initial $25 million in venture capital, and for ESPN to test the property as an advertising vehicle. In any case, given Medium’s Twitter connection, Medium seems ideally suited to sports marketing, given the high usage of Twitter by athletes. Athletes and/or their PR folks could use Medium to broadcast athlete statements and thoughts and draw traffic to them through Twitter. Other sports media properties, and/or firms with highly engaged Twitter bases, could adopt Medium as the site of some or all of their long-form content.

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