Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

It’s always fun to see that notification of a new follower on Medium. When I started writing again on Medium in May of 2022, I had 1 follower. By the end of the month, I had over 100 and was able to apply for the Medium Partner Program. Currently, at the time this post is being written, I have about 300.

But as much as I like getting a new Medium follower, I’m more interested in building a Medium audience. Now, to some that might seem like the same thing, but the difference is important.

A Medium follower may not be part of your Medium audience.

At least in the corners of Medium I frequent, it’s rare to go more than a short distance without seeing someone claim to have a secret sauce formula for getting to 100 followers on Medium quickly. Why 100? Because that’s the number of followers required to be eligible to apply for the Medium Partner Program. 99 followers? No good. 100? You’re in (probably).

But these methods are often not…. great. They focus more on sheer quantity and almost nothing on quality.

Unfortunately, many people fall for the lie that it doesn’t matter how you get the followers as long as you have the followers. While that’s true for the purposes of applying to earn from your writing on Medium, if these followers aren’t really an audience, they won’t be engaged or care about anything you have to say.

And if they don’t care what you have to say, they won’t read your content.

And if your content doesn’t get read, well… it won’t make any money.

Build a Medium audience instead.

This may seem needlessly pedantic and arbitrary, but hear me out on this: Your goal should not simply be to get to a certain number of followers but rather it should be to build an audience that will actually read and interact with what you have to say.

Otherwise, you might as well plant a garden full of plastic vegetables. They’d be more helpful.

It’s important – on Medium or elsewhere – to develop an audience that will pay attention to your content and do more than be numbered among your followers.

Look, if your hope is to join the Medium Partner Program, I understand wanting to sprint to that 100th follower mark so you can join the program and start getting paid. But hear me on this: even with 100 followers, if no one is reading your content, you still won’t earn anything.

While your content can be read by people who aren’t your followers, your followers – if they are truly an audience and not just numbers – will be the ones to faithfully encounter and interact with your content.

Someone walking by the concert hall may hear a few notes of music, but only those inside the building actually sit and listen and appreciate what they’re hearing. Those are the people who have chosen – and even paid – to hear the production.

And that’s what you need to build on Medium. Focus less on getting Medium followers and more on building a Medium audience.

Not all of your Medium followers are your Medium audience.

And that’s okay.

The big names like to talk about finding your “true fans” – those who will consistently follow and engage with your content. These are the people who will read what you’re posting and buy what you’re selling.

This is something I want to make sure you understand as this is true both on Medium and elsewhere. Not everyone who “follows” your work is one of your true fans. 

I don’t care what platform you’re on. I don’t care what your subject matter is. Not every one of your subscribers, followers, friends, etc will be one of your true fans. That’s normal.

I have little doubt that many of my followers are only following me hoping that I’ll follow back (and I often don’t). I don’t doubt for a second that many people who read my content don’t really care about me or my perspective.

Again, expected.

But I know there are those who do care and do want to read what I have to say. On Medium, those people are my Medium audience.

How can you build a Medium audience?

Knowing that you need to build an audience on Medium and not just followers is one thing. But how do you actually get there? That’s the question. For one thing, please avoid follow for follow on Medium.

As you can imagine, that kind of following takes time to build. This is something that I myself am still working toward, and it’s a slow process. I don’t expect it to happen overnight.

So please understand that I don’t write this as someone who is an expert at all things Medium or who has everything figured out. But at this point, I do feel like I have some insight to share that will hopefully help someone.

1.) Think about who your ideal “true fan” is.

Who are your ideal true fans? Your ideal may not be my ideal. For Side Hustle Road, for example, the person I have in mind is someone who wants to or is interested in building a side hustle income of some sort and is interested in following my own journey toward that goal.

2) Write content your ideal true fan will want to read.

Put yourself in the shoes of the people you envision being your true Medium audience, not just followers. What kinds of content do they want to see or read? 

While you should write about what you know and make sure your topic is something you’re passionate about, try to gear your writing toward what you think your audience will really want to read.

For example, if you write generally about technology and your most popular content centers around Apple products, then create more content about those products. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t cover other topics as well (and you should), but consider where the fans are gathering and go there.

3) Provide content that’s helpful, entertaining, and valuable.

No matter what your genre of writing is, it’s important to make sure you are providing something of value to your audience. 

Whether your topic is quantum mechanics or a webcomic, your readers should have a reason to want to interact with what you have to say.

In the case of a webcomic, for example, the value is in the fact that it can make someone think or laugh. Thought provoking, funny content is valuable.

And as more and more people come across what you produce, if you’re churning out the right kind of content, they’ll find value in it.

3) Interact with other readers and authors on Medium.

I love how social Medium is. It’s more than a blog site or a magazine. In one sense, it’s like a social network full of users who can post, read, like (or “clap”) and respond to others. It’s more than a site to post work. It’s a place to connect with authors and readers whose content we find valuable and entertaining.

Personally, I love being able to comment on content from my favorite authors and sometimes get a response or offer constructive feedback or agreement.

That interaction is a big part of developing a Medium audience. 

If someone responds to one of your posts, be friendly and thank him or her for the response and contribute to constructive dialogue. 

4) Use Medium’s “Audience development” tools.

Medium offers a couple of tools to make it easier to invite people to become more than just “followers” of your content.

The most interesting one for our purpose here is the ability to invite readers to subscribe to your email list. Readers can sign up to receive emails when you hit publish on a new article. Pretty cool.

While this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that someone will in fact be a fan of all of your content, if he’s subscribing to your email list, it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s at least somewhat interested in what you have to say. True?

Building a Medium audience takes time and consistency.

I’ve only been actively writing on Medium since May of 2022. I have had an account for much longer, but there wasn’t much posted on it for a long long time. Since May of 2022, I’ve reached enough followers to join the Medium partner program. But more than that, I’m developing an audience for what I’m writing. 

As I write this post, I have just over 300 followers. Back in May, I had 1. That’s one. O. N. E. And I’m not even sure that person still uses Medium. While I’m excited to be over the 300 mark, I know that not all of those people are my true fans, and that’s okay.

I’m going to keep producing the kind of content that I believe they would find helpful, and hopefully continue to grow my Medium audience.

So, again, I don’t write this as someone who has cracked the code and is now some super-guru on all things Medium. I’m definitely not, and I still have much to learn myself. But I do know a few things that hopefully will help someone out there.

And one thing I know is that success takes time, and it takes consistent effort. You cannot expect to build an audience overnight. Can it happen? Sure. Is it likely? No. 

I don’t say that to discourage you. On the contrary, I say that to keep you from being discouraged when an audience, a group of true fans, don’t materialize overnight. But with consistent, hard work and the right mindset you can build that audience.

Maybe you’ve been writing on Medium for a while and know more about this than I do. Maybe you’re sitting there wondering if it’s even worth considering setting up a Medium account. Whichever shoe fits you, I hope you’ve found something useful, entertaining or helpful here.