Success With a New Medium
5 things to know before your institution starts publishing on Medium.com
You can’t get ahead of the game if you’re doing what everyone else is doing. At Gettysburg we constantly look for new opportunities, especially if they’re free, take a fairly small amount of resources to implement, and help us meet our marketing objectives.
One such space that appears to be largely untapped by colleges and universities is Medium.com. Medium is a blogging platform started by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. It’s known for attractive layout, content curation capabilities, and unique sharing features that bring updates directly to readers’ email inboxes.
Not every story we post goes viral, but we’ve seen enough success to continue investing time in a strategy. Our top piece, “THE Ten Commandments for New College Students,” received 8.4K organic views and continues to bring in readers. Another piece, called “Living with the Confederate Flag in our Gettysburg Neighborhood,” garnered 3.7K organic views.
We use the platform to complement our media relations strategy — sharing content that appeals to a wider audience Alexa.com tells us that the Medium has a higher than-average number of readers with college or graduate school education. So we’ve focused on gaining broader visibility with its general readers and external thought leaders.
This is only one way to use Medium; other colleges and universities are using different approaches. This article published by Medium gives a good overview of some ways in which colleges and universities use Medium. Marquette University has a significant following and appears to use the platform as a place for telling stories and sharing news; like Gettysburg, they also publish more “listicle”-type pieces, like “101 Adventures to Seek Before Graduation,” and “4 tips for becoming a better writer.” Stanford University has a general account and an account/publication for Stanford Magazine and niche publications for academic and graduate programs, just to name a few.
But no matter how you use Medium, here are five universal truths that you should know before exploring:
1. Medium is run like the startup that it was, so you can expect to find frequent changes to the layout and capabilities. For example, Medium recently discontinued support for embedding Medium posts in another website, so we’ve had to get crafty with continuing to include them in our department pages. Also, Medium expanded the number of tags you can include when publishing a piece. Being aware of these changes ensures you will continue to reach as many readers as possible.
2. To get views, you need to publish in Medium’s publications. Publications are collections of stories that usually focus on a specific theme or topic and are curated by an editor or team of editors. Anyone on Medium can start a publication and many traditional publications, like The Washington Post, have a presence on Medium. Medium sends an email round-up of stories in publications, so if you’re published in a publication, there’s a better chance that your piece will be included in that round-up. Each publication has its own rules for how you can submit your work — one of the largest publications we work with is The Coffeelicious, which accepts a variety of content topics and has a large following.
3. Focus on sharing content that people will want to recommend to their friends. When readers finish an article, they can “recommend” it, and pieces with more recommendations almost always reach more people. Our lowest performing piece received 108 views, and at least two others fell short of the 200 mark. These weren’t compelling enough for the reader to “recommend.” In fact, the piece with 108 views only received 10 recommendations, compared to our top piece, which received 89.
4. Be timely and be approachable. When the Confederate flag was taken down at the South Carolina statehouse, it sparked a debate across the country—given its history, was flying the flag acceptable? The debate hit close to home. Gettysburg was the site of the most important battle in the Civil War, and it’s not uncommon to see the Confederate flag displayed in our town. So we published a piece about it. The result, “Living with the Confederate Flag in our Gettysburg Neighborhood,” resonated with readers because it was timely, but also because it was approachable. The two professors who penned the piece wrote from not only the perspective of academics, but also as Gettysburg residents who felt personally impacted by the flag’s presence in their town. Medium is the place for engaging in a conversation, which is what this piece did. Medium is not the place for academic writing.
5. Frequency is not as important as publishing compelling content. If readers don’t like your story, they can click “show fewer stories like this,” which means you don’t show up as frequently in their feed. We shoot for publishing monthly posts, but quality always beats quantity. Getting the feel for what works well on Medium takes time —follow a few writers and read a few top stories before brainstorming topics.
Of course, you should also integrate your Medium strategy with your content and social strategy to get the biggest bang for your buck — although, remember, Medium is “free!”
Paul Redfern leads the communications and marketing team at Gettysburg College and is a frequent presenter on marketing and brand topics at national conferences.
Carina Sitkus is the senior assistant director of communications and marketing at Gettysburg College and a frequent writer and contributor to several online publications, including Medium.com.
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