I have fallen in love. Again. This time with Medium (Thanks Ev Williams).
Other than the fact that your profile will display only 5 tags where you are a top writer, I love almost everything else*. I can get over the small things — like the capability to underline text, or text alignment. In the larger scheme of things, they really don’t matter.
*yeah, even if you're a top writer in 10 tags, Medium displays only 5. I'm fine by that. Maintains consistency, cleanliness and posterity. I do however wish that Medium had left it on us to choose which 5 we want to showcase.
Other than writing stories under your profile, you can also have publications. Pubs are like a newspaper — minus the ads and better designed.
One of the neat features Medium offers for publications is partial whitelabeling. Your publications are accessed from a custom URL, you get the capability to add Google Analytics code and a bunch of other benefits — for a price, $75. Many companies have leveraged this to use Medium for a rich company blog — one that already has a vast audience base. However, if you are considering doing this (or are already doing it), there are few things you should know.
Important note: I’ll be completely skipping over parts on how to use the right tags, what kinds of stories to write, how to establish yourself (and your business) as an authoritative figure. However, I can add them up if need be. Let me know.
#1. OFFICIAL USER ACCOUNTS HAVE UNSPOKEN POWERS
From what I’ve seen, people tend to follow personal profiles more than publications.
When you write consistently on medium, it suggests you as someone to follow to readers — new and old alike.
And people do that. My follower base consists almost exclusively of people I don’t know, who found me through my stories. The more consistently I write, the faster my base grows. It might not necessarily be true for a publication. I don’t know why but this behavior does exist. Look at the follower count for slacks official account handle and its publication.
So. Have an official account.
Pro tip: Don’t post all your stories via the official account handle. Have some balance. Play around a bit, 60/40 maybe?
#2. PUBLISHING ALL STORIES FROM THE SAME USER IS A BIG NO
Unless you’re a known and credible name, this will backfire. Publications are supposed to be like a newspaper and not a personal blog. More quality stories in your publication by different authors, give me more faith in your publication. If all stories are by the same person, it loses some of its charm and charisma.
Look at Mark again. Every single story on his publication has been written by him, but it has always been that way. His publication
IS his blog — one that he uses to share his experience, and possibly get more startups and LPs interested in reaching out to Upfront Ventures. Even before he moved his blog to Medium,
Both sides of the table did exist.
Now, look at two additional publications Slack runs (we will talk about them in a min). Each of them have stories written by official accounts — Slack Engineering and Slack API. But there are countless stories written by others also — both individual users and businesses.
#3. USE THE EXTERNAL LINK WISELY
It doesn’t matter whether you are on a paid publication (custom domain), or a free one — as of now, you get only one external link to use in the navigation bar. Use it wisely.
You can either go the conventional way and direct it to your website.
Or you can get slightly creative, and direct it to different links at different times. We, for example, keep on changing the links on our publications to align with the ongoing marketing campaigns, and business objectives. So does Hacker Noon.
We mentioned the two additional publications Slack has earlier. I think Slack is wasting away the potential that the external link could have offered it on these publications.
While Platform blog has no external link, the engineering blog has no navigation altogether. What a shame!
- The Engg blog could have been a good place to attract good talent. You can link to current openings, showcase company culture, maybe even link to some programming contests.
- The platform blog is for third party applications and bots. Would have been a good place to direct app and bot developers to a signup landing page, or at least showcase the benefits and business potential of becoming a third party partner.
They do have some links embedded in some of the stories, but they are too subtle, and embedded too deep.
#4. DON’T BE AFRAID OF USING MULTIPLE BLOGS/PUBLICATIONS
In content, just as in any other marketing channel, one size doesn’t fit all. While your primary blog would always be focused on catering to a macro audience, you can have secondary publications to focus on smaller, more targeted segments.
Slack has done this right, so let’s take their example here.
Three blogs/pubs — main, engineering and third party devs. Cool! It can work well on focussed communities.
We aren’t at the phase in our timeline where we need to think of having multiple pubs (or even where it would make iota of a sesnse), but once the time comes, they will be up.
#5. USE CTAs — EFFICIENTLY, INTELLIGENTLY
There are many places where you can use CTAs on your publications. Two obvious places are the homepage and within each story.
Let’s look at both these places one by one.
A. On the homepage
The block you see in between two rows of stories in either screengrab is obviously an ad.
I am not a huge fan of using ads so much in the face, but sure — it does serve the purpose with which they have put it up. Helps them earn dollars in exchange of visibility in front of their readerbase.
Another way is to actually use it for specific actions — something I love to experiment with. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Both these publications are actually using a segment under the first (or second) fold to try to increase their newsletter subscriber base. Neat!
Yet another good way to drive action.
- Rent office space — promoting their co-working space in front of their readerbase
- Get our newsletter via bot — initiating conversations with their facebook messenger chatbot, which, given the business they are in to, is pretty smart and slick
B. Within stories
There were a couple of users I had stumbled across a few weeks back who use these beautifully designed CTA blocks at the end of their stories. Unfortunately, right now, my brain has decided to torment me, and I can’t seem to recall anything about those stories. So, let me just give you the examples I can think of in this moment.
The main slack blog uses this space to direct user’s attention to other relevant stories, while Chatbot’s Life publication leverages the power of Medium’s image grid to have not one, but three CTAs. #Sweet!
Have another look at this excerpt from the Slack Platform publication, and tell me if you can’t think of at least a couple of ways in which they could have gone about it differently, and possibly in a better manner as well.
Same goes for the engg blog of Slack.
June 29, 2017 Update — Just came across this CTA block on a story, and loved it. Had to share.
Yes. I did just say I am thinking of copying this. If you’re gonna steal, steal with honesty, integrity and giving due credit (after making sure that this isn’t something you ‘should not’ be stealing). For example, in this case, it is a beautiful, efficient and clever design; so technically, I am drawing inspiration. But let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? (I’m not a lawyer after all)
I am doing it because I saw it on their story, and loved it. So, in a way — stealing. Startups Co — Hope you guys don’t mind.
There is a lot more that you can do with a Medium publication, but these 5 would be a good starting point. Let’s take it one step at a time and start with these easy to implement baby steps.
Go ahead, and supercharge your company’s blog. Now!