I am a bit insecure about this. There, I said it.
We can move on now.
So, here I am in a writers’ meeting room getting an assignment that makes all my parts happy. I walk out of there wearing my pink glasses thinking “I soooo got this.” And then all my parts freeze. How the hell am I to find what makes thousands of people clap on Medium?!
And then how in the H-E-2-hockey-sticks am I to replicate that in an article of my own?
We’re a bunch of pretty cool copywriters who love coffee and odd topics. We also do things the right and white-hat way (wink-wink at all the SEO trolls out there).
So, both as a challenge to me and a way to understand what makes people tick, we figured it’s time to revisit Medium.
And after days (and nights) of reading every trending thing on Medium, I started seeing a pattern. We’re all very much wrapped up in our own industries and lives on the outside, but most Medium articles aren’t like that at all. They describe specifics (stories, people, places) by tapping into the universalities. I’m talking about knowledge, experience, and novelty — things we’re all made of. And while titles matter, it’s those innate human triggers that keep people reading and clapping.
In fact, back in 2018, Harrison Jansma made an experiment where he analyzed almost 1 million articles on Medium to find that some of the most clapped pieces focused on self-improvement, life lessons, and productivity. It doesn’t get any more universal than that.
And so, I bravely concluded there are 3 main groups of people who read and engage with articles on Medium (as judged by their comments and my personal experience).
If you’re trying to reach a wider audience with your writing, understanding these three groups might help.
There are those who love reading stories. Stories about hardship, about a shared experience, about something we can all sympathize with, and even about things we can’t relate to but want to.
Stories are people, too. And even though we seem to be growing increasingly antisocial in our environments, it seems we still love reading about others. Like Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Final Year and Rachel Maddow’s controversial high school speech.
The trend-eaters. Those who like to stay up to date with what’s happening in the world. Perhaps, also those who would annoy you at the dinner table. You know, the ones who keep flame-throwing stuff they read earlier that day just for the sake of showing off. Either way, those people read, perhaps more avidly than anyone else.
Opinion and fact-seekers. Sometimes you just need the opinion of someone with more knowledge on the subject. Is bitcoin really worth it? How can I know, but maybe this smart gentleman/writer does. And facts. Oh boy, are there people who just need their daily dose of hard data and analysis.
And to be honest with you, I don’t think the most clappable articles are the best-written ones. It’s not really a matter of copywriting. It’s a matter of believing you are good enough to write something others will resonate with. It’s also a matter of not giving any f-s and just sharing what you want to share.
What Type of Content Is Trending on Medium?
In the list of trending things on Medium, you’ll find one of (what I believe to be) 7 types of articles:
- Research & Experiments (After 10 Years Studying Sleep, the U.S. Military Just Revealed Something Eye-Opening About Caffeine)
- Life stories/lessons (What Poverty Taught Me About Being ‘Too Generous’)
- People stories (‘I Believe in Love’: Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Final Year, In Her Own Words)
- Politics (F*ck Iowa)
- Unconventional decisions (I Was Google’s Head of International Relations. Here’s Why I Left.)
- Bold ideas (How Traveling Back In Time Could Really, Physically Be Possible & Laziness Does Not Exist – I highly recommend reading that one)
- The must-have list articles (The Least Influential People of the 2010s)
So, if you’re wondering how to shape your idea so it reaches more people, you might want to consider pouring it into one of these baking trays because they are the kind people are used to being served.
Whew, this wasn’t so hard after all. I think the trick is to just start writing and stop overthinking. As long as you have something to say, there’s purpose in writing. I look forward to hearing your own struggles with creating engaging pieces. Who knows, we might just solve the puzzle together!
Till next time,
T. from 411Writers