As authors, we are nothing without an audience.
On Medium, our core readership is a self-identified group: followers. It is they who make our words mean something. Otherwise, it’s “one hand clapping.”
So one thing right up front:
To all my followers, old and new: thank you for your belief in me and my work. Thank you for your comments, so many of which give me a glitch in my throat and a tear in my eye. Without question, they make me better at what I do. I’m ever #grateful.
Now, on with the show.
A follower’s decision to stay abreast of our published stream is a humbling compliment. It signals interest in the way we craft thoughts, insights, and opinions into words. Its an expression of belief in our work.
For the most part.
Unfortunately, a “following” can be manipulated. Indeed many a “success” listicle encourages the budding author to follow the maximum daily number allowed by Medium. In a quid pro quo of the following etiquette, so the theory goes, the favor will be returned and your following will grow.
It’s a faux audience, and a castle built on sand.
Followers: A Slow But Rewarding Journey
I began writing on Medium in January 2018. After an early flirtation with “follower bait,” by April I had 145 followers.
Then I decided, no more “faux following.” To hell with it, I thought, let work to stand on its own.
Some of my pieces were (and are), ahem, better than others. We all have some dogs in our pens.
My following grew by about 100 per month during the spring, summer and early fall.
It now tallies over 700. Not the big leagues, exactly, but it’s something and a thrill to have a growing audience.
I suspect the more you write, the more you find to write about. I’ve learned an audience is not a static thing, with strict confines. Rivulets of content find new audiences.
Here’s why I’m grateful for and surprised by, an ever-increasing number of followers
I haven’t done anything heroic to encourage new followers
Photo by João Silas on Unsplash
I guess the bottom line is that work builds upon work.
I recall in one of the many Medium ‘how to’ pieces I read that the second 500 followers are easier to gain than the first 500. So far that’s true in my case. And as much of my work is ever-green, the ‘sell by’ date allows for accrual of interest.
But how long, after publication, is a said piece found and appreciated? Who knows. Some oldies – 6 months or so in the field – still garner love and trigger a following.
Indeed being accepted by various Medium publications with a reach far beyond my own has helped.
And, I’ve been fortunate that some of my pieces have caught the attention of Medium curators. They have been featured in categories such as “Self” and “Productivity”. Flattered and honored, I try to tease out why one piece cut the mustard for the spotlight and another did not.
One thing is clear: Medium’s editor nod inevitably raised my exposure.
I will never understand the Medium algorithm or the workings of the curation process. Those who do, please fill me in.
It’s old work
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash
A bit ashamed to admit this, but I went dark on Medium for about six weeks in the Fall. “Life” got in the way, as it can, and often does.
None of this “stay in front of your readers with fresh content.” The continued rise in followers has come from just a few articles in my pool.
My absence from the Medium stage, away from regular posting, made the continued follower growth all the more a pleasant surprise. I’d see a new name respond, or clap (always welcome, thank you) and then the most coveted “follow.”
Wow, I thought, these are not only gifts that keep on giving, but also empowering me to get back in the game. The self-confidence gained by the continued interest cannot be overstated.
New followers challenge and encourage me
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To my surprise and delight, I’m finding a few of my new followers are authors with major followings of their own. It feels like an initiation into the “cool kids club.”
I’m also reminded that it raises the content bar.
So here is the challenge: if my old work continues to garner interest, can I maintain that quality? What is the “je ne sais quoi” the older work possessed? Will my future topics be seen as limp foils? Will the writing be trite, hollow?
I find each “follower” a tremendous compliment, and I’m humbled. I’m struck by the responsibility each “follow” implies. Followers are interested in the next installment of my creative and intellectual offering. That keeps the pressure on, in a good way. It’s the ultimate challenge.
I read in the annals of Medium how to’s that the ideal ratio of followers to following is 2:1. Therefore, one should be discriminating in who (and how many) authors one follows.
(Hear that, mega-followers?)
When someone with over a thousand followers chooses to climb on board, adding me to their rarified list of 500 or so “followed” accounts, I leap for joy.
Once again, to those of you who ‘follow’ and those who might jump on my bandwagon one day, mille grazie.
I’ll try my best not to let you down.
Thanks for reading…