So you’ve been on Medium for two weeks and that suddenly makes you an expert on the subject?

So you’ve been on Medium for two weeks and that suddenly makes you an expert on the subject? That’s nice. Yay for you. Go team. That doesn’t give you the right to crap on writers who don’t play by your rules.

You say that you’re not here to bash fellow writers but only ascribe negative reasons to them doing things differently to the way that you do them. Because how could anyone possibly have perfectly good reasons for doing things the way that they do them if they’re doing it wrong, am I right?

A straw man argument is where you deliberately misrepresent the views and actions of other people just so that you can knock them down. It’s easier to do this than to engage with their arguments in real terms. I’m just putting that out there.

You make an awful lot of assumptions about why people follow people, why people should follow people, and what following people means on Medium as opposed to anywhere else.

At the time of writing this I’ve over 2,000 followers on Medium and I follow more than 15,000. I’m not in league with the Devil. I don’t eat babies for breakfast. And I don’t follow people out of some misplaced sense of vanity. My dignity is alive and well, thank you very much.

I don’t say any of this to diss you. Only to present an alternative perspective on why people might choose to follow lots of other people on Medium.

Once upon a time the number of followers you had on Medium was nothing but a vanity metric. It didn’t matter one jot because Medium showed your work to potential readers regardless of how many followers you had. In fact in the early days you could start off with a lot of followers just by importing them across from Twitter.

Nowadays Medium won’t show your writing to potential readers unless you’re curated or published in a publication — and even then the top spots are reserved exclusively for the Medium-owned publications like OneZero, Gen, Elemental, Forge and Modus. The ones that they have staffed in-house writers for — most of whom are former journalists based in New York.

You can of course still submit your work to these publications but good luck getting in to them. If you are published in them it is like winning a golden ticket to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

For the rest of us the only way to get your writing in front of potential readers, other than curation or publications, is if they’re part of your network. That means that who you follow and who follows you is incredibly important — if not individually at least in the aggregate. The more followers you have that are paid members, ie. readers, the more people get to see your work. And you don’t have to stress about whether or not these people really want to see your work — the algorithm still only puts your work in front of a handful of these people. The ones that it determines are most likely to be interested in your work.

I follow people for many reasons — some are heartfelt, and some are strategic, but none are nefarious or just about ego and vanity. The goal is to expand my network of potential readers, first and foremost, and to expand my network of fellow writers.

If I cared about my following as a vanity metric I’d worry that I follow more people than follow me. This negative ratio matters in places like Twitter, as social proof, but not so much here. I don’t follow people just in the hopes that they’ll follow me back and I don’t unfollow people for not following me.

I follow the best and brightest writers on the platform. I follow writers who are in the same publications as I am. I follow the paid members of Medium who are most likely to be interested in my work.

You can follow 125 people per day. That’s not a lot of wiggle room but it’s still better than nothing. Any day that you don’t follow 125 people is a missed opportunity to grow your readership or otherwise expand your network.

You end up with two big buckets — of followers and people that you follow. The algorithm does a great job of sorting those buckets in to people you want to read (and shows you their work) and people who want to read your work (and shows them your work). It’s a win win.

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