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Content may be King, But it Won’t Rule Alone

By Jessica Albon

How to write a blog or ezine to add subscribers
AKA: Why Twitter is Awesome but so Many Tweets Aren’t (Including Mine)

Many moons ago, I wrote a piece about telegrams and a potential “return to terse” (how horrible is it to quote yourself, I wonder…).

Since I got started Twittering over the last two weeks, I’m both delighted and appalled at just what you can actually do with 140 characters. Delighted because, hey, it’s kinda fun to pare something down to as few words as possible. Appalled because I find myself abbreviating great (gr8) and committing other “sins” of spelling and grammar all in the pursuit of shaving off a few extra letters.

And, as I’m practicing this new format of connecting with people, I’ve realized that though the medium might change, the formula stays the same. Unfortunately, that formula is often oversimplified as the oft-repeated: Content is King.

Of course, with crappy content, you’re sunk. But, in pursuit of growing your tribe and leading *all* of your people, awesome content will never be enough.

Strong Signal, Weak Audience

Think of this in terms of a radio tower high above a town. They can pare down their broadcasts to precisely what their audience wants to listen to. They can boost the signal so it’s loud and clear in every home in their jurisdiction. But, if no one in that town owns a radio, the station is out of luck–no one’s going to listen to them. If the radio station does a great job of presenting the news the town wants to hear, but has hired a host with a voice no one can stand to listen to, no one’s going to listen.

We’ve all heard “Content is King” too many times for it to be relevant anymore, and yet we’re all still whiling away our audiences with articles that are well-written and compelling but are being broadcast to a town without radios, or being read over the wires in an unintelligible voice.

The Algebraic Equation of Attention

If you want to be heard over all the static, it’s going to take some algebra. Audience attention requires:

Signal + Content + Relevancy + Connection + Exposure = Audience

So, yes, publish only the really great stuff (content). But, also make sure that your idea of great stuff overlaps with your tribe’s idea of great stuff (relevancy). And make sure that your medium is a good fit for your tribe (signal). And make sure that you’re forging a genuine relationship with your tribe so that they’re actually ready to listen to you when you show up with this great stuff (connection). And figure out a way to make sure that your tribe knows what station they should be tuned in to to *get* your great stuff (exposure).

Doing the Algebra

Let me give you an example. Say you sell hot water systems to contractors. The contractors you want to reach are all online, so you launch a blog (your signal). You write awesome articles about green building practices (your content) AFTER interviewing your five best customers to make sure this is a topic they’re really interested in learning more about (relevancy). You advertise this new blog in ads in trade publications, and on popular contractor’s websites (exposure), and also encourage your current customers (connection) to bookmark your articles in various social bookmarking systems (exposure). You build trust with your audience by being a straight-shooter, giving them well-researched articles, and allowing dissenting comments (more connection).

See how (relatively) easy that is–just take your business and plug it right in to the formula. Make sure that you’re plugging it in in a way that works for your audience, though–i.e. don’t put all your exposure expectations in the social bookmarking basket if your average reader doesn’t have a Digg account.

Forget the Formula at Your Peril

It’s when we forget to apply this formula that our Tweets become irrelevant (even when they’re “interesting”), our blog posts go ignored (even when they’re “good”), or our ezines get deleted unread (even when they’re “timely”). So, remember, content may be king, but it doesn’t rule alone, and if you want to be heard over all the din out there, every time you communicate with your tribe, you’ll want to make sure you apply this formula.

If you need help, post your version of the formula below and I’ll help you make it better.

P.S. I know you might be used to over-simplified formulas for this, approaches that have been dumbed down to look “so easy anyone could do it.” Here’s the problem with that–they’re usually *too* simplified and leave out at least one of these key components. So, just this once, let me make things complicated and follow the formula exactly, ‘kay?