Something that concerned me for a long time was the fact that it seems to be getting harder and harder to generate much obvious response to blog posts or other content I published.
I say "obvious" because after a while I realised two things. First, my content was being shared, but privately. And secondly, that most other people were finding it hard to generate "shares" as well.
You can tell that that second one is the case, and probably the first one too, by looking at the number of shares enjoyed by famous people in your niche. I looked at one the other day: someone who has been on the scene for decades, has thousands of Twitter followers, and is a well-known face on the speaker circuit. Last time I looked, a video of him being interviewed had been shared 15 times.
Why is this the case, especially considering the fact that, in percentage terms, I had a much higher response rate to my articles 16 years ago than I do now?
Mark Schaefer puts this phenomenon down to what he calls 'Content Shock'. In a nutshell, there is now so much content out there that it's becoming increasingly difficult to make oneself heard above the cacophony. The conventional wisdom espoused by many well-known bloggers is that content is king. Well, yes, but if hardly anyone sees that content then you might as well not bother.
I found Schaefer's book very reassuring, because it helped to convince me that the problems I've just outlined aren't necessarily a reflection on me or my writing skills. I had been wondering if I'd lost my touch in some way, but most people are in the same boat.
Even the percentage aspect is reassuring. Schaefer relates an anecdote in which he tweeted to raise some money for a good cause. Despite having the tweet retweeted by people with masses of followers, the number of people who responded by giving some cash could be counted on the fingers of one hand; if memory serves me well most of the money came from a single donor -- and that was someone who knew him.
It's interesting, because I used to hold great store by what I once called 'the 1% rule'. This states that in any "gathering" containing a call to action, only one percent of the audience will respond. For example, if I send out a newsletter to 1000 people and ask the readers to do something, then I can count on around 10 of them responding positively to that.
In fact, I've discovered two things, both of which are addressed in The Content Code. First, a general call to action tends to result in a far, far lower response rate than 1%. Perhaps this was always the case. After all, there is that famous dictum: "Half of my advertising expenditure is wasted; I just don't know which half". I know someone who advertised his services in a well-known educational journal with, presumably, thousands of subscribers, and enjoyed a response rate of precisely zero.
On the other hand, the response rate to my newsletters has always been much higher than 1%, which is also explained in this book.
Basically, the avalanche of content has made the old rule book about content, if not obsolete, at least inadequate. The Content Code aims to rectify this, and provides several strategies you can try in order to get your stuff noticed.
I enjoyed reading the book. Not only is it highly practical, it's written in a very lively and humorous manner.
If I have one mild criticism it is that there is so much information here that it is sometimes hard, despite the promise of the subtitle, to discern a clear strategic approach.
Nonetheless, this book is essential reading for anyone who not only produces content, but would quite like it to be consumed as well.
You can buy the book from here: The Content Code. Please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link, and that I was sent a review copy of the book.