I recently came up with a concept called Content Potential, which I define as the maximum level of popularity your site/brand can reach based on the quality of your content.
As a bit of background, I believe there are basically two elements to one’s popularity online:
Marketing via various outlets
Leveraging of social networks
Differentiating pushing vs. spamming
Optimizing for viral dissemination
Each of these reduce further, of course, and much can be/has been written about such details, but these are the basics. In short, in order to be popular online (applies everywhere, really) you have to both have a good message and get people to hear it.
The idea of Content Potential is that content is still primary, and it will become even more so as social networks like Twitter become more mainstream and easy to use. This is because social networks will make it far less likely that desirable content will go undiscovered.
As this happens, failures to gain popularity will be increasingly due to a lack of strong content as opposed to a lack of exposure.
Example: let’s say I create a new blog post and Tweet about it. If the content is strong at least a few of those following me will propagate the content via one means or another, e.g. a retweet, a save to their social bookmarks, a linkback through their own blog, or a submission/vote up on their favorite social content site like Digg or Reddit.
The stronger the content, the less likely that this will not occur. Or, to put it another way, as the size of your social network grows, so do the chances that any content you create of notable quality will be promoted throughout the networks.
So, if you don’t have many readers at this point you have one of two problems:
You have poor content
You have good content, but you aren’t marketing it well
As the speed and efficiency of social networking grows, however, it will become less and less due to lack of exposure and more due to lack of content. In short, social networks are allowing us to more quickly reach our Content Potential by efficiently discovering and promoting any content worth consuming.