You can game the system as much as you want. You can push, prod, provoke and even create a ton of linkbait to get attention. You can add as many people as you can on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and more. But, nothing is going to be sustainable and nothing is really going to move the needle unless you're offering quality.
In the music industry, there are tons of artists complaining that the death of the major labels is going to mean that great music will cease being able to reach the masses. As the publishing industry begins to struggle more and more, the same is being said about book authors and journalists. There's a fundamental reality that everybody fails to miss - mostly because by facing it, it forces you to face the very essence of your being and what you're all about: If something is of the highest quality, it does find its audience. If it's not, no one really connects. We all like to think we're awesome, but maybe - at the end of the day - no one really cares.
Wirth more and more media channels and places to connect, that said "audience" might be more fragmented and "smaller" - in terms of sheer size and volume. But, because of the connectivity and online channels, a great idea does spread far and wide. Quality works.
The first reality is about embracing the idea that your content (be it text, audio, images or video) may not have the mass appeal that you think it should. Your job in content creation is about finding the people who do want to connect to it. It's about working and nurturing that group to ensure that you are getting in front of anyone and everyone who is interested in what you're doing.
Beyond that, you have to work on what your messaging is. Often, people want to know why they don't get that many comments on their Blog or why not many people are following them on Twitter. It's a hard thing to face or admit, but maybe your content is just not that appealing to a larger audience?
Do you change your content to make more people like you?
This is probably one of the hardest questions to answer. If you can change in a way that keeps you true and honest to the type of content you are trying to create, it might be worthwhile to spend some time tweaking and adjusting your content and measuring the results. The trick is in doing it while maintaining your authenticity.
It's a bad idea to change how you create content with the sole goal of trying to boost your numbers.
The second reality is about being comfortable with you who are - no matter how many (or few) people connect to it. Quality is subjective. My idea of quality content is dramatically different from yours. That's the magic of the online channel and that's the tragedy of it. The magic is that you can find whatever you are looking for (and if it doesn't exist, you can take the lead and make it happen). The tragedy of it is that people sometimes do equate quality to quantity (meaning, the content can only be good if many people are there and connecting to it).
Still, at the end of the day, great content wins. And, the best part about it is that it's also the one thing you can't fake.