Is Your Blog Spiraling Into An Echo Chamber?

This is a guest post by Allison Duncan.

Echo Chamber

Blogging is all about connecting with people and continually making networks of folks who read and comment. Most blog tip sites constantly tell you to “use Twitter or Facebook” to reach the masses.

But the truth is a lot of bloggers hit the big time in their circle of contacts and think they’ve made it as big as they ever will get. Then they give up their dreams of glory because of all the work it takes, and the blog dies by a thousand little cuts.

The Echo Chamber

The truth of this whole vicious cycle is that you begin to rot as a blogger when you hit the edge of your echo chamber. It is akin to the well-known ‘plateau’ of the constant dieter which after months of frustration becomes the new base for that extra 20 pound rebound.

At the edge of this chamber, you can look back and see the three tribes that have boosted you in some manner to where you now perch. There are the folks who care about what you think, the folks who are only mildly interested in what you think, and the folks who couldn’t care less about what you think but couldn’t be bothered to ever un-follow you. These guys are great in all the wrong ways, because the people you really want to reach are the ones who don’t even know you enough to fit into that last category. They are completely oblivious to what you think.

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” – Napoléon Bonapart

For a lot of the self-published authors I know, the point of their site and their blog is to attract people to buy the books. Many come to me with the complaint that the circle of contacts they maintain has, in large part, reached its saturation point. And when that happens to an author, the sales drop dramatically.

Admitting You Have a Problem

It is a constant fight to dig out of the ‘hole’, and the only way that one can successfully even hope to achieve that is to realize you are stuck in an echo-chamber to begin with. So how do you do that?

Take this simple test and decide for yourself:

Allison’s Echo Chamber of Death Quiz

  • Do you get the same four commenters all the time? Spammers don’t count.
  • Has your blog gone into reruns so often that even you don’t know what the last truly fresh content was? Or maybe you’ve just put up the same posts under pseudo contributor accounts.
  • Is your Twitter circle made up of folks that could, if put to the test, act as your own personal article spinner? They say mimicry is the highest form of flattery, but as we can just call it plagiarism.
  • When you ask the folks in your network to Re-Tweet a post, do your own personal accounts end up RT-ing the links more than your followers? Buzz x1. Facebook x1. Facebook fan page x 1. Twitter x1. Losing count yet?
  • Were the last 30 “new followers” on twitter comprised of porn bots? Porn bots, while fun to poke with sticks, do not count toward your breathing human tally.
  • Is everything you do or write the “best thing” your followers have ever read? You can only be ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ once in your life. Choose wisely.

If you answered ‘yes’ to one of these, you need to seriously consider finding a new goal for your blog. You have reached the top of…something.

The Mindsay Echo Chamber

When I first started blogging in 2001, I was a complete newbie. I thought that blogging would be no different than ranting about my latest peeve. And the site I chose to honor with my rants was Mindsay.com, mainly because my brother had begun blogging there. I blogged on and off for about 4 years and thought I was really something.

By the end of my time there, I had it down to an art in that I could consistently get voted into the day’s Top Ten blog posts. And boy was it sweet! Each and every day I would put up the same post with different names and slightly different topics, but the method behind building the post was the same. I had no idea I was acting as my own personal spinner. I was simply too much of a no0b.

After a short vacation and the mandatory hold on blogging that entailed, I came back to the site. It was then that I realized the same 10 folks were pushing me up on the list. In fact the average ‘count’ for votes was 1-2. The pond was so scarcely populated that my ‘fame’ was nothing more than a farce.

At that point, I closed my account, threw my hands in the air and walked.

Digging Out of the Hole

Sometimes the best way to get a hold of the downward spiral is to take a step back. Many bloggers are so busy fighting to maintain the status quo that they don’t even realize they are just spinning their wheels. Taking a step back and trying to see your blog with fresh eyes can be a real, and often times, unpleasant awakening, just like Mindsay was for me. But it doesn’t have to be the end.

Expand Your Horizons

Do research on a topic that is something you’ve always avoided. In my case this started out as coding and WordPress. I got lucky and began to really understand this overflowing source of consternation.

Similarly, I found that posting about self-publishing how-to’s seemed to really resonate with a lot of the less technically or business savvy authors who followed me. I even began contributing to some other blogs that centered mainly on Self-Publishing and the Publishing community.

Stop Putting Off A Product Launch

The WordPress blog posts became so popular in my ‘pond’ that people would corner me on Twitter for help. And then they’d start sending my contact information to their friends when the sites would crash. In fact, it got to the point that I started a Twitter chat [#Blog101] on Fridays so that I could do a question and answer session. Giving this kind of help, and meeting a real need, spiked my follower count hundreds higher than it had been before. But only because I left my comfort zone.

Out of all of the things I have learned as I progressed into advanced blogging, the hardest one to grasp was that success is simply being able to leave your echo chamber and get into the next larger sized pool. You will always be the little fish moving up the chain.

So what do you do if you are just truly mesmerized by the sirens song of being the ‘big fish’ in your little pond? It is always hard facing your ‘success’ and realizing it is ephemeral at best. But stagnation soon follows resting on your laurels. Cross the isthmus and jump into a bigger pond. The reason you haven’t up until now is you were afraid.

And to a blogger, stagnation in an echo chamber is the touch of death.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Allison,

    Super point here.

    Let go and grow. Your growth as a blogger is dependent on moving into increasingly growing circles. Focus on reaching out to an ever-expanding network of people. Depend less on asking people for share love and more on your creativity.

    My blog received a hearty overhaul a few weeks back: I share a clearer, relevant topic and have paid extra attention to SEO. With a new opt-in form and more SEO friendly style I’m tapping into an increasing source of passive traffic through search engines. I no longer need to tweet like mad – or depend on others to do so – to generate substantial traffic.

    Another note: leverage the heck out of your presence by sharing other people’s content and leaving an insightful, impactful comment….WHENEVER you read a blog post. If you share freely the Universe has a funny way of influencing others to share your stuff. It might not be a 1 for 1 deal, but who cares? Each kind act is prospered, and the simple practice of writing thoughtful comments and sharing almost all content I read moves my content into an increasing number of networks each day.

    Thanks for sharing your insight!

    RB
    Ryan Biddulph just posted Cash Gifting | Why Sell or Recruit?

    • says

      Ryan,

      I’ll be honest that Twitter is one of those things that can help or hurt you. It really depends, I believe, on your niche. However, great SEO is a major step to getting your message out.

      And “I Share Freely” should be every blogger’s mantra.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison
      Allison Duncan just posted Darklands: A Vampire’s Tale

    • says

      Ryan,

      “Let go and grow’ is an excellent mantra. So often folks I meet with or talk to seem to think that if you reach a goal you are finished. They don’t actively try and move up the ladder.

      It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

      As to a blog overhaul, I hear you. I had to do that with my own online presence and it is, oddly, what sparked this very article. Sometimes even if you are ‘watching’ for stagnation it creeps up on you.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  2. says

    Allison,

    You make some great points here. At it’s core blogging can be a business. Like any business you are either growing or slowly dieing. Keeping your blog on an upward track is essential.

    Of course, I see how certain mindsets a person could easily be lulled into thinking they are doing well, when in fact they are spinning their wheels.

    That is where something like analytics comes into play. It is essential that a blogger knows if their traffic is really growing (and why).

    Of course that can show a person “if” they are becoming stagnant, but does very little to show what to do about it.

    Like you stated, moving up the next “bigger pool” is the way to go. Leave your comfort zone. try new things. Grow. Learn. Expand. Of course mistakes will happen, but they can be the very best learning experiences.
    Steve just posted The Pomodoro Technique: Internet Productivity 25-Minutes at a Time?

    • says

      Steve,

      Analytics are a great place to start, but I’ve found that a lot of analytics plugins on WordPress sites tend to over inflate stats. Being sure of accurate numbers is a real must if you want real analysis.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

    • says

      Richard,

      SEO is something I’ve lately been discovering to be a huge unknown to a lot of lower tier bloggers. It’s amazing and thrilling to see their numbers light up when they start getting a handle on this.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  3. says

    Hey Allison,
    I think a while back that my blog had started to slip into my own personal echo chamber. As you explain, I wasn’t even aware of it, just trying to keep up the writing in a semi-scheduled way.

    Your tip about taking a step back is a great one, and one that I personally used. Sometimes you’re just too close to it. I also had some outsiders I respect help me take a look with different eyes. I now have game plan for injecting some much needed energy into my blog and bring it to new heights.

    Thanks for the useful post!
    Dr. Bob Clarke just posted “Have You Seen My Husband?”… My Very Personal Memories of September 11, 2001

    • says

      So many self-published authors fail to step out of that echo chamber. They are all convinced they are the ‘next big thing’, but they can’t believe that people haven’t actually heard of them before.

      It is an incredibly useful thing to get a reality check sometimes.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

    • says

      Hey Ivin,

      The best way to escape a slump? Refuse to give in to your slacker side and find a new angle to exploit. Better yet, guest post for someone else and look for inspirational topics to write about on your own blog.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

    • says

      I can’t remember who said it but I heard a quote that went something along the lines of “if you want to be successful hang around successful people.” This is a truth. And the reason it is so effective is because you learn not only from other people’s strategies but because you are forced to always aim higher.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

    • says

      Three or four right off the bat is an excellent number. Just don’t forget to network alongside your blogging.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  4. says

    Great article Allison,
    Hitting the “echo chamber” is a normal part of growth for our blogs. I agree that you have to leave your comfort zone and stretch to meet a new need. Instead of being yesterdays news become a leader and solve problems readers haven’t recognized they have yet within your niche.
    Angela Artemis just posted 30 Ways to Stay Motivated And Succeed

    • says

      I’ve found that it’s easy to have others consider you an ‘expert’. You simply have to have worthwhile info that they don’t know yet. Hard, right?

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  5. says

    But I don’t WANT to give up my blog! I’m stomping my feet like a toddler. Kidding, kidding.

    I said “yes” to 2 of the things on your echo chamber list. I’ve been thinking for a while now I need to freshen it up a bit, but my subscriber numbers keep growing and I am slowly, but surely, getting more “likes”. I don’t think my blog has seen its hay-day yet, but it’s getting there.
    Lindsay just posted Spiritual Significance of Dimes

  6. says

    Ah…timely advice. I’ve been gradually realizing that I am living in my own echo chamber and haven’t really taken the time to contemplate how to get out of it.

    My blog isn’t about making money but I still seek a bigger pool (its motivating and frankly flattering to have more engaged readers than you did last month). Thanks for sharing…I’m off to go get out of my comfort zone ;)
    Alexis just posted What You Need to Know About Sleeping Through the Night – Part I

    • says

      Your best bet is to find a similarly niched site and develop a relationship with their readership. Poaching readers is allowed in Blogging :D

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  7. says

    Wonderful insight, Allison.
    I don’t really know how the plugin works, with the keywords in the Name field. May I ask about this “comment form” with the blue Twitter case, if is a particularity of Thesis, or anyone can have it? If anyone can have it, what is it called?
    Thank you very much, Kristy or Allison, :)
    Daniel Mihai Popescu just posted The Broker Who Went broke

  8. says

    I think one of the best things to do if you hit a plateau with your blog is to expand the topic to a related area. For example, if you have a blog about diet then you could make it about cooking or health as well.

    • says

      That’s a great idea. I’d also recommend finding suggested keywords in the Adwords tool and making posts off of those suggestions.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  9. says

    Thanks for the insights Allison! As a self-published author, I am always looking at ways to improve my blog, learn more, and help to create buzz about myself lol. I am amazed, like you so astutely pointed out, that many self-published authors think everyone will just find them, and it doesn’t typically work that way. I like the idea of stepping out of the comfort zone too, and seeing where that leads. Thanks again!

    • says

      I’ve found that a lot of authors don’t do much self-promotion. It’s a disease that affects the breed as it were. They do what they hear others talk about and nothing more.

      I’m glad that you are much more pro-active!

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  10. says

    Allison,

    This is the first I have seen or heard of you. Nice to meet you. I would like to say that your writing ability is quite good.

    I can see how an experienced blogger who has been doing it for years might reach some kind of a plateau. Doesn’t that just mean its time to take on a new project? Or maybe its time to start segregating your blog’s audience into more focused more targeted groups so that you can deliver the benefits they seek even better than you already are?
    Ted just posted Do You Realize How Much Power You Have As A Blogger?

    • says

      Hey Ted,

      Thanks for checking out an unknown then! Sometimes a new project is the way to go, but I think the real tool is going where your audience is headed. You don’t necessarily need to niche down further, but you should maintain a connection with what your audience is actually looking for.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  11. says

    Hi Allison,
    Some really good tips here as always. I keep trying and trying through trial and error and it just seems as if I go 1 step ahead and 10 steps backwards. Internet Marketing and having a blog can be so frustrating at times. Hopefully one day, I’ll learn the key of mastering my network and providing something that they want.
    Edward Culligan just posted Debt Help Programs – Debt Consolidation

    • says

      Hey Edward,

      I recommend taking a peek at the blog posts that get the most hits and then delivering more of the same. It’s an almost sure fire way to get more interaction and a bigger following.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  12. says

    Hey Allison,

    Some great ideas to think about here. Since my blog is quite new, I find that getting into a rhythm is the main challenge. I have bursts of ideas where I’ll write 3 articles in a row and then a week or more off. It’s great to have expert writers like you to help keep the rest of us in line. :)

    -Rob
    Rob just posted Results of My 30 Day Challenge… Don’t Laugh

    • says

      I completely appreciate the idea of bursts of writing. However, the best way to manage such over abundance of ideas is to put the blogs on a schedule to drop. That way when you are burned out, you still get to have something interesting on your site. Be lazy the smart way!

      Thanks for reading.

      Allison

  13. says

    I think I am in that echo chamber. I have covered the basics of my topic, vegetable gardening, and am getting to the point where thinking up new topics to cover, or new ways to cover the old ones, is harder. And I am busier, so spending the hour or two a day commenting on other blogs is harder. I will just have to redouble my efforts in order to grow more.
    Stephanie Suesan Smith just posted Making Killer Videos for Your Website

    • says

      Stephanie,

      Have you tried looking into veggie based news? If you can find science sites, or news sites that cover your topic, take that to your blog. It helps get timely topics as well as drag traffic off of something already receiving hits.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  14. says

    Hey Alison,

    I felt the staleness settle in on one of my blogs some time ago and thankfully I took action before I really got into a rut.

    As you mention, I looked at my blog with fresh eyes and really tried to do something different – a lot of people are scared of going against the grain.

    I also used the search statistics on my blog to see what people were actually looking for.

    To help inspire me for future content I used the Google wonder wheel (now unfortunately disabled) and checked statistics related to my niche via the Google keyword tool. It’s often better to write about what people are searching for related to your niche as opposed to writing about just what you feel like.

    Hopefully those pointers will help someone else….
    Sandip just posted Groupon

  15. says

    Hi Allison,
    This was an absolutely wonderful post. So many blog posts make an attempt to describe “blogging ruts”, but this post was a bit more creative…almost spiritual in nature. The most ironic part about this post – which many bloggers will mention for similar topics – is the commenting and sharing. Many know me to be a”cut your losses” kind of guy…very cynical. I have actually removed to comment code script completely from a few of my blogs (unless it is multi-author). Quite frankly, for many of my posts, I write for myself…a method of the old “putting your thoughts on paper”. Anyhow, this was really great,
    Bryan
    Bryan P. Hollis just posted Comprehending The Full Meaning Of Website Traffic

    • says

      Thanks Bryan!

      I’ve found that a lot of bloggers lose sight of the big picture. Worse still, I find that many writers are oh so content to just listen to the cooing voices of truly apathetic readers. Have high standards for yourself and don’t let a few good comments suck you into thinking you are all ‘that’.

      Thanks for reading!

      Allison

  16. says

    Hi Allison,
    I think it’s actually easy to slip into that echo chamber. So often we write the same kinds of posts over and over again, it tends to lead to the effect you’re describing. When I find myself going in that direction, I try to find something extra imaginative to write about. It tends to give me a refresh.

    Sometimes, I’ll do something like create a fictional character, like a panda blogger, and do some really creative writing. I find it fun and it gets me out of that rut, which leads to escaping the echo chamber.
    Richard just posted 90 Tools for All Your Blogging Needs

  17. says

    Fear of failure, fear of being wrong, fear of rejection are the root of all evil.

    When you take in action in spite of feeling these fears, THAT’S when you break through. But first you’ve gotta see what you fear and run head first into it. Even the best tools can’t help you if you won’t face these fears down because you’ll find some way to sabotage them.

    And new voices can be the key to helping you get out of stagnation and innovate.

    • says

      Good points all, though I am not sure I’d go so far as to call those fear the ‘root of all evil’. That would have to be content scrapers :D

      Thanks for reading.

      Allison

  18. says

    We all need these punches in the face every now and then. Or these reality checks. Whichever you prefer? (I prefer the punch!)

    I’ve been near some of these points for sure, and reflection was necessary and change was imperative. It’s really a pretty cool process when you realize you need to grow. Quite addicting! Lovely post, Allison.

    • says

      Thanks, Ryan. It’s always easy to get sucked into resting on one’s laurels.

      On a side note, I grew up in the Lehigh Valley. Good to see ya’.

      Thanks for reading.

      Allison

  19. says

    I can say that I haven’t reached such level yet and I still developing and I hope that in future I will not have these problems at all. But your tips here is a good warning to be careful and even cautious.

  20. says

    Unfortunately for me, I am still trying to build up to getting the same 4 commenters to comment :-/ I need to improve just to get to that problem. My blog is successful in many ways but I have failed to build a good commenting community. That is one of my main aims for the next year. If I could first get a few consistent good commenters at least that would be something :-/ I have built up traffic and people adding links that like the content.
    John Hunter just posted Chart of Largest Petroleum Consuming Countries from 1980 to 2010

  21. says

    What can also happen is getting in the Blogistan Echo Chamber. A couple of years ago, I had the bright idea of publishing a couple of articles on “blogging mistakes.” A good topic, and at the time, fresh. Then problogger published one, and it was good, and that’s cool. This was followed – before I pulled the trigger on mine – by a huge rash of articles on “blogging mistakes.” Echo Chamber! My two articles are still sitting in my draft queue 2+ years later.

  22. says

    … and on that happy note …

    No I’m not in an echo chamber – No no no no no, I’m just starting out!!

    I have to admit I did get a rude awakening when I installed akismet and realised that the 100s of comments I’d been getting were pretty much all spam. But we’re past that now ;-)

    Very interesting post, thanks for sharing – for the moment it’s a meandering journey for me which I’m enjoying – for me there is soooooo much I still need to learn that the ocean is very big and I’m just a little fishy (not in that sense, like a little fishy wishy)
    Alan just posted The Truth about Selling Used Books on Amazon