I have a dirty little secret.
I’m a soap opera fan – The Bold and the Beautiful to be exact.
In my defence I don’t watch reality television (except for the odd singing competition where actual talent is involved). I would rather watch far-fetched, unrealistic fictional characters make fools of themselves; then watch far-fetched, unrealistic and annoying actual people do the same.
For me, soaps are a simple form of escapism.
It’s my Mum’s fault (sorry Mum). I started watching Days of our Lives when I was at primary school. I would walk home from school and Mum would have it on.
About now you are probably thinking, what the hell does blogging have in common with soap operas?
Well as it turns out more than you think.
Here are my top 12 blogging lessons learned from watching soap operas.
1. Don’t rinse and repeat
Soap operas are well-known for rehashing the same story line over and over again (often inflicting exactly the same drama on a younger generation). It can get repetitive and long-term watchers can get a bit jack of it.
With soaps having their core themes such as a particular family unit or competing companies, they often feel bound to stay within these parameters. They are also notorious for repeating the same conversations.
While blogs have categories that they work within, thankfully there is a lot of room for expansion and diversity.
While brainstorming a variety of closely related post ideas based on a central topic is fine, make sure you are not always talking about the same thing in the same way time and time again.
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2. Bring in new characters
All too often soap operas focus on the same group of people repeatedly during a particular story line. This isn’t hard to fix, they could simply give more of their existing characters some airtime (and preferably a decent story to go with it).
You can bring new characters to your blog by opening it up to guest bloggers or widen your audience by guest posting on other sites.
One word of advice here, sometimes you need to be careful about bringing in new characters. This can be tricky on a soap. New characters can often go down like a lead balloon.
The same could be said for adding guest posts to your blog if the writing is not of the same standard that your audience is used to. Writing in a different voice can also be a factor. You can choose a guest blogger with a similar writing style to yours or purposely bring in someone completely different.
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3. Don’t go against the fans (or maybe do)
I admit this is particularly hard in soaps because you will always have people taking opposing sides.
Take the love triangle for instance, if you know a soap that doesn’t have one of these be sure to let me know. They are a show staple.
Usually it’s two women fighting over one man or two men chasing after the woman of their dreams. Of course, what none of them realize is that they should run for the hills and find someone who actually deserves their attention but that is a whole different post.
If you are blogging about a particular topic or group of topics and suddenly you change to something completely unrelated or completely change your point of view on something, you run the risk of alienating your readers.
4. Be consistent
Soap operas are consistent. Many have been around for years, showing every week day.
This is definitely not going to be one of those blog sermons where I tell you to blog every day or a couple of times a day (seriously who came up with that one for the average one person blogging setup?) but you do need to be consistent on some level.
When people head to the television expecting to watch their favorite show and find out it has been replaced by the cricket for two weeks they are disappointed.
If you take long breaks from blogging, your regular readers will turn up to find nothing new. Most likely they will head off and explore something else.
5. Be experimental
Someone should tell the soap writers they need to shake it up a little. Be brave and throw in a few experimental story lines. Making some of the existing story lines shorter wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Thankfully with blogs we have much more opportunity to be experimental. We also don’t have a network executive to keep happy.
If you normally write your posts, start using video instead. If you are normally a video blogger, perhaps you could throw some podcasts into the mix to shake things up. Try lots of different ways to present your content.
6. Be controversial
Some soaps love controversy, while others like to play it safe.
The same goes for blogging. I’m sure all of us could name a few bloggers that thrive (and indeed get more readers) by being controversial.
Obviously what is considered controversial varies, so regardless of whether you are a soap opera writer or a blogger keep your core audience in mind. You can shock them; just don’t go so far as offending them so much they never come back to your blog.
7. Bring in the heavy hitters
Both soaps and prime time television shows benefit from getting a celebrity on board.
Celebrities can also be good for your blog. Featuring a celebrity (even if that means a celebrity in your particular niche) for an interview preferably in person via a video recording or podcast can do wonders.
Do your best to ensure the celebrity spreads the love to their network as well for maximum exposure.
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8.Celebrate the holidays and milestones
The two holidays soaps tend to recognize is Christmas and occasionally Thanksgiving.
You don’t hear much about birthdays or important milestones unless they are flashing back to one of their seven marriages!
It helps to personalize your blog and let your readers know more about you if you include life and blogging milestones, holidays and snippets of your life.
Some bloggers might prefer to limit these types of posts because it may stop the post from being an evergreen article, therefore limiting its shelf life. If written correctly however these posts can still add value to your blog.
With social media options like Twitter and Facebook you can update people on milestones without necessarily writing blog posts about them.
9. Be vulnerable
It goes without saying you don’t want people crying as much reading your blog as some of the poor actresses who are required to regularly turn on the water works.
While many blogs are based around facts, many are built on emotion. While you do want to touch and reach out to your readers, you probably don’t want them a blubbering mess after every blog post.
You want them feeling emotion of some sort with every post, but not downright losing it.
Be vulnerable, show emotion but don’t overdo it.
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10. Show your fun side
Many years ago, there used to be a lot of soap opera bloopers, many of which were hilariously funny. In a workplace where creating the illusion of drama and tension is part of the job description, it’s great to have a fun side.
Now instead of showing the bloopers, many of the shows have their comic moments written into the script. Some of them have excellent laugh out loud (in all the right places) dialogue.
Your blog should also have a fun, cheeky side. I admit this might not work for some more serious topics but most of the time you do need to find a way to see the lighter, funnier side of life.
Too much doom and gloom will scare off your readers; besides we have the nightly news for that.
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11. Be good-looking
Let’s face it every soap opera has that one guy who is drop dead gorgeous. Quite frankly, it’s mind-boggling what he can get away with and still be forgiven!
If you have a good-looking blog design you have a better chance of being forgiven for smaller problems.
A brilliant design won’t save you if your content is terrible, but a great design and excellent content will put you on the road to more subscribers.
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12. Long term fans have memories
It should be noted that soap fans are an incredibly loyal bunch.
With only a few soaps still in production (and numbers declining dramatically) it’s hard to compare to the millions of blogs on the market. In comparison, blog readers have a lot of choice when it comes to moving on to something else.
In the blogging world, loyal fans are what we like to think of as our subscribers or the people on our various lists.
We are also well aware that one click and that relationship could be history.
One of the biggest mistakes soaps make is forgetting that long-term readers have memories. It’s common to suddenly yank an actor out of a role, only to have them replaced with someone different in every way from their looks to the character’s main personality traits. Often they replace them with someone who has previously played a different role. This infuriates viewers.
While blogging is different with people coming and going on your list; one of your main goals is to retain people who have been around for a while (as well as adding new subscribers naturally).
You may not even know about some of your loyal readers because they don’t sign up or comment.
This is where it’s important to do what you say you are going to do. If you say an eBook is coming and then fail to deliver it, people will notice. I admit I have been guilty of not always delivering in the past.
Soap viewers seem to be more tolerant of bringing people back from the dead (which in the soap world is far more common than you think). Main characters rarely die in soaps (don’t let that coffin in the ground fool you). On the rare occasion they do actually kill a character off, there are always the flashback scenes to pull them back in.
If you think bringing back things from the dead has nothing to do with blogging; think again.
Re-branding or starting to blog again after a long break are just two examples of breathing life back into your blog.
Re-branding an already successful blog can be a way of reaching out to a wider audience, changing direction or launching a fabulous new site design.
Now it’s your turn.
Have you ever been a soap fan? Can you see any other correlations between soaps and blogging?
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