Game of Thrones! House of Cards! Empire!
Oh, those TV shows you just can’t stop freaking watching. They consume your mind. Your world.
I love getting swept away in a new TV obsession, binge-watching episode after episode with Lily curled up in my lap, squealing at the screen while my favorite characters battle, scheme, manipulate, fall in love, and leave me gasping with an “OMG!” cliffhanger at the end of each episode.
Have you ever wondered why certain TV shows are so addicting… while others fall flat?
As a business strategist who also moonlights as a screenwriter, I obsess over this question on a daily basis. And I’m pretty sure I’ve cracked the code. 🙂
I am about to share my BIGGEST tip on how to create content for your business that people will NOT be able to stop consuming. (“Just one… more… post!”)
I’m talking about how to create blog posts, newsletter updates, social media updates, podcasts and videos that are totally binge-worthy… and that build intense excitement for your products and services.
Ready? Here it comes. The secret is to…
Create content that is serialized rather than episodic.
Serial-whah?! If you aren’t familiar with those TV terms, allow me to explain.
Certain shows— like Law & Order or NCIS—are written in an episodic format. This means that each episode is a “stand alone” story that is not necessarily connected to the next episode. You can just pop in, watch one episode, and get the whole gist of the show. You can miss a couple episodes, then get back into it, and you’ll still be able to follow along. You won’t have missed any crucial plot points.
Episodic shows can be highly entertaining, but after one or two episodes in a row, you’re usually like, “That’s enough for today. I’m good.” You don’t obsess over what’s going to happen next. You don’t text your BFF to engage in a heated debate about what just happened to each character, making predictions and speculations about the next installment. The show fades into the background of your mind, at least most of the time.
But other shows — like Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Empire — are written in a serial format. This means that if you miss even a single episode, you’ll be like “WTF?! He DIED??? She’s a werewolf?? He’s a woman???! They are evil TWINS?!! Aaaahhhh! What is happening!!”
With a serial, each episode builds on the last installment in a continuing storyline. If you miss an episode, you’ve got to catch up or you’re totally screwed. Plus, each episode ends with a dramatic cliffhanger that practically forces your fingers to hit “next episode.” The story builds until it reaches a fever pitch with the season finale. You’re panting for more and pacing around in a frenzy until the next season premiere.
There is nothing wrong with episodic content. That approach can totally work.
But if you want to build deeper obsession and take your readers and fans for a wild ride, getting them emotionally entrenched in you, your work, and your business story, the secret is to create a serial.
I’d be willing to bet that your current TV obsession is a serial show. Or maybe you are hooked on a trilogy of erotic novels or a sweeping, epic fantasy novel with seven sequels. All serials. Am I right?
Bottom line: episodic content creates a burst of momentary interest, but serials create fanatical obsession.
Here are a few examples of how you can take a serialized approach to writing… and apply it to your blog or small business:
– The Better Bio Challenge – a free online challenge with a series of tips on how to write a better bio for your business. We start small with a mini-sized bio and then build up to a full-length bio on the final day. I put links inside each entry to allow readers to catch up if they missed the previous dealio.
– Rachel Cole’s blog – Rachel writes vulnerable stories about her life, openly talking about her recovery from an eating disorder, her business (she’s a life coach for women who struggle with food, body image, and emotional hungers that are going unmet), and her personal highs and lows. If you read her blog entries in chronological order, you get a deep sense of her story and you can see how much she has evolved through the years. It’s intriguing to see the story develop. Her fans wait, enthralled, for her updates.
– My Dissolute Life – an NSFW blog started by a recovering sex addict chronicling his unbelievable life stories, curiosities, fantasies, and opinions on sex and relationships. (I want to buy the “life rights” to his story and turn it into a movie!). My friends and I have become completely obsessed with this blog. We devour every single post starting with the very first one, working our way to the present day, and we have had many electrifying debates over the meaning and nuances of various entries. So fascinating. You just have NO idea what he’s going to do or say next!
When you are creating serialized content, it can be something very short and time-specific — like a 3-day online challenge — or you could look at your entire blog, podcast, newsletter or video series as one ultra-long serial that fans can ride along for years and years, following you throughout all of the big adventures of your life and biz.
The main thing to remember is that you want to create pieces of content that lock together in an unbroken series, always building on top of the previous installment.
And, whenever possible, try to end each installment with a cliffhanger (think: “Want to know more? Well… you’ll just have to wait. Watch for an email landing in your inbox on Monday!”) so that the people in your audience are like, “OMG stop torturing meeee! I need it noooow! This is the most important thing in my entire liiiife!”
Hope you enjoyed these TV writing tips for your biz.
Now go create a binge-worthy serial, right after binge-watching at least three episodes of your favorite show… for “research,” of course! 🙂