5 blogging lessons from Hollywood sequels

Techniques from Tinseltown can help you turn your sizzling post into a series.

Sometimes we write a single blog post, we send it out into the world, and it becomes an instant—and unexpected—hit: lots of page views, social media sharing, and responses and questions in the comments.

We didn’t plan to write more on that topic, but we see that our readers would like more. And we want to keep them happy.

Same thing happens in Hollywood. “Aliens” is probably the best unplanned sequel of all time. “The Godfather: Part II” also comes to mind.

Taking advantage of the success of the first installments, they continued the themes, expanded the stories, and had two more hits on their hands.

Here are five ways Hollywood sequels can help you turn a sizzling blog post into a series:

1. Build on the popular.

Hollywood calls it “more of the same, but different.” Some people think “The Empire Strikes Back” was even better than its popular predecessor, “Star Wars.” The execs in Tinseltown are very good at jumping into work on a sequel almost before the first weekend’s box office receipts are counted.

Blogging lesson: You don’t count tickets sold, but if you watch your page views, comments, and analytics, you can see what is popular and create content on the original topic but with a new spin.

2. Expand upon and deepen the original idea.

Pixar did this well with the three amazing “Toy Story” movies. In the last one, “Toy Story III,” it beautifully deepened the themes of loss and aging from the second film. So you really felt the progression and the growth of Andy as he gives up his toys for good.

Blogging lesson: Take a popular post and go deeper with it. You might take a “7 tips for…” post and make separate posts out of each of the seven tips—and there you go, an eight-part series. You might take a question from your comments and turn it into a sequel post.

3. Connect to the original storyline, but surprise us.

Even at what seems to be the last movie in a series, or with just a single movie, Hollywood writers keep the options open. The “Men in Black” movie franchise is an example.

Remember at the opening of the second movie, when Agent K, Tommy Lee Jones’s character, showed up working at the post office? They didn’t kill him in the first movie (just zapped him with the neuralizer and made him lose his memory), in case they wanted to bring him back.

Blogging lesson: Make references to your original post, but show us entirely new things in your sequel posts. For your new readers, it helps to recap and then link to your first post. If your mind is thinking series, leave an intriguing question at the bottom of your original post to elicit reader curiosity and hint at what’s to come.

4. Don’t give it all away.

The Harry Potter films are a perfect example of this. Master screenwriters who have their series hats on always leave something unresolved as the final credits start to roll. At the end of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I,” Voldemort breaks into Dumbledore’s tomb to steal the Elder Wand. Of course, the cliffhanger question was, what power will he gain?

Blogging lesson: The endings to your series posts might not be “cliffhangers” in the true sense of the word, but they should leave your readers wanting, or wondering, or both. Hint at something your reader wants or needs to know, so she’ll come back to your next post for the answer.

5. Reward audience loyalty.

Sequels sometimes have zingers and inside messages that only those people who saw the previous movie will get. It gives them the satisfaction that they are in the “inner circle,” the people in the know. They get the joke and others don’t.

The second Indiana Jones movie did this by using catch phrases from the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that made devoted fans grin, but still made sense to new moviegoers.

Blogging lesson: Though you don’t want to make certain readers part of a community that excludes others, you can reward your blog’s regular readers in other ways. Consider highlighting a comment that one of them made in the previous post and using it to start your new post, complete with their name and a link to their blog or website.

Other ideas?

Do you have a popular post that is ripe for a sequel? Have you written any blog post series on the same topic? Have you ever found rich new material hiding in a past post? Any tips?

Bob Dunn is a WordPress trainer, consultant and speaker. He teaches online classes to help people set up, launch and manage their WordPress blogs and websites. A version of this article originally appeared on his blog.

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