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Why Twilight has Such a Massive Following—and How to Apply This Concept to Your Blog

This guest post is by Allison Boyer of NMXlive.com.

I’ve never actually met a fan of Twilight.

It’s true. I’ve met people who say they kinda-sorta-maybe like the books, but can’t stand the movie. I’ve met people who say they’re reading the series because they’re curious. I’ve met people who say they just watching the movies for a laugh. But I’ve never met, face-to-face, a hard-core, die-hard Twilight fan.

Yet they exist out there. I see message boards and fan sites brimming with excitement over the latest film or gossip about one of the actors, and when they show snippets of the premiers on the news, there are always lots of screaming fans. So why won’t anyone actually admit to me that they are a huge fan of Twilight?

The answer is exactly why I believe this series has such a massive following in the first place—and it’s an extremely important lesson for any blogger trying to grow a community.

The empty protagonist

The protagonist of the Twilight story is a teenage girl named Bella who is forced to move to a new town, where she finds that one of her classmates (and all of his siblings) are actually vampires and that her best friend is a werewolf. Two of the vampires fall in love with her, fight over her, and constantly save her from other supernatural beings.

Bella, as a character, is nothing special. And that’s the point.

At some point, we’ve all daydreamed about a hunky man or beautiful woman falling so deeply in love with us that they’re willing to fight off other suitors and even risk their lives on our behalf. We all know what it feels like to deal with unfairness in life, like having to move to a new town. We all know what it feels like to be unsure of our feelings, like Bella is with both potential partners at some point or another. And the supernatural element is just fun. We all have the child inside, who remembers how much fun it is to play pretend.

Bella is an empty shell, so the reader (or viewer) can image being in Bella’s shoes.

That’s why it’s so hard for people to admit liking this series, even if they have every special edition DVD at home. It’s embarrassing to admit that you just want to be like Bella, living in this fantasy world with two hotties fighting over who gets to save you this time.

(Of course, few people actually want that for real, but it’s a fun little escape from life for a few hours.)

This isn’t the only time an empty protagonist, or an “everyman” type of character, has shown up in a book or film. Ishmael in Moby Dick, Winston Smith in 1984, and Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy all have these qualities. It’s a common technique used to help you relate to a specific character.

Why bloggers should care

All of us would love to have a massive following like Twilight, right? So how can we take the concept of an everyman character and bring it to a blog about food or social media or fashion (or whatever your niche may be)?

The answer isn’t an easy one, but the solution is to suck your audience into a story they can relate to, using that to support the thesis of your blog post.

Take this blog post for example. I’m writing about how to build your community, but I started by talking about something everyone knows—Twilight. My first line, about not knowing anyone who actually admits to liking the series, was designed to make you think, “Huh. I don’t either!” or even “Wait, I know someone!”

Either way, you’re internally having a conversation with me and this blog post now, rather than just passively reading a list of tips.

Many bloggers do this extremely well. Check out Elizabeth Potts Weinstein. Read a few posts from Erika Napoletano. Browse the archives of Man Vs. Debt for posts from Adam, Courtney, and Joan.

On all of these blogs, with almost every post, you learn something, but only after they suck you into the story, making your nod your head and completely relate to whatever they’re talking about. Even if you haven’t been in their specific situations, you understand what it feels like.

You can put yourself in their shoes.

And that is the key to make people come back again and again. It’s slow at first. People know they like a post you’ve written, but they aren’t quite sure why. So they read some more and then some more, and soon they are subscribed to your RSS feed and signed up to your mailing list and sharing every post you write with their social media followers.

This is obviously not the only way to build a community on your blog, but if you’re struggling to find your place, think about using this technique on your blog. How can you pull readers into your post by using an everyman story? How can you keep your fans coming back for more by helping them relate to you? How can you entertain and inspire instead of just educate?

For more tips on building a community, check out the “Three Very Unique Ways To Build A Massive Community” panel at New Media Expo (NMX – formerly BlogWorld) in January. It’s a can’t-miss session if you’re looking for new ways to find your fans and keep them coming back for more.

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Comments

  1. I think this is one way that my little blog fails- people can’t relate to me (as a wife of a Catholic priest) even when I am writing a general mommyblog type post…my weird life is always out there

    • Allison says:

      You might be surprised just how many people can relate to you if you take more and an everyman approach. For example, maybe not a lot of women can relate to the pressure it must be for your family to constantly be scrutinized by the entire congregation at church as the priest’s family, but I bet a lot of women can relate to the idea of feeling like people are judging their every move. Or a bet a lot of people don’t have to cook for church events, but most have to cook for huge events/potlucks from time to time. I think it’s just about using your personal experience and thinking how it can be slightly generalized to relate to more people.

      And don’t be too afraid to talk about YOUR specifics too. People are also voyeurs. We like to be able to relate to people, but we also like to see how other people live. That’s why shows like The Real Housewives are so popular.

  2. I think that this is going to be a great tip! I always tought that is relate to the user is a very important strategy to build up a community of fans, but can you bring this into a tech blog? I mean, I am not asking to you to build for me this strategy, but as a tech writer that’s want to leard more about the topic, how can I exercise?

    Do you have some more article about the topic? Do you have a kind of cheatsheet or outline that you can share with us?

    I really want to improve my blogging skills and I would like to learn this new technique with some more example/article or ideas to exercise my skills.
    Thanks for the help.

  3. Dan Erickson says:

    As a writer I understand the idea of leaving room for readers to create their own image of the protagonist. I used this tactic in my first novel “A Train Called Forgiveness.” As a blogger I tend to go straight to the “lesson” and the “list.” It’s something I’m working on, adding the personal “everyman” story at the start. The problem then becomes length. It’s an art and a challenge to include the story, the moral, and the list of benfits to the reader in 500 words or less, but that’s what it takes to create great blog posts. I’ll master the art one of these days.

    • Allison says:

      Don’t be afraid to go above 500 too, as long as it is a well edited post. I regularly write 1000-word posts, and often they are more popular than the shorter posts. And on ViperChill (a very successful blog), the author Glen even writers posts that are 3000+ words! People will read longer posts as long as they are interesting, which is where the story element comes in.

  4. Laurinda says:

    do 2 vampires fall in love with her? I thought it was the vampire and the werewolf. Ha! Yeah, I didn’t follow the series to closely. But I get your point. Great post and you’ve given me some tips on how to evaluate my writing.

    • PH says:

      Yeap it’s actually a vampire and a werewolf. You know the whole Team Jacob vs. Team Edward thing . Probably just a mind fart by the author. Not that it really matters, cos it’s a quality post with interesting tips.

    • MommaDJane says:

      Laurinda,

      You are correct. Two vampires do not fall in love with her. It’s one vampire and her best friend, the werewolf.

    • Allison says:

      Haha, you’re totally right, it’s a vampire and a werewolf! But yes, the point of the post still stands. :)

  5. Conor says:

    Great post with the idea of applying a great concept into your blogging ventures by following the fundamental ideas behind the success of movies.

    Thanks for this great post again.

    Cheers

  6. Absolutely, a lot of things we can get from blogging and its application in life in the world maya.posting nice and Greetings.

  7. Santosh says:

    Great list!!! I do something like this as well, but your list is a little more extensive. Super helpful!

  8. Janet says:

    I have absolutely no idea what the Twilight series even is, but got the jist of the everyman connection.
    This could be a nice twist up to my blog, as I am usually very straight forward and get right to my concept.
    Thank you.

  9. I used to be like JANET but I did hear about this series and how passionate people are about these stupid vampires. I my opinion it shows a sad sign for society that everyone is in to VampLife while children starve on every continent.

    Anyway, from a marketing prospective I can appreciate why this worked so well and how content marketers can benefit.

    It’s this creative on going story format that I believe sucks people in. Same thing as the hobbit batman james bond etc. Its all about an interesting ongoing story. So I would guess bloggers would have to switch back to a journal style format and tell “day in the life of” stories with no real ending in mind. In other words how blogs used to be.

  10. Susi says:

    Do I dare admit it? I am a huge Twilight fan and I’m not one to hide it. I’m certainly not crazy about it but I have read the books numerous times as well as seen all the movies a few times. It’s something my daughter and I share. And yes, it is a vampire and a werewolf that “fight” for Bella’s love and protect her! Anyways, looking at it from that perspective is pretty genius… after all I was sucked in by the story, like so many others. I’ll have to think of it next time I work on a post! :)

  11. Ali zia says:

    Working hard is key to success so work hard with your blog ,pay attention to it,write unique &fresh content,sure you ll get success like Twilight.

  12. Ehsan Ullah says:

    Hi Allison, I have been reading tips and articles on building a community because that is what I’m doing on my blog and have read great tips too, but your strategy really stands out. I would have to try the everyman story strategy on my blog now.

  13. Ed says:

    For the past couple of weeks i have been saying that my blog was “missing something” I think this post has directed me too that. I have not allowed my creative juices to flow and thus lost my individuality. I think I have now been put on the right track.

  14. Very insightful post. The story you tell and how you draw people in really is so important. Loved that last line that you’ve got to inspire as well as educate. I was just reading a post earlier today about not chasing the “like” on Facebook but really worrying about building community and engagement with your readers first. Then they’ll do all the likes etc automatically, just as you suggested. Guess I know what I’ll be focusing on more in 2013. ;)

  15. That’s unique take on it, I would take good points for blogging. Also to mention you can include some gory details like decapitations and armaggedion to make the story interesting, not necessarily saying that people like violence, but in correct context make the story interesting as with the Twilight franchise which I like more than most poeple.