They taught us about sharing and the letter Q. They taught us to jump rope in Spanish and how to count to 10. They taught us about life in the city, diversity, and the true love of a rubber ducky.
But did you know that Sesame Street actually has lots of lessons about how to be a better blogger?
There’s a reason Sesame Street is the longest-running children’s show in history. Actually, there are (at least) five reasons. And you can apply each of these to your blog, to create something that’s memorable, effective, and maybe even loved.
1. Testing, testing
Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point revealed something surprising about our favorite show.
When we watch, everything feels very casual and unforced. You’d never guess that Sesame Street was actually shaped by round after round of rigorous testing with pint-sized focus groups.
Groups of little children were allowed to watch the show, with another appealing diversion just across the room. In other words, the testers tried to pull the children’s focus away.
Each time a child’s attention skipped away from Sesame Street, the producers made a note. That segment needed to be made more “sticky,” more compelling, more effective.
Kids are riveted to Sesame Street because the show is designed to be riveting. It looks informal and fun, but behind the fun is a lot of analysis.
How you can apply it: Don’t shy away from giving your analytics program a workout. (Google Analytics is free and excellent, but there are other options as well.)
Find out what kind of content rivets your audience and glues them to the screen, and what kind has your readers skipping away to find something more interesting.
Do more of what works. Do less of what doesn’t.
2. The people in your neighborhood
What would Sesame Street be without Cookie Monster? Or Bert and Ernie? Or Oscar, for heaven’s sake?
I’ll even admit that Elmo has a small (annoyed) place in my heart.
The storytelling in Sesame Street is grounded in memorable characters. The lessons, both academic and emotional, stick with us longer because they’re brought to life by lovable, familiar faces.
How you can apply it: Embrace your inner Grover. Be a character on your blog. That character can be quiet or loud, smart or dopey, brave or cowardly. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, with all your strengths and weaknesses.
Even if you’re a little bit goofy. Or furry. Or blue.
3. Make it snappy
Sesame Street’s segments are bite-sized and don’t demand too much attention or time. They keep the energy high with humor, music, color and fun.
Each segment gets to a very specific point, and it does that quickly. The show’s writers understand that their preschool-age viewers have the attention spans of fruit flies.
Unfortunately, our grown-up readers do, too.
How you can apply it: Keep things moving. Punchy, brief posts nearly always outperform weighty tomes. Yes, Maki can pull it off, but most of the rest of us can’t.
4. Focused variety
While the imagination of a child is nearly limitless, the focus of Sesame Street is nicely constrained.
Letters. Numbers. Emotional or confusing situations faced by preschool children. That’s about it.
Sesame Street uses the same sets, the same characters, the same animation styles, the same motifs to make these points again and again. There’s certainly enough variety to keep everyone interested, but the show never sprawls. They know exactly what they’re there to do, and they stick to the territory they’ve staked out for themselves.
How you can apply it: Strive for the same balance of focus and variety. Yes, you want to mix things up so your readers don’t get bored. But you also need to find your own best territory, then explore that thoroughly.
Don’t worry too much if you haven’t defined your territory yet. It can take some time to find your own “sweet spot.” But when you do, stick with it.
5. Once more, with feeling
Watch Sesame Street for a week and things will start to look strangely familiar.
The show’s writers know that little children need repetition to learn. But they don’t hammer away at the letter A for an entire hour. That would bore their audience to tears. Or at least tantrums.
Instead, Sesame Street comes back to the same lessons again and again, at intervals. Every day, people interact with Oscar and learn about handling grouches. Every day, the Count sings about his love of numbers. Every day, a letter and a number are selected. The show comes back to that letter and number again and again, in short bursts, with other material in between.
How you can apply it: If your blog has key themes (and it should), you’re going to repeat yourself. It’s natural to try to avoid that, but you shouldn’t.
Repetition is how you’ll get your most important points across. You’ll have to keep working to create fresh angles, metaphors, and interesting new frameworks for those ideas. That’s where a little art (and craft) can come in handy.
Try putting these five techniques into your blog. You might not create something as magnificent as Sesame Street. But isn’t it worth shooting for?