How To Write Killer Headlines for Social Media

So you’ve crafted a piece of content to share with the world.  Now you have to get them to read it.  Even a book of a thousand pages has to come up with a single clever title to sell itself.  Garnering the attention of readers is more competitive than ever as content sharing platforms increase in popularity and more and more businesses are employing content marketing strategies.  Headlines need to draw attention to your topic, deliver a message, make a promise, and attract the right readers to read the entire copy.  When it comes to social media there is more competition, more research that can be done, and you can use more than one headline.  Here are some facts, tips, and tricks for writing killer headlines for social media:

The Facts:

  • 8 out of 10 people will read a headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will continue to read the rest of the content.
  • Research has found that you can increase your conversion rate by up to 73 percent by using the right headline (Jeff Bullas).

Important Aspects of a Good Headline:

  • Brevity:  Headlines need to be short, but not too short.  Most search engines cut healdines off after 70 characters and content sharing platforms like Twitter only give you 140 characters total.  However, just because your headline can’t be a paragraph doesn’t mean you have to sell your content short.  Studies have found that headlines containing 10 words have often outshone their shorter counterparts in terms of attracting readers.
  • Clarity:  Your headline should be descriptive and let the reader know what they will be getting by clicking into the rest of the content. Don’t make promises that your content can’t keep.  Do not try to express more than one concept per headline, it is likely to make the headline grow longer and make it confusing.
  • Keywords:  Your headline should contain relevant keywords in order to get the right search engine hits.  When you are torn between a couple of headlines it never hurts to pull out the google keyword tool and determine which one is the most likely to get hits.

Great Types of Headlines:

  • Lists: For example, our article ‘20 Writing Mishaps to Watch Out For‘
  • How-to’s: For example, our article ‘How to Use Hashtags Effectively‘
  • Any of the 5 Ws: Who, what, why, when and where. Eg) ‘Why Social Media Is So Addictive‘
  • Urgency:  A headline with a deadline is sure to create a sense of urgency in the reader.  “Last chance to vote on our new flavours.”
  • Emotive:  Headlines that tap into an emotion are more likely to create a connection with the reader and entice them to read the full copy.  Great emotions for creating a call to action include fear, desire, and laughter.
  • Speed: Headlines that make promises like ‘How to increase your conversion rates in just 10 seconds’ tend to attract a lot of clicks.

Chris Garrett published a useful list titled ‘102 Awesome Headlines for Social Media‘ that can be viewed and downloaded here.

Major Headline Mistakes:

  • Trickery:  Tricking people into reading your content by using a eye-catching but false headline is sure to irritate and confuse people.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • ALL CAPS: Using all capital letters is distracting, obnoxious, and comes across as desperate.
  • Pride:  Don’t use your headline space to make a statement about how great you or your company are.  Quite frankly, most people are more interested in what value you have offer to them than how valuable you consider yourself.
  • Avoid the Ad: Even if your content is somewhat of an advertisement, your headline should not be a blatant advertisement.  People have trained themselves quite well to ignore ads.

Although attracting readers has become more competitive, it has also become easier to research and measure the effects of your headlines.  With print media such as magazines you cannot try multiple headlines on the same audience: you pick one, it gets printed, and you hope for the best. With platforms like Twitter and Facebook you can share your content more than once (preferably not back to back) and see which headline garners more attention.  For example, we published an article titled ’10 interesting stats about moms and social media’ and shared it, also publishing it elsewhere under the title ‘Moms dominate social media’.  The latter title was a hit while the first title has better SEO, but sparked a little less curiosity.

Different Headlines for Different Platforms

Each social media platform has its own mood, and the headline you use for one may not suit another.  Below is an example of how a headline for a blog post may be re-packaged for different platforms:

  1. Blog: The original title of your blog post should be straightforward, keyword rich, and the best for SEO.
  2. Facebook:  More personal, less business oriented.  This is where the more emotive, curiosity invoking variation of your headline may come into play.   Think of a headline that people would be more likely to share with their friends.
  3. LinkedIn: This is where the value proposition, more professional version of your headline comes into play.  People are more likely to share information that is intellectual and useful on LinkedIn.
  4. Twitter:  On twitter you are relying on words alone, no visuals or summaries.  This is where you need to use the most intriguing version of your headline.  Remember, people will often retweet content without even reading it beforehand based on the tweet alone.
  5. Google Plus:  G+  tends to be more community discussion oriented, so asking for an opinion when sharing content is a great way to open up the dialogue about your blog post.
  6. Pinterest:  This platform is highly visual and image based, so the goal of your headline is to have your image found and shared.  You may need to briefly summarize your content into a series of points combined with images in order to prompt people to seek the full information from your blog.  Infographics get shared a lot on Pinterest.

With all of the different ways to share your content these days the quest for the perfect title is both easier and more competitive.  We hope this article has helped you create shareworthy content.