The single most important element of your online marketing and social media communications is the handful of words contained in the headline. They are the key to your audience’s mind and deserve as much, if not more, consideration than the hundreds of words that follow. A social media post with a good headline will be read, an article with a weak headline: it’s just a waste of pixels!
Power behind the headline
We can see the power of a headline in practice by comparing two articles that shared exactly the same video content but used two different headlines to engage the audience. Zach Wahls has made a bit of a name for himself whilst campaigning for LGBT rights. In 2011 he made a speech to the Iowa House of Representatives on his upbringing in the care of two lesbian mothers. A video of this was uploaded by the Iowa House Democrats with the headline “Zach Wahls Speaks About Family” whereas the website MoveOn.org opted for “Two Lesbians Raised A Baby And This Is What They Got”. The difference in views? 16 million, in favour of MoveOn.org. That’s the power of a headline.
How do you write engaging headlines?
1. Brainstorm options. A lot of them.
Remember how important your headline is. Your audiences Facebook and Twitter feeds will be overflowing with content. There is so much competition and social media users don’t have time to read everything. In this digital age, we are fantastic at skim reading – just enough time to read every headline of posts appearing on our social media feed. Only a strong headline will ensure your post is read. So invest a lot of time in brainstorming ideas. It is well worth the effort.
2. Track your headlines
Start tracking your success rate with different types of headlines. Be playful with the headlines you use and you will eventually see a pattern of what was most engaging to your audience.
MoveOn.org’s “Two lesbians raised a baby…” headline got to the crux of the issue. The talking point of the video is can or should lesbians be allowed to raise a child? With moves internationally for the legalisation of gay marriage, the headline is relevant to many of the conversations currently had on social media. It was a very well considered headline and MoveOn.org reaped the rewards. Find out what is being searched for on Google, trending on twitter and write a relevant headline.
4. Headlines that POP
Be sensational, don’t settle for anything average. Again this is something that MoveOn.org did so well. Articles with sensible, straight forward headlines will merge into the background and never be read. You need to catch the attention of a skim reader, so it needs to shout and wave its arms wildly if it going to attract any attention.
Underestimate the importance of headlines at your own peril. They really are the single biggest factor for leveraging engagement for your online marketing.