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12 Secrets of Successful Headlines for Social Media Posts

In this modern age where engagement decides how many people get to see your story and where people decide if they want to read what you’ve created based on an image and a headline, those first few words are the most important part of your story.

For that reason, you’ve got to know the tricks.

In this article, we’ll break down some of the best ways that you can make certain that your content doesn’t end up on the scroll by list and actually gets clicked upon.

This includes what kind of action words to use, how to hone your headlines, what kind of tools are out there and being clued into what is going on.

There’s a lot of information here, but if you can systematically apply the different tips and tricks, then your headlines are sure to blow the competition out of the water.

How to Create Successful Headline for Social Media Posts

It’s easy to throw up a headline as an afterthought after you’ve written the article. To do so, however, is a serious mistake.

In fact, the most important words of your text are those first few, as that – along with the feature image – is often the only thing potential readers get to see before they decide if they want to read your article.

So, if your heading is bad, then how do you ever expect to get any readers? And if you’re not actually getting any readers, why exactly are you producing content?

No, headline writing is vital. Fortunately, it isn’t some kind of high art. There are effective and proven ways to boost the effectiveness of your headlines. Here we’re going to explore some.

Remember Your Audience

Of course, you’ve got an audience profile (you do, don’t you? If you don’t, then you’ve got to change that! Here’s why). Always make sure that your headline (and your content) is written with them in mind.

’15 ways to create content that will blow your audience away’ won’t be in any way effective if your audience isn’t looking to create content.

So remember to refer back to your audience profile often. Also, don’t be afraid to send questionnaires to your audience, so that you can figure out what they actually what to read about.

In that way, you’re far more likely to actually give them what they want.

The Listicle

People just love lists. Perhaps because it suggest something bite-sized, or perhaps it’s because we know how much to expect, but lists draw is like bears are drawn to honey. For that reason, be sure to create plenty of ‘X ways to’ and ‘X types of’ posts.

There are also a lot of words to follow that number with. Here are a couple of good ones that you can try:

  • Statistics
  • Ways
  • Reasons
  • Tips
  • Tricks
  • Secrets (sound familiar?)
  • Techniques
  • Ideas
  • Methods
  • Facts

Don’t be Vague

Your title doesn’t have to be short and unclear. Instead, let it be a little bit longer and a bit clearer.

For example, we could have called this article ‘write better headlines’, but by specifying how many strategies there are and what format they are for, we’ve given you a clearer idea of what’s going to happen and that makes you far more likely to click on.

In days gone by people used a lot of mystery in their titles ‘and what she did next will amaze you’. As you’ve probably noticed, however, those techniques have all but disappeared.

This is because people have become frustrated with this obvious manipulation of their emotions (and have frequently been disappointed by what they found when they gave in to such click-bait).

And so now it is better to not engage in such activities – though do note that they might still work on non-western populations, who have not been so exposed to these kinds of techniques.

Promise They Can Learn Something Quickly and Easily

This one requires you to either promise that they can learn it quickly ‘create high-quality content in minutes’ or by saying that they don’t have to give up anything ‘learn how to write fantastic content with these simple tricks’.

This works because people like to learn, but they are also inherently lazy and would rather not have to sweat and struggle to learn. And so you satisfy both of these needs simultaneously.

I do believe the correctly way to call that is to say that people can have their cake and eat it too.

Another great trick to try here is to make sure people understand what you’re offering is simple. So call your article ‘the complete beginner’s guide’ or ‘Psychology 101’.

By including those words you’re making it clear that you’re not going to be too technical and that anybody can understand what you’re offering.

Make it Big

Your headlines aren’t just there to inform people. They’re also there to market your article. For that reason, you’ve got to embellish.

Sure, we could have called this article ’10 ways to write headlines for social media’, but that isn’t going to be as effective as ’10 secrets of successful headline writing’ is it?

Secrets are far more interesting than ways while being successful is far more enticing than not doing so. And so, remember to market yourself.

There are just far too many articles out there for you to succeed otherwise.

Go Against Conventional Wisdom

If everybody believes a certain thing, then say the opposite. This is an incredibly effective way to draw in readers.

So, ’10 ways Game of Thrones sucks’, ‘Why Apply can’t design’ and ’15 reasons why you shouldn’t use Google’ are good examples of articles that people will click on just to find out why what they believe isn’t actually any good.

Note, there are some areas where you might not want to do this (e.g. politics, moral issues and so forth) as here people often don’t want to be told what they believe is wrong and you might just start off a poo storm if you do decide to go against the status quo.

Though that might be exactly what you want, of course.

Create Variations

Don’t just pick the first great headline that comes along. Instead, take that first idea and turn it into about a dozen variations of that central theme.

Then, once you’ve done that, you can choose the best one. This doesn’t actually take that much time to accomplish and can give you a few percentage points more hits.

This might not sound like much, but can be the difference between a common post and something that goes viral, as the higher the engagement rate, the more people a post will get shown to.

And of course, we’re all hunting for the holy grail of online posting – viral content.

Use Powerful Adjectives and Verbs

Use words that really pull the eye. These can be negative, ‘bleed, war, fear, hate’ but they don’t have to be.

They can also be words that draw us in, ‘surprising, ecstatic, shocking, hacks, secrets’. Pepper your headlines with these and people will almost feel obliged to click on what you’ve got to say.

Of course, remember that pepper is a spice. You can’t just use that, you’ve also got to make sure that you’re providing substance like I explained above.

Get Help

You don’t have to do it alone. There are plenty of tools and services out there that can help you out if you find yourself getting stuck. What kind of places am I talking about?

  • Check out the formulas on such sites as Copyblogger, Peter Sandeen, and The Daily Egg, where you can just fill in the blanks and in that way get decent (if not exactly unique) headlines.
  • CoSchedule has a free headline analyzer tool which will take your headlines and run them through algorithms. Of course, algorithms aren’t people and it might not catch a very clever and subtle thing you’re doing with your headline, but it is still a useful thing to check out.
  • Alternatively hire somebody to create headlines for you. A good service is Bestessay Education. Sure, you might have to pay a little money, but sometimes we’ve got pay money to make money.
  • Or you can get a place like Optimizely to help, which will allow you to A/B test different headlines to see what works particularly well for your audience (all audiences, after all, are different). Sure, it won’t work for the story that you’re currently writing (as that is the headline that will be A/B tested), but it will allow you to take away lessons for the next time.

Realize That the Image and the Headline Have to Work Together

Make certain that the headline that you’ve chosen actually fits with the image that you’re planning to use. So if you’re going with an optimistic headline, then obviously you can’t put up some dark image that is meant to once again make children afraid of monsters under the bed.

Your image has to match the concept that you’re trying to push in your headline.

So if you’re trying to provoke secrets the discovery of secrets or hidden tricks or tips, then choosing an image that hints at something around the next corner, or something that has been hidden from the visitor will work well.

If you’re trying to inspire fear with your headline, on the other hand, then that might be far less effective, as they don’t actually want to find out what is out there.

Know What’s Trending

We like what other people like. This is a fact of life. Therefore, when a topic takes off, consider either writing about it directly or somehow connecting something that you’re already planning to create to it.

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to not just have one idea that you want to create, but a whole list of them, with you constantly updating it as you create content and have new ideas.

This will both make sure that you don’t forget ideas that occur to you, as well as allow you to jump an item in the cue when it is particularly relevant.

Social Proof

Okay, this one isn’t actually related to the headlines, but it is vitally important. Make sure that you get a few people on board (like staff) who will like your content right off the bat.

We like what other people like and will be far more likely to click on something that has been liked by other people.

This is called social proofing and it works just like when you’re trying to decide if you want to eat in a restaurant. If it’s empty, you probably won’t. If a few tables are full, chances that you’ll eat there improve dramatically.

Those first few likes are your first few tables.

Last Words

Yes, there sure are a lot of things to keep track of when writing headlines! This list might be quite overwhelming, in fact.

Don’t despair, however. Headlines (all writing in fact) are a lot like driving a car. When you first start out you can’t for the life of you imagine that you can keep track of everything that’s being thrown your way.

But then some of these aspects start to become instinctive. And then, before you know it, you can write headlines and talk on the phone at the same time.

Of course, that is much easier if you’re getting a constant stream of feedback. For that reason, make sure that you’re not just relying on your gut in terms of knowing what headlines work and which ones don’t.

Instead, check out the analytics that the different social media platforms offer you. They’ll give you an idea of how much engagement you’re getting (remember, not all people like to ‘like’ quite a few prefer to remain in the background and not actually give you visual feedback).

Then you can use that information to figure out what is and what isn’t working. In that way your headline writing skills will improve by leaps and bounds, rather than at a snail’s pace.

And that will make them all the more engaging and your content all the more read. Now doesn’t that sound like the dream?