Good headlines are the lifeblood of success on Twitter.
Studies have shown you can
increase your conversion rate on a link by 73 percent
if you use a compelling headline.
Here's how to create headlines that will captivate readers:
1. Give readers what they want.
Readers click on headlines that promise a reward. It has to be a reward they want and identify with, such as a solution to their problems or a surefire way
to success. The most popular examples start with "how to …" or "tips for ..."
Example 1: "How to save your marriage with social media"
Example 2: "6 steps to a perfect blog structure"
Example 3: "What everyone should know about Google"
2. Create intrigue.
Tell a story, but don't tell it all. This is possibly the hardest type of headline for readers to resist because it taps into natural curiosity.
Example 1: "How is it even possible to do this with social media?"
Example 2: "Marketing has forgotten this technique, but it might change the world"
3. Name drop high-profile people.
The top tweets of 2012 feature high-profile people, such as President Obama's "four more years" and Justin Bieber saying goodbye to a terminally ill child.
Tap into existing popularity by linking your content and headline to something that's high profile.
Example 1: "How the Harlem Shake changed my blog"
Example 2: "5 things Psy taught me about social media"
Example 3: "Oprah uses this Twitter technique. Should you?"
4. Be newsworthy.
"News" is something that's new and relevant to your readers. The world spins fast on social media, and jobs and reputations depend on being up to date with
the latest social media trends. Your headline should strive to say something new to rise above the social media clamor.
Example 1: "How new research is revolutionizing marketing"
Example 2: "How a new discovery is changing the way we use social media"
Example 3: "5 social media trends you need to know right now"
5. Spark controversy.
Controversy is newsworthy and often claims the most attention on social media. Tap into controversy in your field, or create it by disagreeing with a
generally accepted notion.
Example 1: "Why men hate Pinterest"
Example 2: "F**k it NFL…Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs" (This one is from Packers player, T.J. Lang.)
6. Instill fear.
Few things sell better than fear. Case in point: One of the most popular headlines in the past few years was about which U.S. cities had bedbug
infestations. Could your readers be doing something wrong or embarrassing, and not know it?
Example 1: "How to commit Twitter suicide in 10 easy steps"
Example 2: "Do you make these mistakes?"
7. Highlight the best-and worst-things.
What are the biggest, fastest, funniest things? Everyone loves a list of inspiration or mortification. Lists rank highly on Twitter.
Example 1: "The funniest blogs topics of 2012"
Example 2: "The top 10 tweets of 2012"
Example 3: "The biggest social media mistakes of 2012"
8. Speak to your readers.
According to Dan Zarella, the most retweeted word is "you." "I" didn't even make it in the top 20. Clearly your headlines should speak directly to and about your readers-not you.
The best headlines will be a combination of techniques, such as tapping into something popular and promising useful information. Add a celebrity, and
you'll be the envy of copywriters everywhere.
What headlines do you find irresistible?
Margaret Pincus works in digital communications and also teaches writing/journalism at Griffith University. She blogs at
bloghappy.com.au. A version of this article originally appeared on