In 2016, IFLS published the following article on its website.
The story got more than half a million shares.
The thing is, if you actually clicked on the headline to read the story, you would have realized it was completely untrue.
Don’t Read it, Retweet it!
According to a study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on Twitter have never actually been clicked by the person sharing the link.
In other words, most people appear to retweet news based solely on the headline.
Did You Fall for This?
NPR found a similar result to an April Fools’ Day prank. They posted a headline: Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore? In the body of the article, they wrote: “If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this ‘story.’”
Nearly 50,000 people commented on the story.
Be Sure Your Headlines Do This
While these studies and pranks suggest how eager we are to share things on social media, they also highlight the importance of headlines.
Headlines get people—a lot of people—to do things.
If the thing you want the reader to do is actually read your article or email, you need to craft a headline or subject line that does this:
Make an intriguing but believable promise of benefits to the reader.
The alien DNA story and the NPA article don’t actually do this, of course. They use a different approach. They make a wild or provocative claim. That’s an effective technique for catching attention and generating shares but, if you want people to read your message, you have to catch their attention AND offer them something of value.
Use Headline Formulas
A quick way to improve your headline or subject line is to apply one of several so-called headline formulas. Headline formulas are types of headlines that have proven themselves effective at garnering responses to direct mail and email marketing. Below are a few examples.
|How / How to …||How to Choose 401(k) Investment Options Based on Your Goals|
|Numbered List||3 Tips for Choosing the Right 401(k) Investment Options for You|
|Secrets / Ways to||The Secret to Retirement Investing|
|Why …||Why Some Retirement Investors Do Better Than Others|
|Ought to Know||What You Ought to Know About Saving for Retirement|
|Simple & Direct||Get a 100% Match on Your 401(k) Contributions|
|Yes or Yes Question||Do You Want FREE Money for Your Retirement?|
|News / Announcement||Introducing 5 New 401(k) Investment Options|
Take the Time to Write a Good Headline
Don’t let your headline or subject line be an afterthought. When I write, I sometimes start with the headline — the promise — and then make sure I fulfill that promise in the body copy. Or, sometimes I’ll write the copy, come up with a good headline, then go back and revise my copy to be sure it delivers on the headline’s promise.
As I stated in a previous blog, People Don’t Read, your goal is to get people to pay attention to your message. Your headline is what will get them to pay. Just be sure your content provides them a return.