Yes, your success depends on those all-important clicks. But, with so much traffic clogging up the timelines of social media platforms, how do you make your voice heard?
The simple answer lies in a few choice words – or, put another way, you need to write better headlines. It’s true that a great image is crucial to getting you noticed, but a well-crafted headline could make all the difference between a client clicking through to your website or just scrolling past.
Yes, you can write headlines!
The power of the attention grabbing headline has been central to marketing since its very beginning, and the same is true of journalism. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a niche skill, that comes naturally to only a select few wordsmiths.
Unless you’re writing for the tabloids, you don’t need to be generating hilarious puns that will go down in history. Your headlines are about catching the reader’s eye and making them want to know more.
If this doesn’t come naturally, don’t worry. There are plenty of tried and tested methods for coming up with headlines that really do work.
Good headline writing isn’t just about social media. It is fundamental to all aspects of marketing. Once you’ve got the knack of writing effective headlines, you can use them across your business; everywhere from blog posts to presentations and reports.
Experience has shown us that the headlines, which best draw in readers, tend to fall into three categories:
- The social proof or piggyback headline – these play on people’s propensity to do what others are doing, ‘Why London buyers are flocking back to these three boroughs’ for example. These headlines can be even more powerful if they channel influential people or ideas – the piggyback headline – ‘Lake Como’s not just for the Clooneys with holiday homes from £150k’ (Homes & Property).
- The threat headline – these headlines work because people are often motivated by ways of avoiding pain – ‘Why savings rates may be heading for zero – and what to do’ (The Guardian).
- The gain headline – this simple form of headline is all about stating the benefits of an action and offering a promise that people will gain these benefits – ‘How we acquired 100k early bird sign ups with zero marketing budget’ (Kiss Metrics).
Three easy tricks
Once you understand these basic principles of how marketing headlines work, there are three easy tricks you can put into place to get results.
- Add the words ‘how to …’
Adding the words ‘how to’ transforms a headline from a boring statement into a promise of gain. It also suggests insider information to help your reader nail a troublesome process – ‘How to stage your home so it’s ready to sell’.
- Communicate a sense of time
People are more likely to click through if they have a sense of how long it will take them to achieve a benefit – particularly if the answer is ‘not very long’. Communicating that a blog post will be a quick read can also work, suggesting minimal time investment in exchange for gain – ‘A five-minute guide to Capital Gains Tax.’
- Add fascination
Think creatively to link your headline to something intriguing that will really draw the reader in -‘Mid-century-inspired living rooms we love’ (House & Garden).
Create your own swipe file
If you are just getting started, spend some time looking through social media at posts which make you want click through and read. Could you adapt the thinking behind the best headlines to your own area of business?
One way to get better at headline writing is to pull together a file – a compendium of great headlines of different types. (you can download our ultimate headline swipe file here) These could be your own, or ones you have seen elsewhere. Give a bit of thought to why they work and how you might adapt them.
Here are a few headlines that have worked for us:
- Should I sell my property or rent it out?
- 5 ways to raise capital for a new buy-to-let investment
- Should I switch to a repayment mortgage?
- I can afford to buy in [Location], but should I?
The competition for attention on social media is fierce. A good swipe file is your weapon in the battle for clicks on social channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Whenever you’re stumped for the right headline for your post, go back to the swipe file for inspiration and ideas – and remember, the more headlines you write, the easier you’ll find the process.