Social Media and the Headline News Cycle

I'll admit it, my addiction to social media has reduced my attention span just a bit. One of the downsides about constantly being bombarded with news and friend updates every moment of the day is that it becomes harder to click on everything posted in your Facebook or Twitter feed. As a result, it's more important than ever (as a content producer) to think about your approach to headlines - whether that's in your blog posts, Facebook link titles or Twitter posts.

I saw the headline...

facebook eyeball

If you've been listening to the protocol 80 over coffee podcast, or if you've ever discussed some of the day's news with someone who is very active on multiple social networks you may have asked "Did you see the news about X?" and heard back "Well, I saw the headline." As someone who creates content on the web this can be pretty disheartening. Ultimately the idea in most cases is to get someone to click through and actually view the full content for what you're linking to. That way, if you're promoting your product or service, there's a much higher chance of gaining interest or a potential sale.

A lot of people who post content to Twitter especially haven't really thought this through in my opinion. Many folks, especially the tech news blogs I follow, just repost the headline from the post they're publicizing. That's great if you're already a world-renowned force in your industry with thousands and thousands of followers, but if you're a small business that's creating relative and engaging content but you aren't seeing that click-through rate or an increase in visitors, try some different strategies.

Of course social networks are all about social interaction, so one thing I like to do when I post a news story is pose the article as a question. For instance, when I post this blog to Twitter I might say "have you reviewed your headline strategy?" Even if someone doesn't actively answer the question with a retweet, the chance is good that they'll at least answer it in their head - if the answer is yes they may want to click to see how their strategy compares to mine, and if no, they'll wonder why headlines are important and if they're missing out on an opportunity that can increase their views.

Add A Personal Touch

If all else fails, when you're posting a tweet, link or Facebook update just be sure to add a personal touch. Looking at my Twitter feed right now I'll give you an example of the sort headline that doesn't interest me:

I love Mashable, and they provide a TON of useful information...but at worst this post reads like a newspaper headline, and at worst it reads like a robot wrote it. I may scan the headline (that's right, folks are even scanning headlines now) for keywords relevant to me, but if there's nothing there I'm not interested. Nine out of ten times I would have skipped over this link but for the purposes of this post I actually read the article. The document viewer mentioned in the tweet is actually pretty cool, and is something I could potentially use in a project sometime in the future. None of that would have mattered if I had skipped over the headline though. Now for a better example:

This tweet is much better because it produces (at least) passive engagement with a question, and it also provides a personal opinion of what it's like to work for the company. Granted, this is a post about what it's like to work somewhere posted on that company's twitter feed (I assumed from the get-go that there probably weren't a whole lot of negative comments in the article) but at least, from a click-through perspective, I ended up on their blog because of the headline.

The Unfortunate Reality

Any book lover who enjoys long-form writing probably hates what the internet and social networking have done to the average person's attention span. Because we're constantly bombarded with information, we all have to find a way to manage it effectively and weed out the irrelevant stuff. For a lot of folks that means scanning headlines instead of reading the first paragraph of an article on your business's blog, so be sure to make headlines enticing!

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