How to Write Compelling Social News Headlines

by Jim Berkowitz on January 11, 2010

Here’s a synopsis of an excellent post by Adam Singer, How to Write Compelling Social News Headlines; check out the complete source article for a discussion of each recommendation:

Crafting unmissable headlines which resonate with social users is something which appears deceptively simple. Yet it’s an art form requiring writers, bloggers and marketers to craft thousands of headlines to perfect.

As someone who has been successful with creating content that goes hot across social channels I’ve come to appreciate the art and challenge of crafting sticky headlines. In fact, crafting headlines is equally if not more challenging than leads and even content itself.

Something many bloggers have down, but communications professionals aren’t always fluent in, is the art of crafting headlines specifically for social news sites/users. While there is no one formula for success, I’m going to share 5 things I’ve learned from experience as a blogger, social news user, PR pro and marketer…

  1. Work backwards – content first, then headline
  2. Leverage archetypes/formulas which work for others (especially outside your niche)
  3. Headlines should be outrageous, engaging, emotional, useful, counter-intuitive or remarkable – not to the world, but to your community
  4. Don’t just create content, actually use social news sites
  5. SEO intersection – frequently forgotten, always vital

As social Diva Liz Strauss has pointed out, it’s not just about the headlines – you also need equally remarkable content to back it up in order to achieve any kind of worthwhile goal such as attracting subscribers or sales leads. But the importance of using clever headlines to help your content stand out in the first place is vital.

As the firehose of real-time social content speeds up, the value of well-crafted headlines will increase. And the truth is, tips can only help so much. Writing headlines is more art than science. The best path is to consider it an iterative process, experiment with different structures, study your analytics and find what works for you.

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