Although always welcome, simple shares are sometimes not enough. Posts can easily get lost in social media mêlées, which is why paying close attention to every detail is a really smart investment.
Here is a checklist of nine core elements that pump up traction for posts in all channels:
- Headline promises benefits, stirs up emotions, triggers curiosity, underpins authenticity with numbers, asks a question, and adds urgency (often through FOMO);
- Headline 2 provides more detail, in a second chance to grab the reader’s attention, preferably in no more than a dozen words;
- Dynamic Trigrams are three-word promises that are frequently used to grab readers’ attention and boost engagement, topped by “… of the year”; “… in xx years”; and “The first time…”’;
- Special characters draw attention to links and other important points in social media posts, with ★ (stars), 🗹 (checkmarks), → (arrows), and ☞ (pointers) being particularly effective. Emojis should be used sparingly, as they often reflect a playful 🤡 approach that might clash with more serious 📈 brand messages;
- Line breaks offer breathing spaces in your post, making it easier to skim (a vital attribute for consumers checking their feeds during gaps in their busy lives); more visually appealing, a post with plenty of white space is more likely to convey its message than a tight-packed a jumble of words;
- Memorable Quotes add authenticity to posts, while pumping up interest in the related article. Inspirational and educational topics with catchy wording are always stand-outs, especially from experts identified with a photo alongside;
- Visuals are vital, with research showing that posts with visual content (especially graphs, photos, and short videos from the article) establish deeper engagement – and consequently more clicks and shares – than plain text.
- Hashtags enhance the visibility of social media posts, especially for trending topics. Link-free Instagram is a great place to go wild with hashtags (up to thirty for images, and no more than ten for stories), as there’s no risk they might compete with your link. However, keep them sparse, short, and sweet, as a clump of hashtags can look spammy on other social networks;
- Tagging people in your social media posts is a powerful networking tool that draws attention, promotes engagement, and expresses appreciation, driving likes, comments, and shares through a simple ampersand followed by a few keystrokes.
Hotting Up Your Headlines
Thanks to social media, audience attention spans have been shrinking steadily. Down from twelve seconds in 2000 to about eight seconds in 2021 for posts (and a mere 1.7 seconds for videos viewed on smartphones), human beings now have shorter focus times than goldfish!
That’s why irresistibly clickable headlines are more important than ever. No matter how brilliant your copy, if the headline doesn’t grab its audience and plunge them straight into the meat of your message, your post is virtually worthless. Here are a few hot tips on how to write compelling headlines that follow this F-shaped reading pattern favored by Internet users:
- What does your audience want in general? Often close to universal, these mass desires include love and happiness, looking great and good health, and making more money for less work;
- What does your audience want specifically? Greener fuel? Smoother skin? More free time? Financial security?
- How much does your audience already know? It seems hard to believe today, but less than twenty years ago, hardly anyone knew what a smartphone was, far less how it would change our lives. In contrast, the basic structures and uses of automobiles have changed little since they were invented, back in the 1880s. Consequently, disruptive smartphones grab attention through functions, while cars benefit from highlighting that often little more than cosmetic upgrades.
- Pick the perfect key phrase (with some expert help from Google), making sure that it spotlights a characteristic of interest to your audience: safer or more exciting, cheaper or more expensive, throwaway or lifelong. With your favorites shortlisted, plug them into the free UberSuggest keyword tool, to discover roughly how they rank with search engines.
- Spotlight the benefit to the consumer, by tapping into a general and then a specific desire: happiness, prosperity, success, achieved by losing weight, buying a sports car, or learning a new skill.
- Enhance credibility with brain candy, aka facts, figures, and percentages: Nine out of ten housewives prefer…, Seven easy ways to….
- Buddy up to consumers with free tips and tools, strategies, and secrets, making readers feel privileged and special: The Insider’s Guide to Plumbing; Dog Training Secrets.
- Add human touches to build emotional connections, as flashes of humor, sympathy, or even outrage bring consumers on to your side, feeling safe, welcome, and understood by your brand.
- Sneak in some metadata in a brief sentence directly under the headline, using your key phrase, stressing a reader benefit related to a targeted desire:
- Keep It short, so your entire headline fits onto the Google search page. Calculated by pixels rather than characters, test every version with the Mars Title Tag tool until you reach the perfect combination that keeps every snappy buzzword on full display.
After all that positive advice on what to do, it’s time for a few warnings. Here’s a list of things to avoid at all costs:
- Clickbait, as tempting headlines, lure readers into articles that break the original promise of providing entertainment, education, or emotion. Guaranteed trustbusters, clickbait is one of the fastest ways of downgrading your brand through pushing too hard for meaningless metrics;
- Long hashtags, as these topic-clustering links are designed to reflect trends, rather than promoting specific benefits or serving as #ChannelsForExpressingComplexThoughtsInDetail;
- Random tags, as your brand’s welcome, can wear out really fast among its target audiences. Instead, stay on the safe side, tagging people only when you are confident that these notifications will be welcome. In fact, consider sending emails instead, as they are generally viewed as far less intrusive;
- Sharing plugins that are self-mentioning, rather than linking by default to company websites, blogs, or articles. Ideally, writers could also be mentioned as well, for higher professional profiles and broader social media integration;
- Uploading at random times, assuming that your followers will log in to their social media accounts at some point. That’s because posting content while your audience is online is a simple way of extending your organic reach. Obviously, each network and every target audience have their own peak times – with low-cost polls feeding seamlessly into placement schedules. Here’s a cheat sheet:
Takeaways: Newsfeed algorithms on almost all social networks display newly uploaded posts to tiny test audiences. If likes, shares, retweets, and comments burgeon, their earned reach expands rapidly, encouraging social networks to share them even more widely. And when rising interest generates expanding engagement, marketers know their latest post has hit the branding jackpot!