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A scientific guide to writing great headlines on Twitter, Facebook and your Blog - The Buffer Blog

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This article has a lot of useful tips and advice for people publishing on social media!

Worth multiple reads; I'm quoting my favorite parts from the article below...

What works best on Twitter? Testing headlines:

Finding the right headline for your Tweet is one of the most important things to do, especially as Twitter only allows for text display.

Whilst there is a ton of data out there on which words to use and how to write headlines, the best way to do anything truly scientifically, is to test and learn yourself.

Test it yourself – here is howFor Twitter, we’ve experimented with A/B testing the right headline. A/B testing on social is arguably very hard. Yet we’ve found it’s possible to still get reliable data that way. Here is how we approached this:

1.)  Find 2 headlines for an article that you think will perform well.

2.)  Tweet both of these headlines at roughly the same time, at least 1 hour apart. Here I’ve found that doing the 2 Tweets both in the AM or both in the PM works best – 9am is much more similar to 10am, then say 12pm is to 1pm. So going with clear “morning” or “afternoon” times is crucial.

3.)  Compare the data for which headline to settle on.

You can use tweets and Facebook statuses to test headlines for blog posts, too.

Tweet or Share a headline first before you have a URL and see what kind of response you get.

If the response is not much, try again.

7 Rules of Social Media:

Basically: Connecting with people on social media does not entitle you to anything.

The 20 most retweetable words:

Now whilst at Buffer we generally try to optimize for CTR and not retweets, the two often go together and can’t be separated. Dan Zarrella published an amazing list that shows clearly which words tend to be in the most retweeted Tweets:

  1. you
  2. twitter
  3. please
  4. retweet
  5. post
  6. blog
  7. social
  8. free
  9. media
  10. help
  11. please retweet
  12. great
  13. social media
  14. 10
  15. follow
  16. how to
  17. top
  18. blog post
  19. check out
  20. new blog post

I think this is a great list, as it is consistent with general copywriting tips, that you’d find over at Copyblogger and also contains real data.

The best research on writing great blogpost titles:

Of course, there has been tons and tons of research on which article headlines spread the best. The single most comprehensive source I’ve found however comes from Iris Shoor. Iris and her companyTakipi have analyzed the top 100 blogs on the web and tried to figure out, which headlines work the best.

Here are her 3 top tips:

1. Give your readers numbers – the bigger the better

What they found is that the bigger a number in a post, the farther it spreads. Iris puts it more clearly with great examples:

  • Make lists : “8 reasons to…”, “15 tips to…” – Indicating a number of items on your post makes it sound more diverse, practical and easier to read.
  • Use digits rather than words – “10 ways to…” works better than “Ten ways to…”.
  • Place the number at the head of the sentence. “5 ways social networks are changing the world” will work better than “How social networks change the world in 5 ways”.

Of course, we can’t always make a list post for every article we write. In that case, the following might work:

2. Everyone wants to be taught: Use “Introduction”, “The beginners guide”, “In 5 minutes” and “DIY”

A key idea about writing great headlines that great copywriters have mastered for a long time, that Iris and her team underline also is to teach people something.

After all, we all want to get smarter. A common way to think about it is to make a lot of “How to” articles. The bad news is, that whilst they do teach people something, they don’t spread as far.

Instead, change it to something more specific, so people will know beforehand, what they will get.

An example:

  • Instead of: “How to get better at organizing your day.”
  • Try: “The 5 minute guide to organizing your day for more focus and productivity”

Being specific, whilst also showing that the article will be in depth, is one of the most important things to focus on.

3. General words that make posts more viral

Last but not least, Iris also offers us a list of different words, that, if used in the headline make for a big uptick in viral spread:

  • Smart,
  • Surprising,
  • Science,
  • History
  • Hacks (hacking, hackers, etc)
  • Huge/ big
  • Critical

Iris also offers some more great tips on this topic and the research methodology. Fortunately all of this seems to be in line with the top performing articles on our blog too.

I only quoted a few things; I repeat that the entire Buffer article is worth reading multiple times:

“Posting pictures to Facebook only works well, if the pictures are self-explanatory.”

The more you mention “I”, the more likes you can get, says Dan Zarrella.

Infographics play well on Facebook.

How to Get More Likes, Comments and Shares on Facebook and Twitter Infographic | Dan Zarrella


How to get more LIKEs on Facebook:

How to Get More Likes on Facebook - Infographic


Actually, it was not obvious that:

1. You should only post once a day.

2. You should only post 4 days a week.

3. You should post in the mid- to late- afternoon.

4. Questions get twice the engagement as statements.

One last time, you can find a lot more information on the Buffer blog:

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