In our last blog post, we shared insights into writing the perfect B2B headline. Now it is time to take a look at B2C content. For this type of material, there are also certain phrases that boost engagement — that is, help generate more likes and shares. These phrases were identified and studied by BuzzSumo representatives who analysed 100 million article headlines shared on social media. The research examined articles from consumers and major publishers shared via Facebook and Twitter. It focused on three-word phrases, or so-called trigrams, from headlines published between the 1st March 2017 and 10th May 2017.
This is why you want to continue reading!
According to the data, here are the most popular trigrams on Facebook:
1. Will make you
2. This is why
3. Can we guess
“Will make you”, in the number one spot, generated twice as much engagement on the platform as “this is why”, in the number two spot. However, the difference between the number two and three spots was quite minimal.
The most popular headline is so effective because “will make you” promises to deliver something specific, affect how you feel about something or influence you in some other way. This activates human curiosity, especially when linked to something a person cares about deeply. Here are some typical headlines that use this trigram:
24 Pictures That Will Make You Feel Better About The World
6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person
13 Travel Tips That Will Make You Feel Smart
The high positions of the other two most engaging trigrams is also easy to explain. “This is why” is most often used in materials that are supposed to explain something — and probably give you some interesting tips. It also tries to speak to a person’s curiosity or need to gain knowledge. This phrase is most often used in headlines such as “This is why you should avoid doing [blank]” or “This is why women live longer than men”, which was the example given by BuzzSumo.
Meanwhile, the popularity of “Can we guess” stems from the sheer number of simple quizzes that are shared on Facebook. These range from “Can we guess your age?” to “Can we guess what you will look like in thirty years?” and so on.
What works on Twitter?
According to BuzzSumo data, the trigrams that are effective on Facebook are not necessarily effective on Twitter (with some exceptions). It is worth noting that “will make you”, which took first place on Facebook, came in fourth on Twitter. Here are the three most impactful phrases for Twitter:
1. This is what
2. For (the) first time
3. Things to know
In most cases, numbers work well in headlines. This is pretty easy to explain, as it is common knowledge that people simply like lists or even just content presented as a series of bullet points. Here are the best performing numbers on Facebook:
However, on another number-related note, there is no consensus about the number of characters or words that should be used to make a headline or post attractive, but we have published some research on this topic in one of our recent blog posts.
Shocking, but true
There is one more important thing to remember about writing a headline for social media. Emotional triggers work very well, so putting “tears of joy”, “goosebumps”, “shocking” or similar terms in a headline might seem like a good idea. But you should be careful with these words. Under new Facebook publishing guidelines, headlines like these could be considered clickbait. If this happens, Facebook might hide your otherwise perfect content from people’s feeds.
The above research should prove useful in writing headlines that increase the readership of your content. But there is one more piece of strong advice from the pros. Content expert Ann Handley recommends that you spend as much time writing the headline as you spent on your entire blog post. You may, of course, reduce this time a bit, but you really should think hard about your headlines. Remember that they can make or break even your very best content.