5 reasons why a headline goes viral
A headline might be a reader’s first – and only – contact with a brand, and many will keep skimming until they land on something that takes their interest.
Video content continues to rise in popularity. We have explored how marketers can connect with their video audience and drive strong engagements.
Download our whitepaper to learn more.
Content Marketing Specialist
Louise is an experienced content marketing professional who translates Isentia’s marketing strategy into impactful and effective marketing campaigns across multiple channels. As the Content Marketing Specialist for Isentia, Louise enjoys creating informative and engaging content for media and communications professionals.
Your submission was successfully received and someone will be in touch shortly.
A headline might be a reader's first – and only – contact with a brand, and many will keep skimming until they land on something that takes their interest.
If you aren't into the nitty-gritty of headlines, stop reading now. But if you want to be that content creator who writes the runaway headline, here's a snapshot of what some of the research has found.
Between 1 March and 10 May 2017, BuzzSumo analysed 100 million of the most shared article headlines on Facebook and Twitter, the platforms dominated by publisher and consumer content. Then in July, it published its analysis of 10 million B2B headlines – those shared on LinkedIn – and found that the best headline phrases, structures, numbers and lengths differed from the B2C results.
While previous research suggested that the first three and last three words were the important parts of a headline, the BuzzSumo research highlighted linking phrases as key for headlines targeting B2C audiences.
The three-word phrase – or trigram – that led the engagement charge (likes, shares, comments) was 'will make you'. In fact, on Facebook it had twice as many engagements as the trigram that took second place ('this is why'), followed by 'can we guess', 'only X in' and 'the reason is'.
BuzzSumo determined that the success of the 'will make you' phrase was based on it linking content to the emotional impact it will have on the reader – it sets you up to care ('will make you cry', 'will make you smarter', etc.).
It also found that headlines that provoke curiosity work well when readers are looking to learn something from an article. They are a little like the 'will make you' articles, but they tell you what you'll find out rather than what you'll feel.
The BuzzSumo research found that the top five phrases starting a B2C headline were:
The top five phrases ending a B2C headline were:
Admittedly, the second-place holder might not rate as well in Australia, but the five top-performing first words were:
So, what doesn't work for B2C audiences? The five worst-performing frequently used phrases were:
Confirming earlier Outbrain research, BuzzSumo found that 12 to 18 words and 80 to 95 characters had the highest engagement on Facebook.
In BuzzSumo's analysis of 10 million headlines of articles shared on LinkedIn, the practical and informative nature of how-to and list posts (see #3 below) proved to be strong performers in the top five most popular three-word phrases:
There was a clear frontrunner in the top two-word phrases starting headlines – 'How to…' was shared almost three times more on average than the second-place holder. The top two-word phrases starting B2B headings were:
Note that after the 'How to…' phrase, the next four most shared phrases were all forms of list posts, which gained more than double the average shares of ‘what’ or ‘why’ posts.
Celebrity brand names also garnered high levels of engagement. It makes sense that companies influencing the business environment and forging technological and business model innovation – like Uber, Google, Apple, Facebook, Tesla and Amazon – will have strong reader appeal. For example, nib's Ambulance or Uber: Who you gonna call?generated a lot of conversation on its Facebook page due to Uber's topicality.
At seven to 12 words, the optimum headline length for LinkedIn is much shorter than for Facebook.
In July 2017, CoSchedule founder Garrett Moon published results of an analysis that began with close to one million blog headlines – which were then put through various filters. The top takeaway was that list posts or listicles (headlines that start with a number) are "huge". Moon wrote they are "the most likely type of post to be shared 1000 or even 100 times". Interestingly, he also noted that "list posts only made up 5% of the total posts actually written".
The BuzzSumo research, confirming the power of lists and the list post format, found the six most effective numbers (in descending order) in B2C content are 10, 5, 15, 7, 20 and 6. In B2B content, the most shared numbers that start post headlines are 5, 10, 3, 7, 4 and 6, with 5 and 10 performing equally well. Note that how-to posts outstripped list posts in B2B.
CoSchedule's results show that list posts that they identified by the words 'thing', 'should' and 'reasons' – '5 things you can do…', '4 reasons why you should…' – do best on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
It's possible that this is due to a combination of clear promise (‘10 steps’, etc.) and the scannable nature of the post, where you can easily work out which bits you want to read.
While strong emotional headlines and those provoking curiosity may get you results, you need to rein in any urge to overstate.
In May 2017, Facebook announced it would demote “headlines that exaggerate the details of a story with sensational language” and those that aim “to make the story seem like a bigger deal than it really is.”
There may be some debate about what is and isn't clickbait, but there are two key points to consider. In the first place, the reader needs to feel encouraged to read. And in the second, they need to not be disappointed when they have finished reading.
There are no hard and fast rules. You always need to research what works for your audience, your topics and your social platforms, and to test your headlines. Different audiences will require different content and will be accessing it on different platforms. For example, Outbrain works for an editorial-led audience more than a business-specific audience.
In the interests of transparency, this headline isn't the first that came to mind. It's the result of trawling through this research.
Maybe we all need to take the advice of Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs: "Spend as much time writing the headline as you do an entire blog post or social post."
Belinda Henwood, Strategy & Content" ["post_title"]=> string(35) "5 reasons why a headline goes viral" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(159) "A headline might be a reader's first – and only – contact with a brand, and many will keep skimming until they land on something that takes their interest." ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(35) "5-reasons-why-a-headline-goes-viral" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2019-06-26 00:53:19" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2019-06-26 00:53:19" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(43) "https://isentiastaging.wpengine.com/?p=1842" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" }
A headline might be a reader’s first – and only – contact with a brand, and many will keep skimming until they land on something that takes their interest.
Is content marketing an art or a science?
It’s not a new debate but an increasingly relevant one. As technology continues to improve, the C-Suite is demanding a clearer measurement into impact. Marketing and communications professionals responsible for curating content are no longer governed by ‘gut feeling’ and instead, are increasingly driven by engagement metrics to demonstrate ROI.
These professionals are well aware how their role requires a mix of art and science thinking. They both draw from the left brain and the right brain, using data and reason to guide the creativity that fuels it.
But this relationship is less rigorously applied to content marketing – an emerging discipline that straddles both marketing and communications objectives.
Marketers and communications professionals have varying levels of social media sophistication – particularly with LinkedIn, which is often a core channel for content. With LinkedIn estimating more than 130, 000 posts are made on its newsfeed every week, organisations are increasingly turning to it as a distribution channel for thought leadership.
Far fewer, however, understand how to draw insight from the platform to ensure their content connects with their target audience.
Marketers and communications practitioners will often speak to me with this challenge solely in mind. Most are able to gauge the success of content on Facebook and Instagram to some level. Plenty of tools exist which measure various social aspects of content marketing, such as ‘likes’ or ‘shares’. But real engagement isn’t buzz. Determining whether content is connecting with a target audience is a key challenge.
Content marketers are struggling to understand whether their current LinkedIn strategy is working – whether it’s reaching the right audience and whether a piece of content is being actively engaged on the platform.
Other times, they will want to target a particular demographic; millennials for example. But they don’t have the understanding of what this group is looking for when they log onto this social networking site.
In short, what content marketers want to do is debunk the myths surrounding their own activity and drill down into strategy to make their dollars work harder.
Data is pivotal. Armed with information, marketers and communications professionals have a window into the opinions, passions and motivations of their audience.
At Isentia we’ve seen this in our own business. The Research & Insights stream has grown by 25 per cent in the last year, as this market recognises the importance of data. I’m often told by clients that they’re just at the start of their measurement journey, but still desperately rely on data to convince the C-Suite to spend money on content marketing.
Research & Insights can be used to help inform content marketing strategy by highlighting what brand-relevant topics an organisation’s audience is engaging with. It can also help content marketers understand where their brand sits against those their competitors, by measuring their share of voice on a particular topic.
But most importantly, data can help marketing and communications practitioners build out content itself. By understanding what type of content receives the most engagement on the platform, they can tailor their content strategies and measure their success at the same time.
Data is the key to debunking the myths of what does or doesn’t work in a content marketing strategy. It gives marketers and communications professionals the opportunity to ensure they understand their audience first and foremost, in order to communicate in a way that connects.
This is where science can help inform the art in content marketing.
Head of Insights, Australia
The Internet is saturated with content.
Content creators should strive to drive virality to emerge from the flood of online content. Viral content is not merely a popular piece, but it garners excessive engagement to outliers.
This paper explores some common factors of viral content.
If you would like more information about monitoring your content, get in touch with us today." ["post_title"]=> string(50) "Content virality: How to achieve social engagement" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(138) "Read on to find out how content creators can strategically create viral pieces to position their craft on the content-saturated Internet. " ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(56) "online-content-virality-how-to-achieve-social-engagement" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2020-01-23 02:58:50" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2020-01-23 02:58:50" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(35) "https://isentia.wpengine.com/?p=944" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" }
Read on to find out how content creators can strategically create viral pieces to position their craft on the content-saturated Internet.
In today's fast-paced world, audience intelligence is critical to crisis management. By understanding who your audience is and what they want, you can more effectively manage a crisis.
The constantly changing landscape of the internet and social media can make it difficult to stay ahead of the curve. Additionally, the vast amount of data available can be overwhelming and make it difficult to identify the most important information.
Getting a hold of the narrative in the media is crucial. It's inevitable that at some point, your brand will receive negative press. Whether it's a simple misunderstanding or a full-blown crisis, bad press can have a serious impact on your brand's progress.
On 21 September, there was a data breach of telecommunications company Optus where many of its customers’ information were compromised. In response, the company adopted a cautious and controlled approach in delivering its external communications.
However, the approach allowed the media as well as social media to swirl negative narratives about the company’s “inaction”. In the three weeks after the announcement that its databases had been hacked, there were more than 123,000 mentions of the company in the media.
In this instance, addressing a crisis quickly to minimize the impact on your business is critical. Seeing a spike in media coverage becomes a good barometer of how negative sentiment can escalate against your brand.
In another example, rising social media app BeReal suffered a shutdown in September. The app focuses on users being authentic in their posts by prompting them to post pictures of themselves at random times of the day. With almost 15 million downloads of its app in September alone, the shutdown caused a stutter in its communications approach.
With a single tweet acknowledging the shutdown of its service, users were left puzzled as to what had happened. Media queries were left unanswered. This silence by the social media platform led to high-profile news sites such as Yahoo and TechCrunch covering the shutdown.
This is a highly risky communication approach in an extremely competitive market of social media platforms. Social media giant TikTok rolled out its version of BeReal while Instagram has begun testing the function.
The lack of transparency during a crisis such as a shutdown can lead to negative publicity and a loss of trust in the company. If users are not given clear information about why an app is shutting down, they may feel ‘lost’ and ultimately lose them as users.
While it's impossible to completely avoid negative press, there are steps you can take to manage it and protect your brand's reputation.
In the hyper-speed age of information-sharing and social media, it's more crucial than ever to be open and honest with your audience.
When something goes wrong, don't try to hide it - own up to it and let people know what you're doing to fix the problem.
Being open and transparent will help build trust with your audience and show that you are committed to making things right.
When a crisis strikes your competitor, there is no time to revel in their troubles. On another day, the crisis could happen to your brand and the scrutiny would be as intense as it was for your competitors.
Take notes of what is happening in the media and quickly facilitate actions to counter any possible scrutiny that might come your way. These actions must be part of your crisis management plan.
In the high-speed world of audience intelligence, crisis management is essential to protecting your brand. Rapid response and proactive communication are key to mitigating the damage of a negative event.
By monitoring the conversations online and identifying potential risks, you can take steps to prevent a crisis before it happens. If a crisis does occur, having a plan in place will help you quickly contain the situation and protect your organisation's reputation.
Make sure you have a media monitoring function so that you can monitor the escalating spread of news. Additionally, a social media intelligence platform can identify topical discussions your audience are engaged in.
Crisis management is the process by which an organisation deals with a major disruptive event. It's critical to remember that in a crisis, your audience is seeking reassurance and guidance on the issues.
Therefore, it's essential that you don't argue, trivialise or act defensively. Instead, you need to be calm, informative and decisive in your actions. This will help to instill confidence in your audience and allay the media pressure to give you space to address the crisis.
The message you send out must be brief and informative in order to effectively manage the crisis. Getting involved in a large-scale debate is not advisable because it distracts your focus from finding solutions.
A brand crisis can be a very difficult situation to navigate. Your audience is interested in what you are going to do next and what will happen to them. It's important to keep your audience updated on what is happening and what you are doing to resolve the issue.
In the event of a crisis, it's essential to quickly identify your key audiences and address their concerns. For a fast-moving consumer goods or a services organisation, the customer comes first because they are the primary audience of interest.
It also depends on what type of crisis it's. If there is a workplace safety and security matter, it's better to address your employees first and reassure them on resolving the crisis.
Ultimately, it's best to identify key audiences and have various sources of information to implement this preemptive approach. From discovering communities in social media narratives to stakeholders of your business, keeping the flows of communication open is a priority.
In the event of a crisis, it's essential to effectively communicate with the authorities and the media. Provide updates to the media and work with authorities to ensure that they are kept informed of the situation. By having a good relationship with them, the crisis is managed effectively and the negative impact on your business is minimised." ["post_title"]=> string(44) "Crisis management with audience intelligence" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(131) "Crisis management is crucial for any brand. In today's social media-driven world, a brand crisis can quickly spiral out of control." ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(44) "crisis-management-with-audience-intelligence" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2022-11-24 04:02:02" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2022-11-24 04:02:02" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(32) "https://www.isentia.com/?p=20633" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" }