Steal this Headline Swipe File to Get More Clicks from Social Media [Free Download]

December 19,2013 by
Russ Henneberry

Here’s the trick to funneling traffic off of the social web.

Write better headlines.

Sure, you need to be participating in conversations and engaging with customers, prospects and partners on social media.

But sites like Twitter and Facebook are an endless flow of information snippets, each with the life expectancy of a fruit fly. If your goal is to encourage a click from a social site to a landing page or a piece of content you will need to learn to write status updates that get clicks.

Consider this tweet from HubSpot…

HubSpot Tweet

Eight words and a link. HubSpot knows that this headline will get clicks to their webinar landing page.  It makes a webinar offer with a promise to gain mastery of LinkedIn for marketing. It’s a good headline.

In this article, we’ll use examples from Twitter for two reasons:

  1. Twitter status updates have an incredibly short lifespan.  If your update doesn’t trigger an immediate click, it’s usually lost forever.
  2. Twitter’s 140 character count limit puts anyone that understands the fundamentals of good headline writing at an advantage.
That said, mastery of these headline fundamentals will improve much more than your social media marketing.

Headlines are fundamental to digital marketing

Writing better headlines will get more clicks from social media, but that’s just the beginning.

Understanding the art and science of compelling headlines is a staple of digital marketing. It will improve your results in nearly every aspect of your marketing including,

  • Sales Page headlines
  • Presentation titles
  • Book/Report titles
  • Blog Post titles
  • In-person sales communications
I could easily go on and on because understanding how to write great headlines is about understanding why people take action.  Why they say “yes.”
And, if you’re in marketing — you are in the business of getting people to say “yes.”

Great headlines usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • Social Proof (Piggyback)
  • Threat
  • Gain
Let’s address these one at a time and at the end of this article you can download our headline swipe file.  This swipe file is filled with proven formulas that will get you more clicks from Twitter and more action from all aspects of your digital marketing.

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Social Proof (Piggyback) Headlines

Smart marketing almost always incorporates social proof, the propensity for people to make choices based on the choices that other people make.

The more people making that choice and the more influential those people are, the more influential the social proof.

Consider these headlines,

  • Why 1000’s of Bostonians Will Gather in Boston Common on December 8th
  • What Dr. Oz Eats for a Midnight Snack
  • The New WordPress eCommerce Plug-In Everyone is Talking About
The 1st and 3rd headlines are common social proof headlines while the 2nd is a Piggyback headline.  The headline piggybacks off of the popularity of Dr. Oz.
Consider this tweet containing a piggyback headline from Brian Clark at Copyblogger.

Threat Headlines

Often, people will be more motivated to take action to avoid pain than gain a benefit.

Well crafted threat headlines, like the following, incorporate the promise that you’ll be able to protect yourself from a threat if you take action.

  • The Big Lie Hiding in your Apartment Rental Contract
  • Warning: Don’t Buy Another Ounce of Dog Food Until you Read This
  • Is Your Child’s Mattress Harmful to their Health?
Take a look at this tweet from Jon Morrow. Those in the digital marketing industry will want to know how to stay in Google’s good graces.

Tweet with threat headline

Gain Headlines

The easiest way to craft a headline is to simply state the benefit and make a promise that, if the person takes action, they will gain this benefit.

  • Who Wants Quiet, Well-Behaved Kids?
  • Give Me 10 Minutes and You’ll Be a Master at Tuning Your Guitar
  • If You Can Boil Water You Can Make These 10 Delicious Tapas Recipes

This tweet from KISSMetrics makes a simple promise that you will gain knowledge about getting sign-ups without a marketing budget.

3 simple ways to improve your headlines

You’ve got an understanding of the headline categories and the traffic you are getting from social media will increase exponentially if you apply these principles.

Here are three other ways you can improve your ability to drive action from your headlines.

1 – Add the words “how to”

This is a common mistake and it’s easy to correct.

Often I see tweets and other headlines that are statements. Remember that a good headline or tweet contains a promise that, if you click, the promise will be fulfilled.

In many cases, adding the words HOW TO to an existing headline will be a dramatic improvement which can turn a statement into a promise.

For example, here is a fantastic how-to tweet from a start-up software company called Bidsketch,

Remove the HOW TO from the tweet and it reads,

Apply the 80/20 Principle to Your Freelance Business [LINK]

This headline doesn’t make a promise, it makes a statement. Add the words HOW TO and you’ve got a promise, and a good headline.

2 – Communicate time

One of the questions people will have when they read your headline is — how long will it take to fulfill the promise in the headline?  

One way to improve your click through rate is to communicate some aspect of time in your headlines.

Take a look at this tweet from Hiten Shah,

Based on this headline, I don’t think this is going to be a quick read.  If I don’t have the time, I’m unlikely to click on this link.  On the other hand, if I’m looking for a thorough exploration of this subject, I’m going to click and get settled in for a lengthy piece of content.

Notice how different this tweet would communicate the aspect of time,

A Single, Simple Trend That Will Dominate America’s Future [LINK]

This tweet gives me the sense that this will be a short, concise piece of content that I can consume in a few minutes.

3 – Add fascination

Adding a layer of fascination to your tweets and other headlines can lead to huge increases in engagement.

The key is to tie a gain or threat to something that is seemingly unrelated. These headlines make a promise but also tease the reader with curiosity.

Here’s a great example from Jon Morrow,

Jon makes a relevant, traditional promise: boost conversion rate on a budget.  But the addition of MacGyver to the headline adds a layer of fascination.

Unbounce applies the same fascination formula to this tweet,

Unbounce Tweet

How to use the headline swipe file

One way to use these headline formulas is to simply copy and paste them verbatim, filling in the blanks to match your circumstances.

That’s ok if you’re just getting started. But a better and more powerful way is to print them and then study them.  Read through each one, pausing to consider why the headline works.

When you do this you will begin to truly synthesize the fundamentals of writing great headlines. If you do this, you will find yourself accessing the swipe file less and less for inspiration.

Also, make it a part of your process to copy and paste good headlines into your swipe file. You’ll start to build up a headline swipe file full of inspiration for the next time you need a jumpstart writing a social media update, blog post title or sales letter headline.

Become a student of great headline formulas and all aspects of your digital marketing, including social media marketing, will improve.

Download your copy of the Headline Swipe File here

Digital Marketer Lab Member Extra

Access your ‘Increase Engagement With Facebook Promoted Posts’ Execution Plan in Digital Marketer Lab.

New to Facebook Advertising? Start here with Facebook Promoted Posts.

Click here to access your Execution Plan

Not a Lab member? Click here to learn more about DM Lab


About Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.

View all Posts by Russ Henneberry