Social Media Headlines Taking ...


I wrote about this issue last year, “Aliens Converge on Sioux Fall, South Dakota in Quest of Killer Headline.”

Given the ceaseless bombardment of information, anyone looking for an online audience increasingly thinks of headlines as a form of eye candy.

I experience the gravitational pull myself.

One quick example –

The headline for a post on The Sunday Times not full capitalizing on J.K. Rowling sharing a new perspective on the Harry Potter read as follows:

The initial tweet went out with the same words.

Yet, it wasn’t long before my tweets degraded to:

  • “Big Whiff by The Sunday Times on the J.K. Rowling ‘Confession’” and “The Sunday Times Misses the Broomstick on J.K. Rowling ‘Confession’”

At least I didn’t go full National Enquirer a la “J.K. Rowling gains 50 pounds troubled by Harry Potter’s romance.” The science seems to support that the more provocative – and negative I might add – the headline, the more the likely a reader will stop and click.

I got to thinking about this topic last week when the Subway story on removing a chemical called azodicarbonamide – now there’s a good addition for your next spelling bee – from bread blew up online. Check out how LinkedIn packaged the headline as part of its Pulse (push) newsletter.

LinkedIn headline for Subway scandal news

If you click on the LinkedIn headline, it takes you to the actual USA Today story below:

USA Today article on Sunday bread scandal

What a difference.

Yes, I recognize I’m a word geek, but there’s no denying that the headline pushed by LinkedIn, “Subway to Remove Chemical Used in Shoe Rubber From its Bread” is 10X more damning than the headline “Subway to Remove Chemical from Bread” that kicked off the actual story.

It smacks of sensationalism.

Because again, studies on people’s attention amid the crush of social media postings have concluded that that’s what it takes to grab a reader by the scruff of the virtual neck.

Ernest Hemingway’s micro fiction, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” is generally recognized as literary genius. I don’t think those six words would earn even a single retweet or like in today’s social media extravaganza.

Now, something along the lines, “Walk away: Miley’s shoes, too far” and we’ve got a mashup of celebrity and intrigue. That plays.


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