Category: Research

Findings that can guide communication efforts.

Gotcha! Writing Great Headlines

Your content headline is a gotcha moment. It is the line of text that typically determines if someone will read your content or move on. When it comes to writing great headlines, the challenge is part art and part science.

The Science: Headline Research

Nielsen Norman Group does research to offer sound advice on all things related to websites. Their advice on headline writing, “Headings Are Pick-Up Lines: 5 Tips for Writing Headlines That Convert, ” is practical:

  • Make sure the headline works out of context.
  • Tell readers something useful.
  • Don’t succumb to cute or faddish vocabulary.
  • Omit nonessential words.
  • Front-load headings with strong keywords.

All sound recommendations. But this isn’t the whole formula. It omits the art of a great headline.

The Art: Grabbing Your Readers

The art side of great headline writing may follow or break some of the rules, but the result is a compelling line of text that gets people to click through to read more. These are the headlines that we see shared on social media, again and again.

So, while “you won’t believe what happened next,” may fall under cute or faddish vocabulary, it can be the line that makes someone dive into your content. “Awesome” may be over-used, but it signals a passion and excitement for the topic at hand that can draw people in. And, all the content labeled as “jaw-dropping,” really isn’t, but if that gets more eyeballs on the content it can’t be all bad.

The right language and tone in headlines are largely dependent on your content and your target audience. But don’t follow the “rules” at the expense of your gut on what might draw people into your content. Pay attention to views and open rates to help you understand what resonates with the people you want to reach.

Great Headlines Connect You

The headline is the entry to the content we want to share. A great headline makes someone want to dive in and read more. It connects you with your audience.

Pay attention to your headlines. They are the shortest but most important part of your content, worthy of as much of your time as you put into the content they introduce. Make sure they are doing all that they can to engage your audience with your content.


Proven Ways to Test Your Content

All the content you develop for your audience can be made better by user testing. Yet, this is a step we often skip because it seems hard to do. Here are some strategies to consider to test your content in a way that gets the best results.

Recruit the Right Participants

You should always aim to test your content with people that align with your target audience. The people evaluating your content should truly be representative of your audience demographics, mindset, situation, and goals. Whether content works well depends heavily on who it’s written for.

The best feedback comes from people who react from their first hand, actual experiences. Asking people to imagine something applies to them is not nearly as effective.

Tailor Tasks

You don’t have to give every tester the same content. Consider the tester and give them content that they are best able to react to. Prepare some generic questions, but be willing to modify or craft new ones on the spot as you learn more about the participant’s situation. Pertinent questions will lead to the best insights and feedback.

Similarly, allow the focus of the user input to change. You may want to focus on one piece of content, but if the user’s interest leads to other items explore those as well. You don’t want to frustrate someone whose interest your have piqued. Share what they want, and be open to the additional insights that will bring.

Social Media Becoming an Expected Source for Customer Service

I’ve noticed lately that people expect (demand, really) customer service from brands on social media. Is your social media monitoring and management plan up to the challenge?

Research Shows Expectations

First, some data. Sprout Social’s latest “Index Report” finds a disconnect between consumer expectations of brands on social and how brands prioritize their channels. Consumers increasingly expect great customer service on social, according to the report, which surveyed over 1,000 consumers and 1,000 marketers for the study. Social media is the most-preferred channel for consumers to share feedback about a product or service (31%) and raise customer service issues or questions (33%), with nearly half (47%) saying strong customer service is the top trait that makes a brand best-in-class on social.


First Hand Proof

Like many people, I’m still dealing with the fallout of canceled travel plans in 2020. I recently got a notice that credit for one airline was expiring. Since air travel is still iffy these days, I wanted to ask for an extension. Tried to email, no response. Tried to call, hours later, no resolution. Tweeted about the issue and, voila! expiration extended.

Wow again.

Customer Service on Social

You likely aren’t as large as the airline in my story, but their customer service response on Twitter is making me and other consumers look at social media as a platform for getting help from brands.

Moving away from social is as risky for brands as not having a customer service strategy on the platforms. The Sprout Social data also found that nine out of 10 consumers will buy from brands they follow on social, and 86% will choose that brand over a competitor, while 85% will buy from that brand more often. If you are not on social, all of these opportunities fall to 0%.

It’s time to look at how to provide customer service on your brands social channels. What can you offer? What response time can you provide? What resources will you apply to the effort? These and other questions need to be asked and answered.

Just as you have an online marketing strategy, define your online customer service strategy. Map out what you will do and commit to following the plan. Then, let your social audience know how they can engage with you for customer service. Often, setting the right expectations is the key to success.