Newspapers have always tried to attract the public with provocative headlines, something that would catch a person’s eye at the newsstand. Social media is no different. With a deluge of content bombarding us day in and day out, it’s very easy for information to get lost, ignored or passed by. How do you make your message break through the clutter when you are competing with celebrity gossip, political rants, pictures of someone’s dinner, and those adorable puppies (you can’t compete with puppies; don’t try)? You tease your audience.


We know that it was curiosity that killed the poor cat, but it doesn’t stop humans from wanting a little more. People are curious by nature and reeling them in with a quick, catchy one-liner is often very effective in making them stop and want to know more. Teasers can work wonders in the short-attention-span society in which we live. A long, informative opener can tell the reader all they need to know, and they will likely move on with no engagement. But if you give them a little taste, an appetizer if you will, they will want the main course.  (DISCLAIMER: Don’t use food analogies)

It’s All in the Phrase

Using the right words is important when grabbing a reader’s attention. Buzzsumo.com did a recent study on headlines. Their research showed that three-word phrases were influential in gaining awareness. Phrases like “will make you,” “this is why” and “can we guess,” gained the most engagements. And phrases that tugged at the heart strings were also popular. “Tears of joy,” “make you cry” and “is too cute,” leave you wanting more. We are all suckers for a good tearjerker. But be careful that your headlines don’t venture into the dreaded world of clickbait.


“What happened next?” “Are freaking out?” “…talking about it.” We’ve all seen these phrases in headlines and we’ve all given in and clicked on them, only to be disappointed when the story falls short of expectations. And let’s not mention the annoying ads and pop-ups. Losing the trust of your audience with outrageous claims is not good for your brand. So, while you are reeling them in, make sure your content delivers on what is promised in your headlines. Provide real value in your content, and your audience will forgive a little hype. Don’t be the clickbait guy.

Be Creative, Not Corny

When coming up with your witty headline, the last thing you want from your audience is a collective groan. Be smart. Be funny. Don’t be corny. Remember, you are trying to tease them and not give away the story. Have faith that they will be intrigued enough to want more without spoon-feeding them.

A good headline and even better content to back it up will win over your audience every time.