Five ways to increase popularity on social media

Are you tired of posting updates on Facebook that notch up only a handful of likes, mainly from team members or friends and family?

Maybe now is the time to learn from clickbait websites that delve the depths of the human psyche to compose the most compelling, click-me headlines for social media.

Marketing analysts BuzzSumo studied the 100 million headlines in March and April this year that generated the most engagement on Facebook and Twitter in terms of likes, shares, clicks and comments.

We cannot apparently resist a list, with “X reasons why…” and “X things you…” the most effective phrases to start your headline if you want to gain traction online. But what should X be? The study shows that 5, 10 and 15 are hands-down the most clickworthy. “Ten reasons” listicles doing the rounds on Facebook include: “Ten reasons why successful people do not thrive at school”, aimed at unhappy students and listing the likes of Winston Churchill, whose career at Harrow was notorious.

Currently, single words most likely to get a reaction at the start of a headline are “Trump”, “You” and “New”, unfortunately reflecting the effect the US president is having on us all, and our obvious interest in ourselves and novelty.

The team found that by far the most powerful three-word phrase for use anywhere in a headline was “will make you”. For example, the highly successful “Six harsh truths that will make you a better person”. Those truths – which have been viewed more than 25 million times on the Cracked website – include: “The world only cares about what it can get from you.” The will-make-you headline format sets out why the reader should care about the content.

The importance of tugging on the readers’ heartstrings is evident in the report, with the phrases “tears of joy”, “make you cry”, “give you goosebumps” and “melt your heart” ideal for gaining readers’ attention. However, we like our cheap thrills too. The research cities “freaking out” headlines as particularly effective in this category. For instance: “Fans are FREAKING OUT over this pic of Kylie Jenner.”

Finally, another emerging trend is the “tribal” headline, appealing to very specific groups; for instance, “Nine things only girls who grew up with older brothers will understand”.

Thoughts of short should go out of the window. The optimum headline length was 12 to 18 words. By this standard, the much-clicked (and untrue) “E-cigarettes found to have ten times more cancer causing ingredients than regular cigarettes” is quite short.

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