(Guest post by Nitin Aggarwal)
Yes, people are always looking for interesting stories to read. That's why magazine racks are placed at the grocery checkout stands are designed to grab our attention with bold headlines like "Aliens Invade Tinseltown!" and headlines are read at the top of the hour on TV news.
I don't suggest sensationalist headlines unless that's the subject matter you are tackling, but your Twitter streams needs to stand out among the thousands. What you need is a concrete, "can't pass up" headline.
To write sizzling social media statuses on Facebook and Twitter, you need to offer a value proposition first. Will even reading this headline and then (possibly) clicking the link benefit me right now? It can be something amusing with no links to anything further like trivia about my breakfast cereals while I'm eating mine or it could be a longer distraction but one that is sure to transport me from the mundane. It could even be the solution to my writer's block with a new iPhone app download.
Whatever your headline promises, it needs to tell the reader what the promise is, then reward them by delivering on that promise if they perform what you are asking. All in all, the reader is in the "Me! Me! Me!" mindset.
Therefore, your headline must be useful to them, be urgent, be unique, and be targeted to them especially when dealing with specific industries and audiences. Of course, on Twitter, it also has to be short enough to accommodate the 140-character limit.
Twitter has actually taught us how to be interesting, persuasive, and unique in a short space. Not only does your headline have no room to spare when you post them, but additionally, you need to leave enough room for personal remarks if you want others to "retweet" or share them. This imposition actually is for the original poster to be credited appropriately.
Short headlines have actually been historically effective with a staggering 95% of headlines during the early days of print advertising only being less than eight words. These limitations were imposed by physical space limitations on magazines and newspapers.
Furthermore, direct mail too finds itself most effective when imposing the less than eight words imposition. In fact 50-60% response rates to direct mail even today are based on short headlines.
Web pages, particularly, are usually just scanned by readers who do not pay too much attention to content as they do to headlines, lists, and bullet points.
As I've mentioned, one of the values of keeping it short is not only because shorter attention spans, but also because by the very nature of social networks, you want your readers to share your pearls of wisdom to their own network.
In addition, you might also want to "retweet" other people's headlines to provide additional value to your followers. However, you might want to edit some headlines before you pass them on. Should you? Absolutely!
Not only will sharing valuable information benefit your readers, it will build your credibility as a source of useful content as well as your own. The edit will only help get the point across. Even if you totally rewrite a headline, it might just pull more people to read it.
Quality does not only apply to your content but to your headlines of your content as well, if it is ever to be touched.
So how do you cause a stir with your social media status updates? Are you getting the most out of social media ? What tips could we add for creating more engaging updates?