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Why headline writing is so important in social media

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One of my favorite Twitter follows has to be @darthvader. Granted, the concept is a little played at this point–the premise of someone taking a fictional character and tweeting as if he/she were that character. But, Darth Vader has kept it going for quite a while now. And the tweets are still pretty damn good.

Or, what about the @bpglobalpr account? Serious topic, but pretty funny stuff each day, right?

What do these two Twitter accounts have in common? Their ability to write incredibly funny, engaging and compelling headlines that inspire retweets and shares.

Think about it: On Twitter, what inspires you to RT certain posts?

If you’re browsing through your Google Reader, what stops you in your tracks and makes you click through to the full post?

If you’re browsing your Facebook News Feed, why do you comment on some post versus others?

I’ll tell you why. Headlines.

OK, so maybe headlines aren’t the only reason why you RT, click through and comment, but they play a major role in what and why we share online.

Think about your activity on Twitter for a moment. How many times do you read the headline (tweet) and retweet without ever clicking through to the post? I polled my Twitter community recently and the number of people who take this approach is higher than you might think.

What about your blogging? Chances are, a decent amount of your readership accesses your blog through a reader of some sort. That means they’re most likely sifting through a huge number of posts every day. You need to stop them in their tracks and make them click through to your post. A strong, compelling headline can do that.

Point is, you may have the best blog post idea or tweet in the world, but if you don’t write a good headline, no one will ever know.

So yeah, headline writing is important. And, it takes practice, just like anything else.

Below are a few tips and processes to improve your headline writing on the social networks you’re active on:

* Write 10 headlines for every blog post. This is one I used to do and need to revisit. Writing 10 different headlines for each post forces you to think differently about how to best “sell” your post. Think about SEO and keywords. Think about different ways to position your post–whether it’s a question or a statement. Chances are, in those 10 headlines, you’ll have a winner. And, you’ll get very proficient at writing stellar headlines quickly.

* Stop retweeting–create your own content. I’m not saying you should stop sharing other people’s content. What I’m saying is that instead of a straight retweet (copy and paste), why not add your two cents to the mix by creating your own tweet? By forming your own headline, you’ll have the ability to add your opinion to the tweet and stand out from the crowd. And, it will force you to write headlines–instead of just retweeting a post. Try it for a week and watching how much better your headline writing gets.

* Create unique headlines for LinkedIn. Do you syndicate your blog content on LinkedIn? Instead of just clicking the LinkedIn button on Tweetdeck (or other Twitter app), take a few minutes and create a unique headline, specifically targeted for your LinkedIn audience. Remember, this is a more business-like audience–treat them that way. Again, this will force you to practice your headline writing–in a slightly different way.

I know there are a bunch of writers out there–what other tips would you suggest?

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