It doesn’t really matter whether you’re a big company writing for your company Twitter feed, or if you’re a small business trying to reach out to more customers via social media.  There is one question that many people have been asking for a while now.

“How can I write great headlines for social networks like Facebook and Twitter?”

In reality, this topic is a bit tricky, as the accuracy for what works best can be difficult to nail down.  Granted, there are specific techniques that can be used for postings and article headlines everyday, there is some cutting edge research to be had.

One site, has compiled all the research that’s been done for the Buffer social accounts and their blogs, as well as some of the best research out there, and put them all into one helpful guide.

What Works Best On Twitter?

Getting a headline that works for your Tweet is really important, as Twitter will only allow for text to be displayed.  The best way to find the correct headlines, is to do it scientifically.  In essence, test it and learn for yourself what works.

When using Twitter, you can experiment using the A/B testing method to find the right headline.  A/B testing on social can be quite challenging.  But, there is still a way to get reliable data in this fashion.  Here’s how to do it.

  1.  Find two headlines for your article that you feel will perform well.
  2. Tweet them both, but about one hour apart.  Doing the two tweets both in the AM or PM work the best.  Going with a clear “morning” or “afternoon” time is crucial.

Here’s an example of a recent Buffer blog post set of tweets:

First Tweet

Tweet 1

Second Tweet

Tweet 2

Clearly, the second tweet did better than the first one.  The second tweet was even identified as a top tweet.  Obviously, the second headline got double the number of clicks.  In the end, this is a pretty easy call for which headline to pick, which turned out to be a great decision.  Because of the headline improvement, the article still spreads like wildfire.

One way to figure out how to be scientific about how to do headlines is to look at public research data.  What is good general guideline on which words to include in tweets?  Use more verbs and less nouns, of course!

Use Action Words

Some examples of action words and phrases you can use to increase traffic from your Twitter feed include:

  1. Asking for a download.  In a tweet, you can state “Click here to download!”  According to Twitter, this increases your clicks by about 13%.
  2. Ask for a retweet.  According to Dan Zarrella, “Tweets in timelines with an ask to retweet increased Retweets by an average of 311%.”

The 20 Most Retweetable Words

Although you should try optimizing your tweets for CTR, and not for retweets, you can’t truly separate the two.  This list clearly shows which words you can include in your tweets that tend to be in the most retweeted Tweets.

  • you
  • twitter
  • please
  • retweet
  • post
  • blog
  • social
  • free
  • media
  • help
  • please retweet
  • great
  • social media
  • 10
  • follow
  • how to
  • top
  • blog post
  • check out
  • new blog post

Facebook Postings

When you approaching a Facebook profile or page, how you deal with headlines are very similar to Twitter.  The underlying elements of Facebook couldn’t be any more different as a medium than Twitter.

Besides all the research and headlines, the key to knowing what works for Facebook is to test, just like with Twitter.  As an example, many would say that “post pictures” aren’t very helpful at all.  One assumption that has been validated on some Facebook pages many times over is this:

“Post pictures that are meaningful without having to read any text next to it.

Here are two pictures, both from Buffer, that can help explain it the best.  Both of them were shared at the same time, but on two different days during the week.

Example 1:

Facebook 1

Example 2:

Facebook 2

As you can tell by looking at the number of likes on both pictures, the first one is clearly the winner.  In the first picture, the picture is telling the whole story.  The second picture, you’re not really sure what’s going on.  Here is a simple rule to follow if you are wondering what picture you should post, or shouldn’t post, to Facebook:

“Posting pictures to Facebook only works well, if the pictures are self-explanatory.

Based on Buffer’s social analytics, the ones that perform the best are the ones where the picture is self explanatory.

Friday 24th

Wednesday 22

KISSmetrics put it the best way, showing that this counts for likes, clicks, shares and comments alike:

Photos Get 53 Percent

When you look at the length of Facebook posts, there are some interesting findings that you should be following.  Basically, keep it short to increase your engagement!

Posts with 80 chrs

Also, did you know that self-reference works wonders when you’re posting on Facebook?  On Twitter, this won’t work as well.  The more you mention “I”, the more likes you can get!

Self Referance