Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is That Your Best Line?

Because I'm a writer, I often click on links to writing productivity ideas and tools and insights for making my writing better. While clicking on a few of these links, I found some good information on subject lines and lead-ins.

Defining the Term

By better writing, I mean writing social media posts. We can all use tips on writing better blog posts, better appeal letters, better grants, but that's not the focus here. Social media gives you a better opportunity to reach a larger audience, but the price it comes with is the description or the tweet, or the words containing the link. Also, for the purpose of this blog post, I consider an email subject line and the text you use to get someone to click a tweeted link or a Pinterest picture to be the same.

If you were going to use one of these as your subject line in an email or to lead in to a link on a Twitter post, which would you choose?
Help make a child's dream come true
This child needs you
Well, according to SurveyMonkey, if you chose the first one, you'd already be under a handicap because it contains the word 'help'.

Leaving aside such icky terms as 'best practices', what kinds of things are clickable?

Telling is Clickable

As SurveyMonkey points out, in their post takeaway, 'don't sell what's inside, tell what's inside'. I'll second that. I get what looks like an endless parade of subject lines for newsletters in my inbox and I don't bother to open most of them. Use the subject line to tell me why I should. Don't tease me. And while we're at it, keep that subject line fairly short (SurveyMonkey says 50 characters or less is good to aim for). My Gmail screen won't give me much more than that in the preview, so if you haven't got me by then, you probably won't.

Emotion is Clickable

You want me to do something - make a donation, volunteer, spread the word. But you need to engage me, first. Get me to care and I will open your newsletter or click your link. Once I've done that, I am one step nearer to making that donation or signing up to volunteer. And I will certainly retweet or share or post on Tumblr. MobLab says you should go for a reaction, and I'll say that it applies as much to subject lines and link descriptions as it does to video. And note that they also say that though a strong, positive emotion is 30% more likely to result in sharing, the most important thing is the strength of the emotion. I don't believe this applies as much to descriptions and link lead-ins as it does video because you have a lot less time to make an impression using text versus pictures. But keep it in mind as you're developing that text - the stronger you can make it emotionally, the better.

Self-Interest is Clickable

Even though people want to help, helping is not as much of a driver as you might think (witness SurveyMonkey's data on low click-through for the word 'Help'). You will be more likely to get the shares you want if sharing the item will reflect nicely on the person sharing it. MobLab says that data shows that getting people to watch a video is all about emotion, getting them to share it is all about their own personality - the "viewer's desire to achieve personal gain from sharing the video." I interpret this as making the content different or interesting or compelling enough that the sharer will feel happy about having 'discovered' it and want to share it with friends and family. And here's the thing: your content can be all that, but if you haven't gotten them to view it, it's wasted.

Telling, emotion, self-interest - that's a lot to keep in mind when putting together a very short lead-in to a Tweet or even a slightly longer Pinterest image description or G+ or FB description. Don't force it, but definitely try to keep these things in mind as you're sending your small nonprofit's communications out into the social world. In an environment where you are competing against really big nonprofit players for a share of quicksilver attention spans in a fast moving stream, every word can count.

PS: Interested in what Adestra has to say about subject line keywords? Go here.

Related Article: Foolproof Formula to Incredibly Catchy Blog Titles

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