While headline optimization is all the rage on the page, it’s easy to forget that the copy of your social media updates is actually what many readers see before they decide to click on your content.
This inspired The Huffington Post’s editorial team to craft a vision for how the two can work together—headline and social copy—in a way that gets the most visitors to the page and makes their content uber-sharable.
“It’s all about framing the story while still compelling people to click the link,” says Jessica Leader, a content strategist at The Huffington Post. “If it’s a list with facts, I’ll use some of the facts—or I’ll tweet a teaser. A lot of times we’ll ask questions.”
Leader often works with other editors, managing editors, and reporters to workshop an article’s headline. From there, it’s time to optimize that piece of content for maximum engagement on different social networks.
Twitter, she says, “takes the most social strategy.” With the limited character count and no embedded article preview, you have to do a lot in 140 characters to get readers to click without feeling like they just got manipulated by clickbait. Leader advises social strategists to “give people enough information that they don’t feel tricked and understand what the content is, but without giving them the whole story, so they feel compelled to click through.”
Content on Twitter also needs to play into people’s real-time feeds, whereas articles on Facebook can come and go for days. Additionally, Facebook displays article previews and allows you to customize the headline. Leader often adjusts the accompanying copy accordingly.
“Because you already see the headline and the picture, a lot of times our [Facebook] content is a lot more pithy,” she explains. “I want people to get more of our voice so they trust the voice and they align with what we align with.”
She has specific strategies for different article types. “Sometimes it will be something as easy as ‘being a lady is awesome’ for an article about ways women are crushing it right now,” says Leader. “Other times, when you have list of things, we’ll frame them in a way that will interest people. We know people are already seeing the headline on Facebook, so we’ll highlight one fact, like ‘#3 is such and such.’”
First impressions are crucial. It all comes back to communicating the narrative for the piece in that initial interaction. “The main strategy is to try and consider the platform and how people ingest information, which changes how much to give versus how much to hold back. Readers like to know there’s a person behind the content—not just a robot.”