27 Mar 2018

Tips for Writing Viral Headlines

Viral headlines. We’ve all seen them. They reel you in with a title you just can’t help but to click. But what is actually in a viral headline? How do companies, blogs and websites always manage to come up with headlines that draw the reader in time after time? Is there a science behind it? The answer may surprise you!

But before we delve into the how’s of viral headlines or more jokes, it’s first important to understand the why. Why do people share articles and posts on social media? What could the driving force be behind why they click articles that promise to tell them the Top 10 Tips for Meeting New People? The reasons lie in the field of psychology and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid that details the needs of each person and in what priority order they are, starting with physiological needs such as food and water up to self-actualisation, which is the need for a sense of purpose, acceptance and a moral code. It is this last need within the Hierarchy that is important when looking into why people click or share viral headlines. People view and share articles and posts on social media as a way of meeting this need. A way of sharing with their world the kind of person that they are, the morals and ethics that they hold and the things that are important to them. When sharing such content, people will take into account what the main headline is of the article and what is says about them as a person. If it portrays them as a helpful, interesting or moral individual then they are more likely to share the content on their social media which will increase the number of people that the content is exposed to. This is extremely important to remember when considering viral headlines, as the headline needs to be relatable and say something positive about an individual if the intent is for it to be shared around via social media. Whether it be a How To guide for dealing with emotions, a shock article about UFO’s and conspiracy theories or a highly biased political article, the headline is a flashing advertisement that will be used to judge the character of the person who is sharing it.

So, what’s in a viral headline? Here are some top tips for writing viral headlines that are tried and tested to bring success.

Make it educational and informative

A typically successful type of viral headline is one that is simple, easy to understand and gives off the impression that the reader will be educated or informed in some way. An example of this type of article are How To articles that guide the reader through a process step by step. It could be anything from dying their hair to starting a Youtube channel, it just needs to offer the reader the chance to achieve a desired outcome.

Example headlines: How To Tie-Dye Your Clothes in 5 Easy Steps, How To Become a Voice Actor, The Best Way to Lose Weight in Less Than A Month, How To Write a Viral Headline perhaps?

Stir up emotion

Otherwise known as infectious agents (probably Russian). Use buzz words and high trigger words to elicit emotional responses such as anger, shock, joy, fear or desire. These emotions can be triggered in various different ways, such as through a challenge or a promise. An example of this could be a headline that claims that it will prove something to the reader or change their opinion in some way. A clever use of words can conjure up a certain imagery or impression which may intrigue the reader to check out the article or feel that they must read on to know more.

Example headlines: 15 Quotes That Will Change Your Life, Why Quitting Your Job and Moving to Australia is a Bad Idea, How Drinking Energy Drinks Can Shorten Your Life Span.

Keep on trend

What this really means is, what’s hot at the time of writing the article? Has a new Netflix Original show come out? Maybe there’s a new fashion trend or a political election coming up. Whatever the latest trend or popular topic is, cater to it. Sometimes you can have a fantastically written article, but if it’s posted at the wrong time, it can be a flop. Use Google, newspapers and social media to keep up to date with what people are talking about and tailor your articles and headlines to these trends. Utilize popular culture to craft eye-catching viral headlines, even if the trend isn’t heavily featured in your article.

Example headlines: 9 Steps to Becoming as Successful as a Kardashian, Why Scientists Say Watching Game of Thrones Can Be Bad For Your Health, Hollywood Actors Then and Now.

Curiosity is your best friend

If you’ve been paying attention to some of the example articles posted under other tips, you might have found yourself wondering “Why DO scientists say watching Game of Thrones is bad for my health?” or “How great can these 15 quotes be that they claim to be able to have such a profound effect on my life?”. This is called the curiosity-factor. You want to give the reader enough to pique their interests but not enough to give away how relevant the content is going to be. You want to entice them in by raising their curiosity, and then deliver them the content that will fulfil the obligations you set out in the title, just perhaps not to the extent that they had expected.

The really wonderful thing about viral headlines is that they are subjective. Who’s to say someone’s life isn’t changed by those 15 quotes? Maybe moving to Australia was a bad idea for some who moved there . It’s down to individual interpretation how helpful or how much of an impact an article can have on their life. As long as you keep to these four simple tips for writing a viral headline, you’re certain to have success.

At Don’t Panic, we don’t just talk the talk – we’re busy walking the walk too. To see our work, click here, or if you’re after an attention-grabbing campaign of your own, click here.