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How I learnt not to “oversell” my content in headlines

What do you think happens, when your clever boyfriend gets tired of listening to you whining about your blog posts not being shared enough? Hah…*drumroll*… He sends you to a masterclass titled “How to Create Viral Content”! Joking aside, it turned out to be an extremely useful (and entertaining)  evening, where we got a chance to speak to a man whose job is to make things go viral – Luke Lewis, Editor of BuzzFeed UK.

For those not familiar with BuzzFeed (yep, I included a link, if you fancy checking it out!), it’s a unique media platform that is famous for snappy news comments, funny GIFs and silly quizzes that are specifically designed to be shareable. With over 150 million unique visitors every month (70% coming from social media websites), they are truly in a class of their own.

Here’s my attempt to summarise a 3-hour long seminar into a few digestible action points.

  1. Think before you re-post your content on social media

WordPress now offers a few tools to make it easier for us to automatically share articles via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Whilst trying to optimise our time more effectively, it also removes a very important human element of social sharing. Depending on what your new blog post is about, it may be more useful to favour one platform over another to gain better traction amongst your audiences.

This simple explanation by Luke offers a rough guide on where you should invest your time and resource to promote your blog more effectively.

social media wisdom

Facebook is considered the best option for anything that can trigger an emotional response from people. Emotionally charged photos are much more likely to be shared and “liked” on Facebook than any other form of content.

Twitter is good for news and live updates. With most of us writing long-form posts on WordPress, the likelihood of getting clicks via Twitter is pretty miniscule. People on Twitter are looking for quick summaries, rather than thoughtful opinion pieces, therefore making this platform pretty useless for serious bloggers. It is also very time consuming, with successful Twitter accounts sending tweets every 15 minutes in order to come on top of everyone’s feeds. Are you ready for this sort of commitment? I’ll pass!

Pinterest is the one to watch. You can seriously up your audience, if you spend some time designing an interesting image to go with your article. Buzzfeed, for example, always includes a text overlay on every title image they post on their Pinterest account. It’s your opportunity to tell a quick story and hopefully secure a click through to your post. I have given myself a promise to do this for every post I make here, too.

what works well on Pinterest

  1. Optimise you website for smartphones

We tend to obsess about each sentence, re-reading our blog posts many times prior to publishing. We also want to make sure we choose colours and pictures that create a certain aura about our blogs to showcase our personality. What we often do forget, is to check how easy our website can be viewed on tablets and smartphones. I mostly read my favourite blogs whilst communing to work and watching telly, so the only time I’m using my desktop to view WordPress is when I’m publishing a new post (somehow ironic, isn’t it?). I guess it is safe to assume that most of your traffic also comes from mobile devices, so it’s paramount to ensure you text is readable and images load well even on 3G.

tips for shareable content

  1. Spend some time thinking about your headlines

This was something of a revelation to me, mostly because it was so obvious. It’s a difficult thing to master, but once you get your headlines sorted, the traffic will follow. It’s not really clear whether you should write an article first and then come up with a name, or create a smashingly good title and let it lead your article (I seem to prefer the latter), but ensure you spend at least 5-10 minutes brainstorming a couple of options.

Remember all those dodgy websites a couple of years back with headlines like “The most shocking thing you’ll this year!” or “LOL jokes that will blow your mind”. Yes, we all clicked to read more, but more often than not were disappointed with that content – we weren’t shocked enough and the jokes were stale. Savvy readers will not click on anything that is trying too hard to make them click, therefore try to avoid anything too “shouty”, even if you think that what you’ve written is truly amazing (let your readers judge!).

Basically, headlines that tend to go viral (at least on Buzzfeed) are:

  • Numbers (“29 things you didn’t think existed before you were 30”)
  • Anything starting with “Reasons for…” (“…going skiing in April”, “…buy yourself a scooter” etc.)
  • Questions (“How much do you think you know about gluten?”)

Rules are supposed to be broken, so If none of these inspire you enough, try to intrigue your readers (like I did for this post…still a long way to go till I get my Pulitzer, but I’ll keep trying).

And, in the spirit of sharing – if you do like this post, feel free to re-post or send to your friends. I promised Guardian Masterclasses to report back on any spikes in visits and shares, so help me out 🙂

This entry was posted in: Curiosity Section


Finding and giving great gifts is a big passion of mine. Here I offer practical tips, ideas for different occasions and step-by-step guides to make gifting a better experience for everyone. Get inspired!

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