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Will you click this because the headline is a question?

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Will you click this because the headline is a question?

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Organisational use of the Internet increasingly revolves around the production of content in various forms to engage with their user base.  Suffice to say, with so many groups churning out content, the competition for our attention is fiercer than ever.  As a result an increasing amount of research and study is devoted to understanding what makes us reach content.

Whilst the likes of pay-per-click advertising and email marketing have taught us the importance of a good headline, things have really taken off as social media usage has mushroomed.  For instance MIT have uncovered what they believe to be the secrets to Twitter success based upon that headline, whilst other research showed the propensity of people to share content they haven’t even read, based largely on both the headline and the reputation of the author.

The use of questions in a headline has widely been regarded as an essential tool in securing those all important click throughs.  New research has explored whether that’s still the case in the social age.

The researchers explored a science based Twitter feed with nearly 6,500 followers.  Each story from the website was tweeted twice, with an hour separating each tweet.  The first tweet used a statement based headline, ie Power corrupts.  The second tweet however reframed things as a question that was either self-referencing, as in Is your boss intoxicated by power? or non-self-referencing, as in Are bosses intoxicated by power?

The researchers found that the self-referencing headlines, such as the one used in this post, were clicked on average 175% more often than the statement headlines, but also 150% more often than the non-self-referencing question headlines.

They tested the hypothesis in a more commercial environment too, finding that when products were listed on a Norwegian auction site with a self-referencing headline, they were 257% more likely to be clicked on, which was nearly twice as much as the non-self-referencing question headline.

Of course, one may question whether the outcomes were influenced by other features of the headline than purely their format, and the research doesn’t really delve into the why’s of their findings, but nevertheless, the recommendation is clear, that if you want to secure click throughs, make sure you include a question that references the reader.

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