This old newsstand trick works like magic in social media

Hey… you gonna buy that? This ain’t no library…

Hey… you gonna buy that? This ain’t no library…

Growing up in New York City, I remember newsstands gracing many a street corner. They were booth-like contraptions where the person inside appeared to only have a head and shoulders and sold newspapers, magazines and candy. Newsstands are quickly vanishing into the same obscure ooze as phone booths, but you still see newsstand-type magazine displays in super markets and what’s left of bookstores.

Think about the times you’ve glanced at a newsstand, looking for something to read. There are dozens if not hundreds of titles in front of you, competing for your attention. If you’re like most people, you look at the header, then the photo on the cover, and then start reading the “teasers”…

  • Build washboard abs women can’t resist in 6 weeks!
  • How to make any man fall in love with you.
  • Feed your family for under $50 a week.

They’re all designed to grab your attention, get you to pick up the magazine and start thumbing through. If you decide it’s worth it, you buy the publication.

Social media isn’t much different. Blogs, articles, posts and more are in the same boat as newsstands of yesteryear. There’s a lot to look at and read, and the first goal is to just get someone’s attention… then for them to click through… then read… and hopefully share (the equivalent of buying in today’s cyber-driven world!).

Most social media writers use a lot of the old journalism tricks to grab eyeballs. Here’s a famous one…

Curiosity + benefit = Good headline

The curiosity part of the formula pulls the reader in. The benefit part suggests what they’ll gain from reading.

I did a quick scan of some websites, and found a lot of blog headlines that cook up this recipe nicely…

  • The 10 mental blocks to creative thinking.
  • How to write an article in 20 minutes.
  • The 7 BAD habits of insanely productive people.

There is a catch here, though. The headline should spark curiosity and imply a benefit, but if it’s predictable—if the reader can guess what’s in the article—the guillotine of the reader’s short attention span will show no mercy.

So the next time you want to get some attention online, think like Cosmo… or the Daily News… or the Enquirer. If it makes the reader think, “Huh, what’s that about?” you’ve got a winner.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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