Three old newsstand tricks that work like magic in social media

The same principles that compel you to pick up a magazine and read are the same ones that make you click.

The same principles that compel you to pick up a magazine and read are the same ones that make you click.

Growing up in New York City, I remember newsstands gracing many a street corner and subway station. The booth-like contraptions always beckoned me. I’d peruse the titles, headlines and stories, and pick up something to read. Today, my smartphone, tablet and some select websites fulfill that same need; but once in a while, I still like stopping by the few newsstands I see when I’m in Big Apple.

The experience of a newsstand, though, has some valuable lessons for today’s content or social media marketer. Think about the times you’ve glanced at a newsstand. 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 eyeballs, 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. Your content is crammed in, right next to your competition, vying for readers’ attention. You just want to them to look… click… read… and hopefully share.

And, just like the journalists that pen the teasers you see on newsstands, social media and content writers use a lot of the same old tricks to lure you in. There are dozens of formulas, but here are three powerful ones you can start experimenting with.


I see this one all the time. The curiosity part of the headline is designed to draw you in; the benefit promises something for your time. (I used this headline formula for the post you’re reading now, by the way.) Here are some examples:

The hashtag personality test: What Twitter reveals about you.

10 health questions your doctor wishes you’d ask.

The forgotten tool in your shed worth $2,500!

A word of caution—if your headline is too predictable (it gives away what’s in the article) the guillotine of the reader’s short attention span will show no mercy.


This formula is the brainchild of Jeff Goins—a creative copywriter who loathes the ordinary headlines that plague much of the Internet. Jeff urges people to dress up their headlines with words that are, well, slightly unusual. It’s a great way, he maintains, to get attention. Here are some examples:

5 awe-inspiring lessons from people you’d never expect.

The weird little trick that helped me loose 38 lbs. in 3 weeks.

3 long-forgotten principles of becoming wealthy… that work.

Just remember—deliver what you promise. This headline technique takes a bold approach. If your article or post falls flat of your headline, people will split—and will probably be ticked, too.


This is another one that pops up everywhere. The trouble is, people tend to write this type of headline very straight… and dull. How to make money. Yawn!

Even by adding just a dash of creativity to your headline, you can make it much more engaging. For example…

How to cash in on the market – even if you know zip about stocks.

How to pick the perfect college: 3 simple questions to ask yourself.

How to grow ripped muscles… while you sleep!

Again, “how to” headlines imply a promise—so make sure your content comes through.

You may have noticed by now, there is some common DNA in all of these formulas: Curiosity. It’s an incredibly powerful motivator with us humanoids—one that writers have relied upon for decades.

So the next time you need to drum up 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 likely got a winner.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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