It is difficult to overstate the importance of headlines. A good headline can entice and engage your audience to click, to read, and to share your content. In many cases headlines are the thing that is shared rather than the article. So you knew that. But do you know what makes an engaging headline?
To help answer this question we analyzed 100 million article headlines. We have set out below our findings from the research including the:
While there is no magic formula for creating a viral or popular headline, there are many lessons we can learn to improve our content engagement. We shared our findings with a number of content experts to reflect on the implications of the research for writers. We have included their expert thoughts and advice at the end of this post. We have also included a section on how you can analyze headlines yourself using BuzzSumo.
Note: This research looks at the most shared headlines on Facebook and Twitter which tend to be dominated by major publishers and consumer content. Thus the insights will be particularly interesting for publishers. We are undertaking separate research on engaging headlines for business to business content which we will publish later this year.
Facebook is ending its short-lived (and misguided) experiment with the alternative news feed feature called "Explore."
In a blog post today, Facebook had of news feed Adam Mosseri wrote:
We constantly try out new features, design changes and ranking updates to understand how we can make Facebook better for everyone. Some of these changes—like Reactions, Live Video, and GIFs— work well and go on to become globally available. Others don't and we drop them. Today, we're ending one of those tests: the Explore Feed.
The Explore Feed was a trial response to consistent feedback we received from people over the past year who said they want to see more from friends and family in News Feed. The idea was to create a version of Facebook with two different News Feeds: one as a dedicated place with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated place for posts from Pages.
Whatever the intention, the response from Facebook users was decidedly… "meh." The split news feed rolled out in six countries as a trial bubble, and it sunk like a lead balloon.
As Mosseri wrote, "You gave us our answer: People don't want two separate feeds. In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn't actually help them connect more with friends and family."
The product formally launched last October as an option for U.S. users to find additional news and entertainment from Pages that aren't in a users' news feed.
As we wrote at the time:
The overall goal, of course, is to increase users' time-on-site (or time-in-app, if on mobile). This allows Facebook to serve more ads in between the content, in videos and elsewhere. Effectively, it's a second-tier News Feed that Facebook could monetize.
At this time, however, the feed doesn't appear to include advertising. (At least no ads appeared in tests after scrolling down for a good minute or so).
Mosseri noted (and as most publishers are painfully aware) Facebook made significant changes to its algorithm earlier this year that have already been used to privilege posts from friends and family.
"We think our recent changes to News Feed that prioritize meaningful social interactions better address the feedback we heard from people who said they want to see more from friends and family. Those changes mean less public content in News Feed like posts from businesses, brands, and media," Mosseri wrote.
It's worth noting that the product wasn't the only thing that folks had problems with. Users in the countries that saw their news feeds split said they didn't receive important information that they needed after the change took effect, and that they had no idea what the hell was going on with their feeds.
Mosseri acknowledged that Facebook has learned its lesson from that blunder, as well, and will try to provide better communication on changes it's making to its core product in the future.
The changes and their implementation are examples of what is being recognized as a broad tone-deafness and ignorance of the ways in which changes to a platform used by over 1 billion people are received.
Nations of users should not be social experiments or unwitting A/B testers in the grand design of new products by any company.
Perhaps that's a lesson that Facebook can like and share.
Twitter today is publicly launching its "Bookmarks" feature, which has been in testing since late last year, following the company's HackWeek project dubbed #SaveForLater. A desire to save content for later reading is something people have asked for because of how much news circulates across Twitter, often including links to longer articles you don't have time to read in the moment, and an increased desire for privacy around their saves.
Twitter users sometimes found it uncomfortable to use the Favorite button for saving tweets because of the nature of the tweet's content.
Shaped like a heart, the button indicates a positive sentiment – and that's not always the case. There are often times when you need to later return to a tweet, without signaling that you like or support the content it includes.
Facebook, too, had grappled with a similar problem around its "Like" button. Though users asked for a Dislike option, the social network instead eventually rolled out emoticons for other sentiments, like anger, sadness, laughter, and love, to complement the "Like."
Twitter, of course, doesn't need to complcate its product with sentiment buttons, but it did need a way to save things you don't "love."
Another issue with using Twitter's Favorite button is that the action is made public.
The original poster is alerted that you've liked their tweet, your favorite itself is visible to anyone on Twitter who interacts with that tweet, and your list of Favorites is accessible to everyone from your Twitter profile.
The public nature of Favorites has caused problems for some high-profile Twitter users in the past – like when Melania Trump favorited a tweet that seems to imply she hated her husband (perhaps accidentally); or when other high-profile individuals – like Harry Styles or Ted Cruz – had favorited a Trump.
Twitter users have worked around the problem of not having a way to privately save tweets by doing things like DM'ing tweets to themselves, saving them in Notepad, emailing them, opening them in a new tab, and other tricks.
Starting today, they'll no longer need to resort to this hacks, because bookmarked tweets are only saved privately.
To use the feature, you'll click on a new "share" icon that's found to the right of the Favorite (heart) button. From here, you'll have the option to share the tweet in a variety of ways – including by bookmarking it, DM'ing it, or via other methods – as had been previously available through the top-right dropdown menu.
When you want to view your saved tweets, you'll tap your Profile icon to reveal the menu where the Bookmarks list will be found alongside other options like Twitter Lists and Moments.
Bookmarks are rolling out globally today on Twitter for iOS and Android, Twitter Lite, and mobile.twitter.com.
usinesses expect metrics to give them a clear understanding of the outcomes that matter most. And as our principles outline, we're always improving our marketing solutions and investing in what works best for people. That's why we're making two updates to Page Insights to help businesses better understand how their Pages are performing.
Businesses use the reach metric in Page Insights to see how many people their posts reach. For Pages, we've historically calculated reach based on how many times a post was delivered in News Feed. And for paid ads, we use a stricter definition that only counts reach once a post enters a person's screen.
We reviously announced this change, and starting Monday, we will update how we measure organic reach of Pages to be more consistent with the way we calculate reach for ads. This is a change in the way that we measure reach, not a change in News Feed distribution, and other engagement metrics will remain the same. This will provide Page owners with a more precise measurement of their audience and offer a more consistent measurement methodology across both our paid and organic reach reporting. Since this is stricter reporting, some Pages may see lower reach figures than before.
We know some marketers may rely on the previous metric for their own reporting, so over the next few months we will continue to provide the old reach metric alongside the new one in the Page Insights overview section and in the Page Insights API and export.
We know businesses want simple and quick access to their Page reporting. That's why we're redesigning Page Insights to make it easier to find the most important information at a glance, on mobile. With this redesign, we'll put the most commonly used metrics up top which include:
The goal of these updates is to make the insights businesses care most about more easily accessible. For example, a Page owner can use the redesigned Page Insights to create a new post based off previous posts that have gained the most traction, or create new ad campaigns reaching people in their most engaged demographic. So far, Page owners testing the redesign have found the updated Page Insights to be more valuable than the old version. So we're rolling out the updated Page Insights globally today on iOS and Android.
We'll continue exploring ways we can improve Page Insights to help businesses see and understand the results that matter most to them.
Facebook is talking about expanding its TV-like service, Watch, into a rival to Google's YouTube by opening the platform to more individual creators, according to several people familiar with the plans. This would increase the amount of long-form video content that Facebook can sell ads against, and could reverse a decline in the time users are spending on the site.
Facebook wants to allow more people to create their own shows on Watch, according to three media agencies who asked they remain anonymous because the conversations are private. Instead of buying rights to these shows, however, Facebook wants to create a system where creators can upload their shows for free, then earn a cut of the revenue from ads placed on that content — similar to how YouTube pays its online creators. Another source with knowledge of the situation said Facebook's ultimate goal is to create a sustainable ad-supported video platform, where it won't have to pay for the majority of content.
Creators are hungry for other video platforms that can earn them more revenue after YouTube made it harder to earn advertising money on its platform. Amazon has also talked to advertising agencies about creating more ad-supported video initiatives.
More broadly, the move continues Watch's encroachment into YouTube's territory. Currently not everyone on Watch makes advertising revenue. Facebook pays some media, production companies and creators for rights for their shows, ranging from $10,000 to $500,000 per episode depending on the length and exclusivity, according to four companies who have Watch deals. Some shows are uploaded for free on a "partner" basis.
Stories are a relatively new format of Instagram. This photo and video, which disappear after 24 hours. They can be interesting for seven reasons:
Stories are much easier to fall into the recommendations section than other content. It's enough to put the geom-tag and the actual hashtag so that the story is likely to fall into the recommendations. And this gives new accounts opportunities for free promotion.
The stories last only 24 hours, and then disappear without a trace. As a result, it seems to users that if they do not watch the video now, they may miss something important.
The stories are shown to all of your subscribers. Unlike constant content, and in the case of permanent content, the algorithm decides whether to show it to your subscribers or not.
The stories show not only the number of views of each material, but also gives a list of users who watched them.Yes, stories disappear, but you can always fix them in the "Current" section on your page.
Stories have more editing capabilities than regular content. You can add stickers, text, pictures, weather and much more.In stories, you can put a link if your account has more than 10,000 subscribers.
Instagram is testing a new "Type" feature within Stories for users to share text-based messages as an alternative to photos or video, as reported by The Next Web. Though this was originally spotted last December among users in Japan, it's now appearing for select groups in Europe, as well.
The feature appears as a separate option at the bottom of the screen when within Stories, alongside the other usual options like Boomerang and Live. Once Type is selected, you can write and choose different options for the background and font.
The feature is not very different from what can already be done in Instagram. In order to achieve the same thing now, just snap a pic, click on the pen tool at the top, select a color, and then press and hold on the screen to create a blank surface to write on. Additionally, in the new implementation, it appears the default background is a bright ombré, giving it the flair of Facebook statuses with colorful backdrops. Mashable says users will also have the option of using a photo for the background. Creating a shortcut to share text-based content within Stories is a useful tool that caters to something people already do on the platform, just with an extra step or two. It's unclear if Instagram will be rolling Type out in a more widespread manner.
WABetaInfo has a more extensive report on Type, which also divulges another feature Instagram is testing: screenshot notifications. According to the report, some users are seeing a new alert pop up after taking a screenshot that says, "The next time you take a screenshot of a story, the person who posted it will be notified."
One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.
We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That's why we've always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.
But recently we've gotten feedback from our community that public content -- posts from businesses, brands and media -- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.
It's easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there's more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do -- help us connect with each other.
We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being. So we've studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.
The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos -- even if they're entertaining or informative -- may not be as good.
Based on this, we're making a major change to how we build Facebook. I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.
We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you'll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.
As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.
For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.
Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.
At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together -- whether it's with family and friends, or around important moments in the world -- we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.
Instagram is testing a standalone app for private messages called Direct, a first step toward possibly toward removing messaging features from the core app. Direct, which opens to the camera in the same way Snapchat does, will become available on Android and iOS today in six countries: Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. If you install Direct, the inbox disappears from the Instagram app and can only be accessed in the messaging app. If Instagram introduces Direct globally — it currently has no timeline for doing so — the move could give parent company Facebook a third popular messaging tool alongside Messenger and WhatsApp.
Although it is officially only a test, Instagram's rationale for building Direct app is that private messaging can never be a best-in-class experience when it lives inside an app meant for broadcasting publicly. "We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and private sharing with close friends is an important part of that," Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager, told me. "Direct has grown within Instagram over the past four years, but we can make it even better if it stands on its own. We can push the boundaries to create the fastest and most creative space for private sharing when Direct is a camera-first, standalone app."
"WE CAN PUSH THE BOUNDARIES TO CREATE THE FASTEST AND MOST CREATIVE SPACE FOR PRIVATE SHARING."
If that sounds familiar, it's because Facebook has undertake a transition like this before. In 2014, the company shut off messaging inside the flagship app, forcing users to download Messenger. "On mobile, each app can only focus on doing one thing well," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time. "Asking folks to install another app is a short term painful thing, but if we wanted to focus on serving this [use case] well, we had to build a dedicated and focused experience."
Direct was built according to similar logic. While direct messaging was originally an afterthought in Instagram, after multiple redesigns it had accumulated 375 million monthly users by April of this year, the company says. Its rise has coincided with the growth of Instagram stories, which encourage users to fire back quick replies to friends' messages by adding a "send message" box underneath each one.
Now Instagram will see whether its tools for private messages can thrive on their own. There is reason to believe that they will: messaging apps have more aggregate users than social networks do, and some have speculated that growing cultural tensions are pushing more conversations from public forums to private groups. If messaging becomes a large, pseudo-independent pillar of Instagram, it could further entrench the app in the lives of its users while opening up significant new business opportunities.
In its current, experimental state, there is little in Direct you won't currently find in Instagram. The app consists of just three screens. Like Snapchat, it opens to the camera, in an effort to get you in the habit of regularly sharing. (You don't have to take a photo, though; you can also pull down to reveal a screen that lets you type your message.) To the left of the camera is a profile screen that lets you access settings, switch accounts, and navigate to various corners of Instagram. To the right is your inbox of messages. That's the whole app.
Still, there are some nice touches. Designers built what might be the niftiest app transition I've ever seen: If you start swiping to the right of the Direct inbox, an Instagram logo pops begins to peak out from the side of the app. Swipe all the way to the right and Direct will open Instagram. Similarly, you can swipe right in Instagram to reveal the Direct logo — a modified version of the paper-plane logo Instagram has long used for messages — and completing your swipe will take you back to Direct.
ONE OF THE NIFTIEST APP TRANSITIONS I'VE EVER SEEN
The other novelty to be found in the test app is four exclusive filters, all of which I wish were available in the Instagram app. One filter bleeps you at random while blurring your mouth, which you'll appreciate if you've ever enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel's unnecessary censorship videos. Another filter creates a live cut-out of your mouth and superimposes it over your actual mouth, making you look like an insane clown. A third filter creates an infinite video loop zooming in on your open mouth as multiple versions of your head swirl around you.
If there's a down side to Direct, it's that getting the full Instagram experience will now require users to shuttle back and forth between apps. This may feel particularly acute for people who start a lot of chats from the stories feed (this is my own most common use of Instagram messages). In my experience, using a brand-new iPhone X, navigating between apps was all but seamless. I'll be curious to see how it looks on older model phones, and in countries where data connections may be less reliable.
When Facebook split Messenger from the main app, it drew an outcry from users, who pelted it with one-star reviews. Today, the app has 1.3 billion monthly users — up from 500 million the year that it split — and yet its rating has risen to just three stars on iOS. (Instagram has a five-star rating.)
One conclusion a company might draw from this experience is that while some users will complain about having to download a second app, the improved experience will help the overall audience grow much larger. And yet I can't imagine the product team at Instagram will be satisfied with a three-star rating for Direct. And so I think there's a second, equally important lesson to take from Messenger's experience.
It's hard to remember now, but Messenger was once as fast and simple as Direct is today. It was only once it spun out on its own that it became the overstuffed junk drawer it is today: a bewildering combination of private messages, group chats, ephemeral stories, gaming, customer service bots, payments, and phone calls. The challenge for Instagram is to expand Direct's feature set while retaining the simplicity that made it attractive in the first place.
Today we're introducing two new tools that let you hold on to your favorite moments from Instagram Stories and share them in ways that help you express yourself. Stories Highlights is a new part of your profile where you can express more of who you are through stories you've shared. And to help you build highlights, your stories will now automatically save into a private Stories Archive so you can easily relive them whenever you want.
Over the past year, Instagram Stories has become a key part of how you express yourself — but there hasn't been an easy way to keep your stories around for more than 24 hours. Now you can more fully express your identity by grouping stories you've shared into highlights and featuring them on your profile.
Stories Highlights appear in a new section on your profile below your bio. To create a highlight, tap the "New" circle at the far left. From there, you can choose any stories from your archive, select a cover for your highlight and give it a name. Once you're done, your highlight will appear as a circle on your profile that plays as a stand-alone story when someone taps it. Highlights stay on your profile until you remove them, and you can have as many highlights as you'd like. To edit or remove a highlight, just tap and hold that highlight on your profile.
tory Highlights lets you show all the sides of your personality, and you can make highlights out of anything you've shared to your story in the past. From the best moments of your ongoing soccer season to all the stories you capture of your loved ones, the interests and activities that matter most to you have a home right on your profile.
Moving forward, your stories will automatically save to your archive when they expire. This makes it easy for you to revisit your favorite moments later on or bring them back to life in a highlight.
To access the stories in your archive, tap the Archive icon on your profile. From there, you can easily switch between your Posts Archive and your new Stories Archive. In your Stories Archive, your stories will appear in a grid with the most recent stories at the bottom. The first story from each day will show a date indicator to help you navigate your archive as you scroll.
Tap on any story in your archive to watch it. From there, you can add it to your story, share it as a post or add it to a highlight on your profile.
Only you can see your archived stories, and you can choose to turn off auto-archiving at any time in your profile settings.To learn more about Stories Highlights and Stories Archive, check out the Instagram Help Center.
Today's updates are available as part of Instagram version 25 on iOS and Android.