You know the score: Business Insider and Forbes and the rest are all at it. “Ten reasons your boss is an arse.” “Five reasons why your fruit-named company is about to fail.” “Seven reasons why social media is a self-reflecting circus of shame.”
But why are they so popular? Well, in Dan Pink’s latest book, To Sell Is Human, there are three clues. There is a great chapter on the subject of “the elevator pitch” for the modern age, and one part is about writing impactful email subject lines, which apply just as well to, say, a Tweet advertising a blog article:
Your headline needs to be relevant to your audience. There need to be triggers that make them think it is going to be relevant to them. Of you are appealing to, say, software developers, then “… why software developers…” is going to get their attention.
But as well as relevance you need a bit of mystery. There was a great Business Insider headline that was along the lines of “10 crazy things tech companies do to be innovative”. Tech companies being innovative is the relevance bit; “crazy” is the intrigue.
10 things. 7 things. 3 things. Very specific. And in our time poor, information rich times, that’s important. We know up front what we are committing to. That makes us more likely to start.