Research says — Hit them with your headlines and capture your audience with your captions.  To reach your audience you need to caption your images with your key message and create compelling headlines. Because that’s all 80+% of your audience reads in your posts. So instead of blogging on my art site about “My New Art Project,” I use the headline “How to Create Prophetic, Subversive Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Art.” And I caption the photos with key information.

Miniature greyhound looking up at text: Over 80% only read the headlines...

while over 90% read the caption of an image — so create compelling headlines and put your core message in the caption.

Since the 1960’s it’s been shown repeatedly that 80% (or more) of the viewers read the headline but only 20% (or less) read the copy of a piece. And, advertising queen and Madwoman, Jane Maas, in her work reported that over 80% of people read the caption of an image even if they didn’t read the article. 

I told my my online marketing students the Olgilvy and Jane Maas facts starting in 2008.  There was always some smart-aleck who said, “But that’s print, not the Internet.” Then various groups did studies in 2010 and discovered he (it was always a “he”) was right. The Internet is different: over 90% of people read the caption online even if they didn’t read the rest of the post! Which means headlines and captions are even more important on the Internet.

To Capture Your Audience, Put Your Time & Effort Where It Really Matters

So to capture your audience, spend most of your time and energy on creating a compelling headline and a caption that contains your core message. Recent studies have found that over 70% of the people who comment on science posts on Facebook only read the headline. Google “percentage of caption read” and you’ll find the results are all about the importance of good captions — mostly on Instagram!  The success of Instageam is because it’s basically nothing but a headline, image, and caption.

 I confess, I often fall down on my headlines. My advertising and marketing training says I should spend 50% of my time on my headline and captions. The rest of my time writing and editing the content. However, the reason I left advertising and marketing was because I wanted to do something more personally rewarding than manipulating people.  But for important, cornerstone posts (like this one), I invest the time and effort on a compelling headline and caption that encaspulates the core message.

Bonus Tip

Notice how I put my key message in the first paragraph? That’s because of those people who read beyond the headline over half either won’t scroll or only read 50% of the post. So think like a press release or an old-fashioned journalist and when it’s important, put the key information you want to convey in that first paragraph.

Or as they used to teach in journalism school, use The 5 Ws — What, Who, When, Where, and Why. What’s happening? Who is it happening to? When & where is it happening? And Why is it important to your audience?

If you have any questions, feel free to put them in the comments below. And if you have any headlines or captions that have really caught your eye, please share them in the comments below.

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