My mistake last week. A lesson in how not to upset 8 out of 10 people.
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
-Brian Clark @copyblogger
No idea where Brian got this number from or what kind of testing went into the statistic. Regardless of knowing its accuracy, I can attest that I would have had a much better reaction from a blog post I wrote last week, if I had followed his rule of thumb.
So. Last week I wrote a post I was hoping would further the thought in people's minds that we use way too many masculine metaphors for courage. We don't use racist metaphors for achieving more success or being smarter, so why do we still so often read advice like “You need to have the balls to be a great designer”?
I went ahead and tried to get clever with the title of that post, not so much as to bait users into reading, but I thought that the title would lead to a clever dramatic irony, since the post makes the complete opposite point the title “What's the appropriate age to start telling a young woman to grow a pair of balls?” would suggest.
Then I hear from more than one person things like:
Damn, they must have not read the article. My suspicions are confirmed when I asked them about it. Of course, when they eventually did read the article, they got pretty excited (in a good way), since they obviously felt pretty strongly in favor FOR the point I was actually trying to make.
I was further reminded of the possibility of making this type of mistake when I heard from someone this weekend that there was a commercial on TV telling folks to wash their mouth out with household bleach. I believe they were referring to this:
If you only catch the first 7 seconds of that commercial before fast forwarding your Tivo-like device, and don't pick up the overall context that the commercial is all about “bad ideas”, you may definitely come away thinking that the new idiotic trend is to use household bleach to whiten your teeth.
So let that be a lesson for you as you write and craft your clever bits. Way too many people won't get past the 110 character headline they see on Twitter or Facebook leading to your article of wisdom. Maybe they'll get to the article later or next week. But if they don't, do you really want to leave them with the completely wrong impression of what you're trying to say, if the headline is all they ever get to read?
P.S. I'd be insanely honored if you followed me on Twitter, here.