What makes people click a link on Facebook? The Huffington Post, Upworthy, and other publications that have mastered the art of using a social media curiosity gap to encourage clicks to their content. For example, the headline “How much does most powerful fashion editor earn per year?” creates a curiosity gap to click and find out the answer. (Spoiler: Anna Wintour of Vogue earns $2 million annually.)
You may want to apply this strategy for Facebook headlines, but there is at least one case where a curiosity gap will do more harm than good.
When asking people to sign a petition, titles with a direct call to action outperform those using a curiosity gap.
When the Curiosity Gap Fails
When CREDO Action created a petition to stop the sale of the Tribune Company to the Koch Brothers, they tested two Facebook titles to see which version would garner the most signers: “The Kochs Are Trying To Buy The Media” and “Sign the petition: The Kochs Are Trying To Buy The Media”
The direct title with “Sign the Petition” got 43% more people to click the link and sign the petition than the title without it.
With Petitions, Be Direct
But do these results hold true for other petitions, or was it specific to this one particular issue? CREDO Action kept running tests and found that Facebook titles with direct asks consistently outperformed those without them.
In four different experiments, including “Sign the petition” in the Facebook post title increased action rates by 20% or more.
- The direct Facebook title “Sign the Petition: Repeal the Monsanto Protection Act” did 63% better than “Monsanto shouldn’t be above the law” for a petition against Monsanto.
- Just using the title “Sign the petition” alone performed 48% better than the original title of “Tell President Obama: Justify your indiscriminate spying on Americans” for a petition on NSA spying.
- “SIGN THE PETITION: This bill in Congress would undermine abortion access” performed 20% better than “This bill in Congress would undermine abortion access.”
Why does this happen? The prefix “Sign this petition” may prepare the potential signer to take action, so they’re more likely to add their name once they reach the petition page. And when a petition is created in response to a topic that’s trending on social media, such as the NSA spying case, the “Sign the Petition” prefix signals the action is not just another news article on a popular topic.
These results show how important it is to test different strategies and methods for social sharing. What works for one organization may not work for another. Although the curiosity gap works fantastically for media organizations, nonprofits should be more direct in their share language for petitions.