How To Select A Title And Photo For A Mass Audience

It’s frustrating when you publish a post about an important topic or issue – and ten people read it. The internet is a level-playing field today, where cat videos, articles on serious issues and memes co-exist – where the audience chooses what they want to engage with.

With a barrage of information online, Youth Ki Awaaz tries to cut through the noise and bring citizen voices – your voices – to the fore. Many articles by YKA users have been read by 100,000 people, sometimes even more. How, you ask?

Well, the biggest and best way to get your audience is to connect with them before they click on your post. And once they click, you have to figure out how and why they will share it ahead. That’s where your title, featured image and post-packaging plays a make or break role.

How to frame the best title for your piece:

1. Ask the ‘why’ of your piece
Ask what the piece is ‘really’ about. For instance, this piece about a loud bike stunt at a quiet Assam zoo makes one think: Why was it even allowed in the first place? Putting that in the title will ensure it increases the relatability of the piece.

Similarly, this piece on a writer learning to write with her left hand is actually about the writer conquering a disorder to pursue her love for writing.

Compare these two titles:
After Suffering From A Disorder, How I Learned To Write With My Left Hand
How A Rare Disorder In My Hand Couldn’t Stop Me From Being A Writer

The second title immediately widens the scope of the article and will appeal to anyone who loves writing.

2. Connect your title to news or current affairs wherever possible
Let me illustrate this with an example. YKA user Rustam Kuraishi wrote about the Sohrabuddin encounter after a revealing story by The Caravan in November 2017, about an attempt to bribe Judge Loya who was presiding over the case. This was covered by multiple media outlets, and sparked a large social media conversation as BJP chief Amit Shah was the prime accused.

Now, compare these two titles:
Understanding The Sohrabuddin Murder Case
Understanding The Sohrabuddin Murder Case, Where BJP’s Amit Shah Was The Prime Accused
After The Caravan’s Story On Justice Loya’s Death, A Look Into The Sohrabuddin Murder Case

The second title instantly makes the article more timely and urgent, and has potential to reach a wider audience due to existing interest in the subject.

3. Add adjectives and other specifics where possible
Ask yourself: How will this article make anyone feel? Feel free to define this emotion by adding an adjective, but don’t overdo it. Overselling an article (“This Horrific Film” when the film may not really be horrific) is not going to work with an audience that can easily call the bluff (or clickbait).

Add other specifics such as names of locations and quotes to make your article connect with more people. For instance, if you’re writing about a small village or town, mention the name of the village (“In Maharashtra’s Pimpri…” or “In a small railway colony in Assam…”), especially since these are areas mainstream media largely ignores. If your article is in first person or mentions an incident or experience you have been through, do mention that in the title.

4. Keep the title snappy and cut out the wordiness
Imagine that your reader has 3-5 seconds to judge the article basis the title. If the title is winding and wordy, you are cutting your audience size right there. Stay to the point, and try and wrap the title up in 75 characters or less (including spaces).

How to select or create the best featured image for your piece:

1. Ensure it complements the title, without repeating it
The simplest way to think of this is: Depict the title of your article, or the emotion behind the title using a photo. If the title and the piece are about heavy rain in a particular state, show the ‘heavy rain’. If the title has visual cues in it, such as ‘sari’ or ‘umbrella’ or the name of a celebrity, make sure that is reflected in the photo.

2. Don’t use dull and very generic photos
Know that the audience will first see the image of your piece on social media, and then the title. Dull or very generic photos will make the audience think the piece is “yet another piece” on the same topic, and make them scroll past. Try and use arresting colours as much as possible, as well as creative ways of making your image stand out.

3. Other tips
Use strong, front-facing photos for more impact and resonance with your audience. Don’t use a lot of text on your photo. And don’t spell everything out in your title and photo – trust your audience to know better!

Here are some examples of good featured images:

Go ahead and publish a post using these tips. Tweet to me @lipi_meh if this helped you. I’d also love to hear suggestions and questions.