How Does Your Article’s Title Impact Response?

I have a lot of strong opinions. Sometimes my opinions get me into trouble, but most times I use my opinions to get others to think or at least persuade them to see my point of view. Writing on LinkedIn has proven to be an interesting experiment for me over the past year. One thing though has proven the most difficult to master – writing the title, especially for editorial content.

The title is the way you hook people into clicking on your article to see what your thoughts are. While there are many articles out there on writing a great title and getting it noticed on Pulse, I’m going to take a step back to examine two examples of titles for the same news story in an attempt to help you make sense of how each engages the reader.

My Opinion is My Title and By the Way, Here’s the News

Recently, there was an executive shakeup at Microsoft. Since this news is so potentially massive and multi-faceted, I went to Bing to check it out and get people’s opinions. I’m exceptionally curious about Stephen Elop’s departure because, while Lumia sales are struggling in the US, there is momentum overseas, but no flagship phone in sight, yet Microsoft seems to have a game plan to move forward with Windows Phone 10.

This is when this Wired article from Issie Lapowsky caught my eye

Wired article about Microsoft's dire future, apparently
Wired article about Microsoft’s dire future, apparently

BOOM! I am hooked! I clicked this link because, while I doubt there was an official concession from Microsoft, I wanted to read the author’s opinion on the subject. For example, maybe they know something about Satya and Stephen’s internal relationship that I hadn’t heard or they had unique insight into the situation. I clicked the link and read the article. The article itself states the facts, but turns the news itself into the opinion without much thought.

“…his exit from the company seems to be as strong a sign as any that Microsoft is—at least in spirit—seceding from a crowded smartphone market that has become increasingly difficult to penetrate.”

The question I’m asking is why does x (the departure) mean y (Microsoft is leaving mobile behind)?

The article does mention one other fact, which is the departure of 18,000 Nokia employees. Still though, this fact fails to tie that back into the main opinion and title through any analysis.

Wired, which usually has great content, is exploiting our short attention spans (ironic link to a study from Microsoft) in an effort to get us to think a certain way. To an extent, this isn’t just click-bait because the article’s title isn’t even hyperbole for the article’s content.

A better approach for this article might have been to juxtapose the recent Ignite and Build conference announcements around Continuum and Windows Universal Apps against Stephen Elop’s exit and the Nokia layoffs, questioning what might be coming and hinting at the inconsistent message between all of these announcements. What about the fact that Satya doesn’t mention the word “phone” in his letter to employees once and only mentioned “mobile” twice, but not in direct relation to this news?

Still, these ideas don’t impact the real issue, which is the poor title.

Suggestions for re-titling this article include:
With Recent Executive Changes, Is Microsoft Leaving Mobile Behind?
Stephen Elop’s Departure Brings Up New Questions about Mobile at Microsoft

Editorial pieces that have questions in their titles or frame questions are great because you are engaging the reader to ask that same question. The author is then free to provide the answer with your their unique perspective.

Since the title is provocative, but the article skimps on insight, you’ll notice that the comments have already devolved into a flame war for Microsoft vs. Google vs. Apple. This is not productive engagement, but might gain Wired more ad revenue through clicks to the article itself.

Same News, with Insight and Engagement

It didn’t take me too long to find another article about the same subject written with genuine insight. Roger Cheng over at CNet nailed it with his insight on the same news story.


If you’re connected with me, you know I’m a Microsoft fan. Regardless of this fact, I love Roger’s article because he lays out as it is – the good and the bad, the shakeup and what Microsoft needs to do to address it’s current mobile issue and outlining what they’ve done in the recent past around the Surface. Granted, this article’s title is pretty long and it includes a sub-title, but the framework laid out follows through nicely in the article.

1. It gives us the news (facts).
2. It tells us how this news relates to the company, industry, and market (context).
3. Reminds us where we’ve been (challenges).
4. Hints at where we might go (potential).

Roger and the editors over at CNet got me to read the article through the question in the title and gave me useful insight, helping me build my own thoughts around this topic. Quick side note – not every article needs to follow this format, the one you’re reading now doesn’t for example, but this format is a great one to follow when posting your own thoughts on industry news.

If you check the comments section on this article, you’ll find more useful comments on the topic at hand. It is almost as if just by writing the question in the title, Roger has invited people to participate in a real conversation. This is what you want to emulate when you write, especially on LinkedIn. The more people you engage meaningfully, the more connections you can make.

Picking a Title that Engages

There is now little difference from writing on LinkedIn and writing for professional publications. The lines are blurring. On LinkedIn though, there’s a lot riding on someone reading your article. It could lead to new sales, a new job, or even a new way of thinking. Here are three helpful tips:

  • Don’t turn your title into something that should’ve been a Tweet. People will simply read it and move on.
  • Be sure your title captures what you’re writing about and you back it up with your article’s content.
  • If the article is your opinion on a news story, try to engage the reader by asking them a question, it can be a great hook for their participation.

Think about these tips when you are writing new content for LinkedIn Groups, too! You might just see your engagement go way up!