Check out Slate’s cool tool for better Twitter headlines

Slate Twitter headlines

A headline that works on a website or in a print publication often isn’t the best headline for getting a story shared on social media. That’s a problem for sites using those automatic “click to tweet” buttons, which generally just grab the original headline from the story even though, with no subhed or contextual paragraphs underneath it, that headline free-floating on Twitter or Facebook may be too opaque to draw readers in or even give them a sense of what the story is about. (Here’s a New York Times example I complained about on Twitter earlier this week.)

Slate has come up with a cool fix to this problem: Click the “tweet” button on a story from Slate’s website and, rather than tweeting the story’s original headline, the site tweets out a much more Twitter-friendly headline. A few examples:

Magical social media elves aren’t making this happen behind the scenes. Rather, the site simply added a feature to its CMS that allows writers to specify a separate Twitter headline, innovations editor Katherine Goldstein told me. (Update: The Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal tell me they are doing this, too.)

“We’ve had about 100 percent Twitter referral growth over the past year, and this is just one part of a big social push that we’re doing,” Goldstein said. And sometimes it turns out that the best headline for Twitter is the best headline, period: “One of our bloggers said that he used to spend time doing custom headlines for Twitter and then he started making those custom headlines his regular headlines. Those are the kinds of conversations and thought processes we’re really encouraging our editors to have.”

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