A well constructed thread title is important to grab users’ attention. To achieve this goal, we can examine research about email subject lines and apply it to crafting topics for forum threads.
In his book “To Sell Is Human”, author Dan Pink cites a 2011 study by CMU professors that analyzed email subject lines. He summarizes this study by saying that people open emails for either (1) extrinsic reasons (i.e., it’s work-related) or (2) intrinsic reasons (i.e., to satisfy a curiosity). The researchers concluded that subject lines should either be obviously useful or mysteriously intriguing (but not both at the same time).
Mr. Pink book goes on to say that in addition to utility and curiosity as the primary drivers for getting someone to open your email, there is a third principle: specificity. He then gives this example: the subject line “Improve your golf swing” is less effective than “4 tips to improve your golf swing this afternoon”. Obviously, the editors at Men’s Health, Glamour, and any other magazine that promise readers “X Ways To Improve Your Y in only Z days” understand this principle well.
When seeding a forum with new threads or posting a thread to liven up the conversation on an existing forum, we can apply any of the three techniques mentioned above to get users’ attention. In summary:
- Craft a thread title that is obvisously useful.
- Craft a thread title that is mysteriously intriguing.
- Craft a thread title that is specific.