How Delish’s new headline strategy is driving shares

May 21, 2018

Written by NewsWhip

How can you create the best headlines? We look at how the top food publisher on social makes audiences hungry for more. 

Headlines are notoriously difficult. How do you write something that is attention-grabbing, without adding to the wasteland of digital noise, or crossing into the realm of clickbait? (Seriously, how?!)

Language is an evolving thing, and what might have grabbed social users’ attention a year ago, won’t necessarily work today. Additionally, studies show that 60 percent of social users share just the headline of an article without reading it. Headlines then must carry the story, and be inherently shareable.

We noticed something interesting in the data recently. Delish, which we’ve featured before, had seen a complete change in its most engaging headlines.

Using NewsWhip Analytics, we decided to explore the shift further.
There were Delish’s top headlines by Pinterest engagements in April 2017 and April 2018:

The top headlines of April 2017 were straightforward and didn’t contain any extra words beyond the recipe. If we look just a year forward, we can see that Delish’s top performing headlines have changed completely, and they’re driving significantly more engagements.

April 2018’s headlines are a good deal more conversational. There’s an average of 3.5x more words in the 2018 stories vs. the 2017 stories above. Put quite simply: the headline is the story. 

While we can’t say for certain, given that headlines are being read more than actual articles, there could be a correlation between the increase in engagements and the change in headline strategy.

Pinterest increase engagement
So much can change in a year — when looking at April 2018 vs. April 2017, there’s a measurable change, not only in total Pins, but average as well. Delish articles in April 2017 drove an average of 822 Pins, compared with 2,159 in April 2018.

In terms of food content, Delish may be the trendsetter. The publisher drove 1.7 million Facebook engagements to its web content, and then another 1.5 million Pinterest engagements to its web content in April 2018, vastly outperforming any other food site in our database.  

What goes viral on Facebook for a food publisher? 

For Facebook, the weirder the food news, the better. When we switched our view to Delish’s Facebook engagements, we saw that different articles drove the most Facebook shares, likes, reactions, and comments.

Here’s a look at Delish’s top web stories of April 2018 on Facebook, compared against April 2017:

Facebook Delish
The top headlines on Facebook haven’t shifted too significantly, but again, we can see that the straight-forward recipe headlines no longer ranked in April 2018. The top stories in April 2018 were actually less food-focused than they were in 2017.

The top stories were around weird or “must-have” product announcements, pop culture news, and just strange news, like a girl finding a dead lizard in her bag of kale.

As with Pinterest, we can also see a serious growth in engagements. The top story of April 2017 drove 92,000 Facebook engagements. Compare that to nearly 240,000 engagements for the top story of April 2018. 

What are the best Facebook post captions?  

In terms of Facebook native content, or, posts directly uploaded to Facebook, Delish is one of the top contenders. In April, Delish drove 15.3 million engagements to its Facebook Page, a close 2 million behind BuzzFeed Tasty, which drove 17.4 million engagements, and Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons, with 17 million engagements.

So what were the top caption tactics?

top food posts compare 
The top trends for Facebook captions haven’t changed too much from April 2017 to now. In April 2017, the very top posts were about bizarre food novelties, like an ice cream with 22 scoops and a taco pizza, along with the usual recipe videos.

In 2018, the top posts followed these trends, though there’s been a similar shift like we saw for Delish’s web content. In 2017, some of the captions were more about the recipe, and in 2018, there’s more of a narrative in the top captions.

top Facebook food posts
The top 100 posts from food publishers in April 2018 had an average of nearly 14 words per caption, compared with an average of 12 words per caption in April 2017.

It’s also worth noting that five of the top Facebook posts have emoji in the captions, especially when none of the top posts of April 2017 had emoji.

This post from Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons didn’t use any words, though the photo post was entirely text, but in photo format. It asked a question relatable to a wide variety of users, prompting 434,000 comments.

For Delish, its top Facebook captions haven’t really changed at all. If anything, its top performing headlines have shifted to resemble its Facebook Page strategy. Take a look at the top Facebook posts below.

Facebook captions analysis
As we’ve seen on the web, the top posts are conversational. Interestingly, the average word count across each of these captions is nearly identical.

And while the very top posts of April 2018 haven’t hit the same level of virality as April 2017, we can see that the publisher is weathering the Great Facebook Algorithm Shift of 2018 fairly well:

Facebook line chart Delish
Though there has been a decline, its April 2018 content was just shy of its April 2017 number by 1 million engagements.

(Of the top five Facebook food-focused Pages, the only one to see significant growth post-algorithm has been Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons. Check out more about influencers like this in our latest report, “The 2018 Guide to Influencers“.) 

What are the top headlines on LinkedIn for a food publisher?

Since we were curious, we decided to look at how Delish fares on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the equivalent of sharing baby photos, but for companies. Although LinkedIn deprecated its Share Count, we still have four years of LinkedIn performance data on our platform, NewsWhip Analytics.

We can use this to understand how different trends evolve platform-to-platform. Considering how publishers are diversifying their strategies this year, this is increasingly important for building a holistic strategy.

LinkedIn headlines
Though there weren’t too many shares to Delish content on the business-focused platform, the ones that did get some traction were again, entirely different from Delish’s top stories on Facebook and Pinterest.

There wasn’t a significant change between April 2017 and early 2018. Stories about company product announcements, changes, and controversies did well. Beyond that, content that was taught users something new also drove shares, like a story on healthy vending machines, and another on a “Weight Watchers” cruise.

The top ten stories for Delish of early 2018 drove more LinkedIn shares than in April 2017. 

What to know about headline strategies 

When creating your content, thinking of a compelling headline can make or break your article’s distribution potential.

Here a few tactics to keep in mind, from Delish’s success:

  1. The headline is the story; make your headline the lede
  2. Be clear and descriptive, but experiment with a tone and narrative in your headlines
  3. Different headlines perform differently across different platforms
  4. Try adapting your headlines from your top performing captions on native platforms
  5. On Facebook, experiment with emoji in captions

To understand what headlines are going viral right now, take a demo of NewsWhip Spike.

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