Words that Sell in Marketing

Multiple studies about the words that sell in social media and blogs got me to wondering if there is anything different about what works online versus what works offline.

This is the topic in my blog Reinventing Direct at Target Marketing magazine. In it, I contrast 38 Marketing Words that Sell in Social Media with my experience as a direct marketer.

If you’re relatively new to direct response, you might have some “aha” moments as your read the list. If you’re an experienced direct marketer, chances are you’ll see a lot of familiar words, phrases, and approaches.

Here are some highlights of what I found (and I encourage you to read the detailed words that sell post for more):

Twitter Words

Two headlines tested in Twitter, both leading to the same blog post, and each tweeted to the same audience within an hour of each other was tested.

a. How many hours should we work every day? The science of mental strength.

b. The origin of the 8 hour work day and why we should rethink it.

If you answered that “b” had the highest clicks, you’re right. It had double the number of clicks.

I didn’t find this as a surprise.

A specific number was used in version “b” (8 hour work day) combined with a provocative statement (why we should rethink it). Version “a” asked a question (not always the strongest way to write a headline) and used big words (science of mental strength).

The study reveals the 20 most retweetable words (which I suggest could be well suited to be used in subject lines in emails):











please retweet


social media



how to


blog post

check out

new blog post

Facebook Words

Posts with pictures will result in more engagement. But it’s not just any picture. When you use a picture that tells the story and is self-explanatory, you get more engagement. Studies show a

a Facebook post with a photo will get 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs. In addition, posts with 80 characters or less get 66% more engagement.

My personal experience with a Facebook page that I administer for an organization agrees completely.

Blog Post Words

Here are examples of words appearing in blog titles that yielded high opens.








Negative words are more powerful for shares than an ordinary word, like No / Without / Stop.

This is confirmation for direct marketers that negative works.

Big numbers work better than smaller numbers. And despite what your grammar teacher told you, use digits rather than words. And place the number at the head of the sentence. No surprise here (there’s a reason my Target Marketing blog is titled 38 Marketing Words that Sell).

Other words that tend to appear in viral posts:





hacks (hacking, hackers, etc.)



Words that suppress:





A couple of comparisons that seem to not make a difference: “I” versus “you.” Nor does “how to” have an effect on how viral a post will be.

For marketers of all types, these are words that are important to your success. And while I’d observe these findings shouldn’t surprise an experienced direct marketer or direct mail copywriter, it’s good to see that there are certain words you can count on to increase response whether used online or offline.

If you’d like to read the studies in more detail, here are links:

A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Headlines on Twitter, Facebook and Your Blog

Dan Zarrella’s research on 200,000 Tweets with Links

More Likes on Facebook

The Dark Science of Naming Your Post Based on Studying 100 Blogs

Comment /Source

Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.