One of the first rules in writing online is to craft a powerful headline.  And the headline in turn should be fully supported by a series of strong sub-heads. 

Why? People no longer read.  They scan. They look for the gist of an article or blog post but rarely pour over the detail.

But a powerful headline is not enough.  You need to also be sure that your headline captures the FULL message you are trying to share with your post or article. Or you risk grabbing your reader by the lapels and then leading them down primrose lane. 

I recently learned this lesson the hard way.    I wrote a blog post which I then shared throughout the Social Web entitled, “Has Barack Obama Lost His Magic?”

Was this a powerful headline?  Probably.  The problem, in a sense, was that it was too powerful and didn’t really capture my post’s full message.   It didn’t sum up what I REALLY wanted to say.  

Most who read my headline plunged headlong into a diatribe about politics in America, Obama’s strengths and weaknesses, the two-party system, etc. I am almost embarrassed to say that even though I posted the blog at least four weeks ago, there is STILL a LinkedIn group engaged in a full-on, bloody political battle as a result of the post.

But my real objective in writing the post had relatively little to do with American politics or the Obama presidency and everything to do with social media.  What I was trying to explore was how Obama used social media before and after being elected.  During the campaign, it was as though he (and his staff) had switched on a magic button, creating a vibrant community and highly charged emotional connection with their supporters on After the campaign, that same site has become lackluster and stiff, not to mention boring.  And I wanted to explore with my readers why this had happened.

But most of my readers never got beyond my headline.  They ran away with the subject in whatever direction they wanted.  My question about Obama and his use of social media more or less remains unanswered.  By the way, I am not blaming my readers.  It was me who wrote the headline, not them. 

The morale of the story?  A powerful headline is certainly imperative in today’s speed-reading world.  But it is not enough.  Make sure your headline also fully captures the FULL message you want to convey. Otherwise, your reader-who may never make it to the end of your post- will walk away with ideas and impressions you never intended to convey.