Twitterize Your Email Subject Lines

Twitterize Your Email Subject LinesA good subject line is like a good tweet: it earns a click to read further.

We tweet links that amuse, outrage or inspire us. We write our tweets to get others to click. And sometimes we’re more effective than others.

Your subject line has the same mission: earn a click to open the email. The same principles prompt this response for both tweets and subject lines.

So how do you write effective “click-this” text? The Nielsen Norman Group just unveiled the answer. Let’s look at how you can apply it to your subject lines.

Start Off Right

“Because when people scan they typically only read the first few words of a sentence, those first words need to be information-rich.”

See how early you can position your hot topic keywords in your subject line.

This not only catches the attention of subscribers skimming through, it works well when designing for mobile email, which has a relatively short subject area.

First Words Ex Baby“This email is about your child.” For an audience of parents, there is no greater incentive to click.

Provide Eye-Catching Context

“Promotional tweets can be ignored, so include some sense of news/new to make them useful/less obviously promotional/more compelling.”

There are millions upon millions of products and services for sale online. Give your subscribers reason to pick yours – offer value beyond the product itself.

Suggest an unusual and helpful use for your product. Link your service to current events. Surround your products with context that fascinates your readers.

New News celebrity ExYes, I do wonder how celebrities look so good – are you saying your clothes can make me look that good too?

Keep it Short (Enough)

“Tweets should be 130 char[acter]s or less to allow for re-tweeting.”

The right length for a tweet is long enough to make the point, short enough to be usable. The same is true for your subject line.

Only the first 25 or so characters are usually guaranteed to display on computers. Mobile email shows even less.

Test your message in different email clients to find out if enough of your subject fits into the allotted space – you may even find you have extra space you can make use of.

UO Short Ex“$5” and “now”. That’s all I need to know.

Make Every Word Count

“Full sentences aren’t necessary in short content which users are scanning, so ruthlessly chop unnecessary words and use quickly comprehensible characters like + and : ? .”

The fewer words you use to get your point across, the better. It’s especially important to suck out vampire words.

Be careful, though – don’t chop words you need. Nonsensical subject lines might grab attention, but it’s probably the wrong kind.

For even more punch, work in romantic words or heroic language to fire up sluggish subscribers.

Words Count Ex StarWho doesn’t want to be a rock star? And I can get work done at the same time? Even better!

Keep Your Focus Clear

“A tweet should be highly focused and not try to make multiple points.”

Tweets and subject lines both have a brevity that demands simplicity.

Even if you have several articles or offers in your email, don’t try to highlight them all in your subject line. Pick your strongest selling point.

If you’re unsure which that is, run a split test and note what works best for next time.

Focus DD ExDD was also running a create-the-next-donut game and just launched a new mocha line, but they avoided overload by sticking to one focus here.

Don’t Forget the Law

Writing eye-catching text demands a certain level of creativity, but it’s important to keep from going overboard. To stay safe, bump your subject line against the ultimate test: the law.

According to CAN SPAM, misleading subject lines are actually illegal, so make sure yours accurately reflects the focus within.

Commercial e-mail senders must use subject lines that are accurate. Using misleading or bogus subject lines to trick readers into opening messages is prohibited.”

Please Unveil Your Own Answer Below

Nielsen Norman’s study shows us a big picture based on hundreds of examples. But you’ve got your own story about what’s worked for you.

How do you write an effective subject line? Do you have formulas you stick to or strategies you use?

Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. Charl

    6/17/2010 9:17 am

    Good idea to apply Twitter Tactics to the headline. Haven’t thought about it in this way… Thanks for the tip!

  2. Annie

    6/17/2010 9:43 am

    I always start my e-mails with "Good Day, Annie Here." and then a brief description.

    List building is new to me. Any advice as to whether this is good practice or not, please?

  3. Rhonda Hess

    6/17/2010 10:01 am

    Great tips for titling in best Twitter form.

  4. Amanda Gagnon

    6/17/2010 11:08 am

    Annie ~ I like that greeting – it’s unique.

    List-building just means getting people to add themselves to your subscriber list by signing up for your emails.

    It’s usually considered a good practice, since the more people on your list, the more you’re marketing to.

  5. Jey

    6/17/2010 11:42 am

    Thanks Amanda for the excellent article and thanks for your tips. I will start implementing from now on.

    Also I started to get more visitors from aweber as well, good news.

  6. W. C.

    6/17/2010 11:44 am

    What a small world Charl. I signed up to your site just yesterday and started watching your videos. When I look at the comments, I said " Wait a minute! I know this guy". I assume I will be getting more emails from you through AWeber. Nice integration of registration and auto responders by the way.

    Amanda, thank you for the post. In a flood of email messages well-formed subject lines will only help campaigns stand out and increase open rates.

    I also want to add that when building your email list, quality is very important. Having a lot of subscribers is very nice but a business can benefit if they convert. You don’t need subscribers who have nothing to do with your product or service.

  7. Marcelo Bacchi

    6/17/2010 12:55 pm

    I have some Twitter accounts and my intention is to grow the number of followers I have with these amazing tips. Thanks for sharing! You guys Rock!!!

  8. Louisa Chan

    6/17/2010 3:53 pm

    Hi Amanda,

    Great tips for headlines. The pointers you outline will be useful for my next broadcast! The reminder to keep it to 130 is so simple to implement but I had not thought of leaving space for re tweets before – so thanks.

    And I like the “we write so to get clicks” bit – lest I forget!

    Thanks again

  9. Joe

    6/17/2010 6:28 pm

    Writing good copy with fewer characters is definitely evolving as an art form, especially on line. I find it a delicate balancing act, with “benefit” oriented words, which motivate and promote, on one side of the scale, versus the more rich in news and informative words(product features) on the other end. I think ultimately, that different styles appeal to different people, so I guess it’s best to have both and do a lot of testing.

  10. Lalitha Brahma

    6/19/2010 12:47 pm

    Thanks for the tip.
    Normally the subject line of my tweet is the subject line of the" Feature article" section that I write in my ezine. After reading your tips, it looks like I can change the tweet subject focusing on other sections of my ezine like "lalitha recommends","Note From Laitha"
    That way I can create three tweets with different subject line and direct them to the aweber direct link of that ezine.

  11. Pam Moore

    6/23/2010 6:20 am

    As a lover of content and simplicity in communication…yes, less is more. The ROI on time spent on crafting the perfect succinct words can be exponential.

    Appreciate all you do!

  12. Craig White

    6/23/2010 11:50 am

    After reading this post, I paid close attention to my email subject lines.
    WoW! What a change in click rate.

    Thanks for the great info

  13. Mark Bottita

    6/24/2010 12:51 am

    Very useful for veterans and newbies alike. I would just add to be careful of overused cliches/slang swimming in the vernacular, such doing anything "like a rockstar," etc. It screams amateur even if people realize you’re trying to come off as current. But a great overall article!

  14. James Wehner

    6/24/2010 6:57 am

    Very cool strategy. You guys are the best…bar none!

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  16. G. F.

    6/24/2010 8:51 pm

    Twitterized subject lines, what a great tip! Also like the idea of tying the line to current events or popular subjects. Thanks.

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  18. Jake

    9/19/2011 7:45 am

    Twitterized title seems like a great idea! It seems to be very comfortable and useful! Anyways, thanks for the tips! I run a page on Twitter for Free wav to mp3 converter and I guess this would be cool to send Twitterized mails, the followers’ amount will surely grow!