Without a strong social media hook, your content doesn't stand a chance. Thankfully, Jack Appleby, founder of Future Social, has some great advice to help you take your social posts from unmemorable to unmissable. Check out his seven tips, apply his examples and get better returns from all your content programs.
Your content isn’t just fighting against your competitors for attention. You’re battling against millions of TikToks, YouTube videos, Reels, posts, blogs and all the other content types in the social media playbook. Standing out means catching eyeballs long enough to convert a glance into a view into a click.
Writing a great hook for social media is one secret to catching and keeping your audience’s attention. So what qualifies as a social media hook—and more importantly, what makes a great one?
To find out, we invited Jack Appleby to share his experience and insights at our recent Standout Summit. Appleby is the creator of Future Social, a go-to newsletter for social trends and tips. He’s also something of a legend when it comes to getting content to go viral.
Ready to make content that stops the scroll? Keep reading for examples of good social media hooks and seven tips you can put to work today, courtesy of Mr. Appleby.
A social media hook is just what it sounds like—it’s the first few seconds of your content that catches the audience's attention and draws them in. The social hook could be the first few seconds of a video or podcast, the copy on a Twitter (sorry, X) post, or the tagline in a paid social media ad.
A social hook is anything that pulls you into that content. If you can't pull someone in, no one's going to see the content.
How important is the social hook? Appleby said it all with an example from top-earning YouTuber, Mr. Beast. According to Appleby, Mr. Beast has scrapped millions of dollars worth of video because he couldn’t think of the perfect thumbnail to promote it.
Mr. Beast will happily not post content if he can't come up with a proper hook. I know for us who are on either agency budgets or brand budgets, that seems ludicrous, and I'm not telling you to go scrap work. What I'm saying is this is why it's so important to remember the value, and this is why the biggest YouTuber in the world has become so big—because hooks are so vital.
Now for the good stuff. These seven simple tips will help transform your social media content from unmemorable and unremarkable to unmissable and much remarked on.
Think about the last time someone told you about a TikTok you had to see. Did they give you a summary of what happened? Probably not. More likely, they told you about a specific part you need to see.
Great social media hooks give a highlight that makes your target audience want to sift through an entire video or dig through a blog post until they find it. One example is the celebrity interview slash hot wing eating show, aptly named Hot Ones, on YouTube.
They don't simply put 'a Jennifer Lawrence interview' as the title. They’ll say, ‘Jennifer Lawrence sobs in pain while eating spicy wings.’ They're trying to pull that emotion or pull that individual highlights out of that video, because you'll go in there and watch the whole video looking for that highlight.
Returning to Mr. Beast for a moment, Appleby says content marketers can learn a lot about social hooks from YouTube titles. YouTube titles can translate into some of the best hooks for social, and Mr. Beast follows a formula that works for every video.
His “$1 vs. $1,000,000,000 Yacht!” video got over 50 million views in 24 hours, making it one of the fastest videos to reach that mark in YouTube’s history. It’s a 14-minute-long video with tours and celebrities, but those don’t make it into the hook. He focuses on specific highlights and versus language to grab his audience.
He's built a thumbnail that's got his face, and he has made the yacht look like it's made of complete gold. He's not trying to tell you every single thing that happened. He's picking two very specific highlights and then triggering a human emotion by using the versus language.
This next hook strategy should be second nature to all of us content marketers—start with a story. Audiences love great stories, whether they come in the shape of videos or blog posts. Using an intriguing or funny story as a social hook can stop people from scrolling and get them to start clicking.
You don't even need to mention your product—in fact, it might be better if your don't. Adobe has a series of TikToks where graphic designer Max Kolo recreates posters he finds on the street. What’s impressive here is that the TikToks are on Adobe’s account, not the graphic designer’s. But watching them makes you think it’s someone’s personal account, and the videos get hundreds of thousands of likes and thousands of comments.
Every time they do one of these videos, it significantly outperforms their other content.
Going back to another marketing adage that never gets old—keep it simple. Clever ideas work, but they work better when they’re simple to understand. Your audience doesn’t want to (and won't) take the time to decipher what they see.
Make it easy for them. Use as few characters as possible and make it digestible. They will watch that content.
For “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Marvel Studios used a simple, straightforward post to promote the movie’s trailer. It’s just a quote from the film, a call to action and a link. Enough said!
Many of us shudder when we see the word clickbait, but the truth is, thinking with a clickbait mindset can help you write great hooks for social media posts. The trick is to embrace hyperbole when writing and then ensure your content delivers on the hook.
We all like to fancy ourselves elevated marketers, but these kinds of clickbait-style language triggers really do work within social contexts.
Why does creator content often outperform brand content? In part, because creators are willing to make the content people want to watch. They understand the social wiring that makes a great social hook work.
Appleby’s tip: Check out the 'For You Page' on TikTok or search for TikTok hooks. The results will give you inspiration based on what’s happening right now on social.
Don't fall for the first social hook you write. Do the work with volume brainstorming. With deadlines looming, it's natural to rush to get something out the door, but that often means you’re skipping the creative work needed to get to the best idea possible.
Appleby shared a great example of this concept from his own experience creating a TikTok about the movie Space Jam 2. He made a TikTok on what he thought the film should be about and then did volume brainstorming to come up with more than 50 potential hooks.
I knew I needed an upfront hook that was going to be really strong to make people watch this. ‘Here's what I think Space Jam 2 should be about’ isn't that compelling. I did a Google spreadsheet with 50 different versions of the headline, and eventually, what I landed on was the one you see below.
Appleby’s last tip is commonly overlooked common sense. He tells us that we should consume content and make note of which social media hooks work on us (and which ones don't). This is a great way to build your hook-writing muscle memory.
Scroll your 'For You' Page. Spend time watching stuff, and while you're watching it, really theorize as to why it's made it into your feed. What was the first sentence they said? What was the text on the screen? Why did they get me to finish that video?
Let's be honest, first impressions are everything. We often judge books by their covers and movies by their trailers. Social media is no exception. And the truth is, if you put as much effort into your social media hooks as you do your content, you'll get better returns all around.
So, next time you sit down to craft a social post, keep Appleby’s tips top of mind:
You got this, superstar! 😉
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