There are words that are glazed over. There are words that stand out. And then there are words that are so powerful, they evoke an emotion from the reader and ultimately compel them to take action. They engage readers in a way that prompts them to find out more about your mission, grow more invested in your cause, and maybe even become a supporter of your nonprofit organization.
The science of copywriting, the psychology of headlines, and the art of CTAs has helped marketers find a linguistic edge in their words and pitches. The most compelling power words can actually change the meaning, the mood, and the motivation of the reader. To make that connection, you need to know which words make a difference.
Here are 30 power words that you should be using to inspire and motivate your own audience.
Best Nonprofit Power Words
- How to
- Tell Us
- Become a Member
These words were effective offline, and their power holds up online for a reason: they work. Here’s what you need to know about using them in your social media writing.
Why Use Power Words
Creating concise copy that is also persuasive is no easy task. Yet, the right words and phrases on social media can make all the difference in your campaigns. Simple words can convert customers, elicit emotion, and motivate donors to give.
An example of this: a simple test executed by the marketing team at Encyclopedia Britannica found when replacing an empty question with a headline that started with the word “get,” conversion rates increased 103 percent.
In another example, social psychologist Ellen Langer tested the power of words in an experiment where she asked to cut in line at a copy machine. She tried three different ways of asking:
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
- 70 percent of people said yes.
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”
- 93 percent of people said yes.
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
- 94 percent of people said yes.
Langer’s study became famous because it revealed that powerful words—spoken and written—can drive our behavior. Langer’s work also proved that as long as the reader can justify the behavior (“I’m doing this because…”), they will perform the task even if the reason doesn’t make sense.
How to Use Them
International pollster Frank Luntz, Ph.D. has built a career studying advanced communications. In his book, Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, Luntz wrote about the long-lasting influence of powerful language:
To create that kind of long-lasting connection, your job is to use the right words, in the right places, for the right audience.
For example, “innovation” is a word that is future-focused, active, and fresh. For a millennial audience, the word “innovation” is a power word. While “new and improved” once elicited a positive response, today it is antiquated and over-used. However, for a Baby Boomer audience, “innovation” is not a word that often resonates. Instead they’d be drawn to the word “renew.”
Knowing your audience is key for successful communication.
Where to Use Power Words
Power words are most effective when used in the places that stand out to your readers. These places include:
- Titles—Integrate power words into your blog titles for better clickthroughs from social media and through search engines.
- Social headlines—Customize your titles with power words for social media.
- Subject lines—Engage your email subscribers and encourage them to click with a strong subject line.
- First and last paragraphs—Insert power words throughout your copy, especially in the places where they will stand out the most—the first and last paragraphs.
- Comments—Social media writing isn’t limited to just what you post, it’s also about your responses. Tailor your comments on social media to include power words where appropriate.
- Calls to Action (CTAs)—These aren’t just limited to your blog content. Use CTAs on social media too. When your audience knows what you want them to do they are more inclined to take action.
When sprinkled throughout the copy, these words strengthen, pull, and heighten emotion.
Although power words can make a huge impact in your social channels, it’s important not to be heavy-handed. It is easy to overdo, and then these power words can lose their impact. Treat them like salt. Use enough to enhance the taste of your piece, but don’t let them dominate the flavor.
Words are powerful. They communicate; they deliver information, express feelings, inspire others, teach, and motivate people to take action. They are powerful enough to acquire a new donor, secure a lifelong supporter, and drive recurring donations. Implement the right power words in your nonprofit’s social media strategy and watch your campaigns grow.
Do you have any power words you’d add to the list? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.