William Schmidt
Will Schmidt
5 min
power words

30 Power Words That Convert on Social Media

When chosen carefully, the right words can prompt an audience to invest in your cause and spread your mission to the world.

Below, we’ve rounded up 30 power words that convert on social media. But first, we dig into the science of copywriting and the psychology of headlines.

Why Use Power Words?

The right words in your online messages can directly impact your campaign’s success. But you have to understand why they are so influential. It goes beyond just the words themselves.

Take, for example, a project that Marketing Experiments worked on with Encyclopedia Britannica, who was having trouble with some of their headlines. One specific headline on the encyclopedia’s site read as an open-ended question: “Why Try Britannica Online?”

power words

They changed the headline to: “Get Unlimited Access to all 32 Volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica during your FREE TRIAL…”

power words

Notice how the second headline tells customers exactly what they could receive after taking action on this page. It is specific and incentivizing, unlike the ethereal question in the first headline.

The change in headline produced a “103 percent increase in conversion over the empty-question headline.” When the words changed, the entire emotional overtone of the headline changed—it became actionable.

It’s All About Specifics

This is why it’s so important to understand what a change in language does. No matter which power words you choose, it’s crucial that you have a specific intention behind everything you write. Otherwise, you just have a messy grouping of power words that leaves you nowhere.

Brian Clark from Copyblogger writes that “one of the most important characteristics of compelling, persuasive content is specificity. The more specific you are, the more credible your points, arguments, or sales pitch.” Or, if you’re in the nonprofit world, the more credible your appeal for donations.

Social psychologist Ellen Langer tested this approach in the real world, with her ask to cut in line at a copy machine.

She tried three different asks:

  1. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
  2. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”
  3. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?

The responses Langer got were:

  1. 70 percent of people said yes
  2. 93 percent of people said yes
  3. 94 percent of people said yes

Her study shows that if people can justify a requested behavior—that the other party is requesting it because of a specific reason—they will perform the task. That applies even if the ask is as small as cutting in line at the copy machine, or for a $10 donation. You need to pair specificity with power words in your asks for effective messages.

Know Your Audience

To incite action, you need to use the right words, in the right places, for the right audience.

For example, Michael Rosen writes that different generations of people respond differently to the word “innovation.” He cites Frank Lutz in his writing, saying:

“For a Millennial or Generation X audience, the word ‘innovation’ is powerful. While ‘new and improved’ was a phrase that once created excitement, today it is tired and worn-out.”

Identify your target demographic, its interests, and the language that speaks to them. It could make all the difference.

If you miss this step and don’t investigate your audience, all the intention and power words in the world won’t help you. It’d be like trying to get someone with no car to buy auto insurance: it simply isn’t relevant.

Where to Use Power Words

While power words can find a home in any part of your copy, they’re best used in places that stand out to your audience. The list includes:

  • Titles: Use power words into your blog titles for better click-through rates from social media and through search engines
  • Social headlines: Rework your titles to be short, snappy, and powerful
  • Subject lines: Engage and encourage email subscribers to click with an intriguing 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: Tailor your comments on social media to include power words where appropriate
  • Calls to Action (CTAs): Sprinkle power words in your CTAs on social media to let your audience know what you want them to do and push them to act

Remember that your words should always serve a purpose. Never let them sit and float aimlessly.

Best Nonprofit Power Words

Now that you’ve got the context around these words, why they’re important, and how to use them, you can start experimenting and integrating them into your work. This list of 30 power words can help you motivate your audience to work alongside you in accomplishing your mission:

  • Now
  • Free
  • Proven
  • Learn
  • Try
  • Exclusive
  • You
  • Power
  • How to
  • Click
  • Bonus
  • Results
  • Imagine
  • Discover
  • Create
  • Increase
  • Promote
  • Announcing
  • Improvement
  • Tell Us
  • Inspires
  • Remarkable
  • Challenge
  • Hurry
  • Easy
  • Revolutionary
  • Sensational
  • Join
  • Become a Member
  • Donate

Although power words can make a sizeable impact on your social channels, it’s important to not be heavy-handed with their use. If you overdo it, the words lose their power.

A good rule of thumb is to treat them like salt: use enough to enhance the taste, but don’t let it dominate the entire flavor. With the right touch and intent, you can acquire new donors, secure lifelong supporters, and drive recurring donations as you watch your campaigns grow.

This post was updated in September 2017 with new information.


  • Ava Morton

    An excellent article. How about “support” or “share” as a power words? I’ve used these in copy as a call action for folks to buy something (event tickets) or donate and to promote an event via social media.

    • Chelsea Alves

      Hi Ava,

      Love both of those ideas! I could definitely see how both “share” or “support” would drive people to perform an action. I’ll add those to our list.

    • Experiments worked on with Encyclopedia Britannica, who was having trouble with some of their headlines. One specific headline on the encyclopedia’s site read as an open-ended question: “Why Try Britannica Online?”

  • Simple Buyer

    I would passionately appreciate it if we would simply use the words that best fit. Yes, words do have emotional impact, but to use them solely for a desired result is deliberate manipulation. Let’s actually *try* for cognitive engagement, and call it out when someone’s trying to slip something by, redefine, or oversell. And be one of the 70%, then we can dispense with all of this.

Resources


Where social entrepreneurs go to learn and grow

Join over 20,000 leaders just like you who get their weekly dose of technology, innovation, fundraising ideas, and the latest industry trends.

Subscribe to the Classy Blog