I’ve been writing LinkedIn articles for several years now and find them incredibly useful in engaging with my clients and the conferencing / presentation skills community in which I work. And I am constantly told by my LinkedIn connections that they read my articles, so I know it is a hugely worthwhile thing to do.

Whilst examining the “views” and “clicks” on all of my articles recently (Yes, yes, I should get a life……but to my defence, I was at airport, passing the time, waiting to board….OK?), I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The articles that had a heading involving “The Top 5 Reasons…” or “Top 7 Tips…” had way more clicks than any of my other articles. Way more! In most cases 5 to 10 times more views and clicks and way more “Likes” and Comments.

While I do not post articles to get more ‘Likes’ (unlike my kids on Instagram) it got me thinking….”why is this so?” Why do so many more people seem to read and engage with “Top 5 or Top 7 or Top 10 Tip” titled articles than any others?

I looked further at other people’s articles. Turns out, it wasn’t just my “Top Tip” articles that were getting high click-rates. Same with many of the people I respect and follow on LinkedIn. And based on the proliferation of “Top Tip” style postings on LinkedIn it appears that others have noticed how effective these posts are.

You know the type of article headings I’m referring to? Things like –

  • Top 5 Traits of the Best Sales People.
  • Top 10 Strategies for Reducing Stress in the Workplace.
  • Top 5 Ways to Handle Difficult People in your Office.
  • 7 Tips For Finding Your Tupperware Lids (OK, I made that one up, but you’d read it wouldn’t you?)

Based on absolutely no scientific proof, no analytical data and virtually no empirical research whatsoever (other than a quick, casual Google search and other than my gut feeling), here are my Top 5 Reasons Why Top 5 (or 6,7,8 etc) Style Posts Work So Effectively In Engaging Viewers On Social Media.

NUMBER 5: We are all time poor. When you are scrolling through your social media feed, these “Top Tips” list posts (some people call them ‘Listicles’….no, seriously, they do) look like they’ll be quick to read. Chunky paragraphs look daunting. Short numbered paragraphs look enticing. Even 10 Tips are probably too many. 3 looks a little light-on. 5 to 7 Tips seem to be the lucky numbers. I’d love to back this up with some research or scientific proof….but as I said above, I got nuthin’!!!

NUMBER 4: They look like we will get a quick and easy, take-home practical piece of advice. Someone has done the heavy-lifting for us and condensed complex knowledge into bite-size chunks. Not only can I learn something quickly, but it won’t be too taxing.

NUMBER 3: There is no Number 3. I could only think of 4 Tips but I thought 4 was too few for this valuable, insightful post. I’m sure you understand.

NUMBER 2: I genuinely think we all love numerical “Top” style lists. It is not only a business / LinkedIn thing. Top 10 Movies of 2017, Top 40 Songs, Top 101 Books, Top 200 Millionaires, Top 20 Restaurants, Top 10 Things To Do In Sydney, Top 1 Hit Songs by Vanilla Ice….the lists go on and on. And we all seem to love them. So “Top Tips / Top Pieces of Advice” Lists tap or rather lap into our legendary, long-held, lascivious love of learnings-laden long or less-long lists.

NUMBER 1: Our preference for curated ‘Lists’ has been proven psychologically (OK, I admit I actually DID do some research for this article after all and my wife is a psychologist so there was stuff lying around the house). According to a Swiss psychologist called Claude Messner (no idea who he is or where is from but he is real) there is a phenomenon called “The Paradox of Choice” which suggests that the more information and options we have, the worse we feel. If you’ve walked down the aisles of Woolworths recently looking for a jar of mayonnaise, you’ll know the feeling.

He concluded that humans feel better and happier when the amount of work we have to do to process information is reduced. The faster we can make a decision, the happier we are. The web (and social media feeds in particular) are basically an endless series of choices. So in that context a list is the easiest, most satisfying option.

Thanks for reading these 5 short things. Hope this list has made your life better and happier and taught you a new word – “Listicle.”