Why “SUCCES” Spells Success in Social Media

This is part of the “Hi AleX,” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

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Hi, AleX:

Many years ago, a high school journalism teacher, unaware of it at the time, imparted an enormously valuable lesson—and a “sticky” idea —to one of his students.

He challenged his students to write a story lead about a local high school principal’s decision to send his faculty to another city the following Thursday for a day-long training session.

After quickly scanning all the submitted leads the teacher offered this entirely unexpected observation: “The lead to the story is ‘There will be no school next Thursday.’”

This brilliantly disruptive response stuck forever in the mind of at least one student, Nora Ephron, who was inspired that day to train as a journalist and who later went on to become one of the most successful screenwriters in motion picture history.

The Science of Stickiness

The story is related by Chip and Dan Heath, authors of “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Thrive and Others Die,” as a stellar example of how the element of surprise can be used to create messages with lasting impressions—”sticky” ones, in other words.

There’s an important lesson here for you too, AleX.  If there is one critical social-media skill you should develop in the immediate future, it is mastering what the Heaths describe as the “science of stickiness.”

You must learn to create messages that stick to the Velcro of your clients’ minds. Equally important, AleX, you must learn to distinguish your messages from the thousands of others that bombard your clients day after day.

By ensuring that your messages stick with your audiences, you deepen the levels of engagement with them.  Equally important, they come to appreciate you as a valuable resource. In time, you not only build valuable social capital with your clients but also enhance your networking effectiveness.

So, how should you go about mastering stickiness?

The Heaths have devised an acronym, “SUCCES”—with stickiness in mind—to help readers focus on how to craft the most effective messages.

  • Simple – strip the message of everything but its core.
  • Unexpected – when possible, add an element of surprise.
  • Concrete – put the message in visual or sensory context.
  • Credible – ensure the message is believable.
  • Emotional – underscore the message’s importance by connecting with a reader’s, listener’s, or viewer’s feelings.
  • Stories – use narratives to get people to act on these messages.

How to Post Sticky Messages

The next challenge is putting this SUCCES formula to work in social-media venues such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

The Heaths put simplicity at the top of the list for good reason. Simplicity can be immensely helpful to people struggling to make sense of the welter of messages they encounter daily on Facebook and Twitter news feeds and other other social media venues.

For example, medical professionals could develop an enormous amount of goodwill among their Facebook friends and Twitter followers by linking regularly to news articles about the most timely and relevant health-related topics, introducing each with a concise description that focuses solely on the core message.

Space constraints forced newspapers into mastering simplicity centuries ago. Here are some recent examples of headlines from the online Health section of the New York Times: “High Blood Pressure Tied to Brain Changes,” “Can Exercise Protect the Brain from Fatty Foods?” and “Can Foods Affect Colon Cancer Survival?”

Of course, all elements of the Heath’s SUCCES formula can be used in effective social-media messaging—the reason why it is worth investing the time to read the book and taking its lessons to heart, AleX.

Crafting sticky messages will be one of the most valuable job skills in this new information order.


Author: Jim Langcuster


This article (Why “SUCCES” Spells Success in Social Media) was originally published Monday December 10, 2012 on the Military Families Learning Network blog.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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