Clickbait headlines made sense to start with. Sharing is good business and if a juicy headline draws 10 million people to your content, that can only be a good thing. Right?
It certainly started off well, with many businesses buying into the fact that exciting titles lure people to your site. What businesses didn’t account for was the growing cynicism of their readership.
In fact, Facebook has started to fight back against the tide of clickbait articles and has promised to ban publishers who farm out spam content. The new algorithm will detect headlines such as “I Could Never Look at Barbie In The Same Way Again After I Was Told THIS!”
So why is clickbait so bad and why should it be left out of your social media strategy?
All Hype, No Substance
All journalists are taught that headlines must grab the reader’s attention straight away, where intrigue draws you to read on. While crafting such headlines were once considered a valuable journalistic skill, they are now associated with clickbait.
The problem here is that while some sensationalist headlines delivered some pretty interesting news, clickbait headlines tend to overpromise and under deliver. By failing to come up with the goods, your reader’s trust will dissolve as soon as they realise that your content is nothing but hot air.
Content that provides instant gratification is a slippery slope. Jake Beckman told the Daily Beast’s Emily Shire that clickbait is more sinister than some of the old ways of flogging newspaper stories because “readers are treated as stupid” and are being manipulated.
If clicks were the aim of the game, then the article may focus on something trivial that will diminish the overall quality of the content. This will only ever promote a fleeting engagement rather than something that is long lasting.
Social Media Backlash
Jake Beckman has been on a mission to save readers from clickbait and is the man behind @SavedYouAClick on Twitter. Within a few months, @SavedYouAClick earned 125,000 followers. Beckman isn’t the only one leading the anti-clickbait movement with @HuffPoSpoilers and @UpworthySpoiler mocking clickbait culture.
Clicks, Not Customers
If a reader clicks through to your website because of a sensationalised headline and is then presented with an article that is neither useful nor informative, they are going to leave.
Furthermore, this will make them unhappy with the content of your website and make them unlikely to return again, let alone become a customer.
Could Clickbait Work?
Companies should not be producing content to just get page views. To do so would be a fruitless and self-defeating tactic. Instead focus on using headlines that guide customers to your website, present them with engaging and useful content so it makes it seem like the visit to your page was worth their time.
Vox Acting Editor Nilay Patel told Poynter that there could be a business model for creating content that lived up to its hype.
“BuzzFeed headlines pay off particularly well because they actually make fairly small promises and then overdeliver,” he wrote. “It’s validating, which is maybe the most valuable payoff of them all.”