Gotcha! If you’re anything like me, you’ll often be scrolling through Facebook at 11 p.m. and find yourself scanning a series of articles on your news feed with the most outlandish of titles: “Two Friends Went Exploring in An Old House: What They Found is Chilling”,‘When You Read These 10 Shocking Food Facts, You’ll Never Want to Eat Again”, and my personal favorite, “The Tragic Transformation of the 15 Cutest Child Stars Ever”. Harsh. This tactic, my friends, is good ‘ol click-bait. It’s like the rick-roll of marketing.
iO9 describes clickbait as “the new invention for the short attention spans of the internet age”. Even today while scrolling through Instagram, I came across an article with the title “Alexis Bledel’s Confession About Gilmore Girls Ending May Surprise You”. All the sudden, I find myself thinking, “What happened, Alexis? Girl, tell me! I’ve never even watched an episode of Gilmore Girls and I need to know!”
Is this tactic effective, or is it another marketing no-no that we should avoid at all costs? There are two sides to this debate. Here are three of the dangers of click-bait that you should be aware of in your marketing efforts:
1). Keepin’ it real
Aw, remember when we could actually trust the news that we consumed on a daily basis? The good ‘ol days. It’s impossible to fully trust the validity of the slew of information thrown at you on a daily basis. No, Pope Francis didn’t endorse Trump’s presidential campaign, and yes, Betty White is still alive and well. If you’re contributing to the millions of blog posts circulating throughout the web on a daily basis, do us all a favor and fact check.
In November of 2016, Mark Zuckerberg released this statement on his Facebook account: “We take misinformation seriously. Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously”. This statement led to Facebook’s recent release of a “false news” feature where its users can report instances of news that are invalid.
2). Just because it’s viral, it must be true, right?
We’re all victims of groupthink. We’re human beings—it’s only natural. In his book “Contagious- Why Things Catch On”, Jonah Berger explains why click-bait is so powerful and why companies have moved towards this tactic in their marketing efforts. “Content creators started optimizing headlines that get people to click, regardless of what happens after that. But while these sugary sweet titles may trick our brains into clicking, in the long-run, click-bait is bad because it overpromises and under delivers”.
3). Is your content targeted and valuable to your buyer persona(s)?
As all inbound marketers know, buyer personas are the basis of our marketing strategy. A “buyer persona” is the individual that your marketing efforts are targeted towards. For example, Mojo Media Labs’ ideal customer would be a fast-growing company in the Dallas, Texas area, focused in the professional services, manufacturing, healthcare, or B2B space. We craft our content targeting the pain points of these personas, their motivations, and interests.
If you’re utilizing a captivating subject line/article title that has no relation to your persona that you’re targeting, how can you ever expect to “reel them in?” This is where “click-bait” fails us. Sure, you may get plenty of clicks and exposure, but once they make it to the actual content, are you adding any value?
Recognize the difference between captivating subject lines and click-bait. Sure, you may get plenty of traffic to that piece of content, but that’s where the road will end. The visitor will be left feeling very frustrated and deceived, similar to how I feel when the ice cream machine is “broken” EVERY time I go to the McDonald’s drive thru. No one should feel that feeling. Make the Internet great again… by producing honest content.