When you wake up, pick up your phone and inadvertently, your finger moves to either Facebook or Instagram. And then you see this:
“A Couple Rode into Their Wedding Reception On Unicorn Jet Skis Like Bosses”
“Was It an Alien or Something?! Can’t Wait to Find Out!”
Now even if you try hard to control the urge to click, you do end up clicking to see what the fuss is all about and there’s the trap. Even the best content services that churn news to us every minute, use the crutch of “clickbait” to get traffic.
In the famous Lion-Hare story, clickbait is like the hare that convinces the lion to walk to the well, and then influences the lion (: readers) to jump into the well of disappointment. With such eye-catching headlines, one is bound to cross over only to discover how short-lived the excitement is.
Clickbait is not a new phenomenon; it is a repackaged idea that creates great hooks to grab the reader’s attention. Clickbait ensures traffic-driving content even if the mystery of it is known. It is a great feature from a marketing standpoint. It’s a tempting strategy to enable clickbait to get your content across. But the question is, should you?
While the thumb rule for any kind of headline is that they must tactfully encapsulate what the content contains, it must also be extremely catchy to get the viewer hooked. And all this, in just a few words. The question then remains is if it really is possible to strike this balance. Let’s see some of the important factors that may or may not make clickbait viable.
In advertising, sensational eye-catching content especially headlines, are the key to getting the message across. With the advent of digital content, this has become even more important given how quickly data travels and becomes viral within seconds.
Given the outburst of data that we consume on a daily basis even when we aren’t really putting our minds to it, our attention spans are becoming inversely proportional to the amount we consume. Subconsciously, we end up scrolling through our social media accounts gazillion times a day and end up reading no lesser than the equivalence of perhaps a book.
So, given our emotional response to content and how we decide what content goes viral, clickbait has, therefore, become powerful if designed well. Emotions like anger, humor, anxiety, curiosity. etc. generate a more potent response to the clickbait given how sensationally it is designed.
The response to content is measured well through the number of shares, and that really enables clickbait to garner the required traffic to the content within.
Dangers Of Clickbait
However, creators sometimes tend to go overboard and push the reader towards disappointment, like in the Lion-Hare story. Over–sensationalizing the headline just to pull the reader in, is what can ruffle the moral line between quality and quantity of content online. Given how the entire digital industry literally thrives on the amount of traffic one gets, writers tend to go into overdrive, to create some ridiculous clickbait just to get that one click.
Critics, therefore, worry that this desperation to obtain traffic by any possible means without really creating quality content is making matters murkier. It is now, as per statistics, a near-impossible task to come across an original well-formed content piece amidst the pile of sub-standard matter. The effect, this New York Times piece argues, could be devastating for journalism.
The question then is how far is too far? Creating catchy clickbait without worrying about the quality of content, solely to generate traffic or just concentrating on content ignoring the basic rule that headlines are the gateway to bring in more viewers are two extremes of the spectrum. As creators, our answer lies somewhere in between.
We need to create not just engaging clickbait but also ensure that the underlying content can hold the readers’ attention in its entirety. Creating shallow content despite good headlines and tip off the reader in a negative way is already a huge loss.
The internet is full of tricks to make your headlines appealing and successful without misleading your audience. But it’s the content behind that headline, that matters the most.
As it turns out, “to clickbait or not to clickbait” is a much less important dilemma than the content you create behind that headline to attract and keep your audience interested.
So next time, if, as a creator, we honestly know that the jaw-dropping facts are probably not as shocking, it might be worth mentioning this to the audience honestly. The clicks will start brimming. The audience would feel validated for not jumping into the well after all!