You Won’t Believe What Happens Next in this Shocking Post About Clickbait

For me and many other Millennial Marketers, the word “clickbait” makes us roll our eyes and mutter a curse against sites like UpWorthy and Buzzfeed. It’s often lazy copywriting, cashing in on people’s curiosity for the sensational, but then failing to deliver relevant content (and usually the websites are a hot mess, IMHO).

Clickbait memeFor me and many other Millennial Marketers, the word “clickbait” makes us roll our eyes and mutter a curse against sites like UpWorthy and Buzzfeed.

It’s often lazy copywriting, cashing in on people’s curiosity for the sensational, but then failing to deliver relevant content (and usually the websites are a hot mess, IMHO).

For some of us, hearing someone benignly say, “You won’t believe …” causes a collective shudder, and if you tell me something is going to shock me, it better be pretty horrific.

That said, Pat Friesen — one of my copywriting mentors — presented on a recent All About eMail session titled “You Won’t Believe It! Clickbait and Email Subject Lines,” and made a great point: All subject lines and headlines are bait of some sort. They’re in place to convince readers to open, click through, read, etc. The editorial staff here at Target Marketing knows that all too well: Our subject line can make or break our daily e-newsletter’s performance.

But here’s the caveat: It’s what you, the marketer, provide after the click.

Buzzfeed Chips StoryOkay, admittedly, I’m already skeptical. Chips (actually, in this case, the Buzzfeed piece is referencing what most Americans call fries) are a pretty basic food. A little salty, a lot potatoey. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I don’t consider them capable of blowing my mind. So let’s look beyond the headline.

Buzzfeed Chips Body

Ohhhhhhh. Yum. So we have a few things going well here.

No. 1: excellent food photography (seriously, who would stick around on an article about food without some photos?! Instagram has trained us all to well).

No. 2: Each listing links to a recipe. Yes, that’s right: You’re going to scroll through this Buzzfeed piece, get a bunch of ideas, and when something looks really good, you can click the link and go to the recipe, which you can then pin on your Pinterest board for later. To make my point, here’s the Buzzfeed link so you can get pinning yourself.

Now, is the Buzzfeed headline kind of ridiculous? Yes.

Is it kind of clickbaity? Yes.

But does it deliver on the headline?

YES. And better yet, to throw back to last week’s post, this content arguably levels me up. How? Because now I have a recipe for kimchi fries for my next party and everyone attending is going to be impressed. Thanks Buzzfeed for making me a better me.

Now for something completely different …

ClickbaitIn comparison … well, Macaulay Culkin is still very much alive, and the other two headlines result in sites that try to sell you suspicious products (not provide you any information about how to do the thing). These three are the epitome of time-wasting and useless clickbait. I’ll pass.

So remember, there is a difference between provoking your reader to make the click, then delivering on that headline, and being a lazy marketer who’s just out for clicks. Don’t be that guy.

If you’d like to listen to Pat’s complete session, register to access entire virtual show on-demand, because I barely scraped the surface of all the solid copywriting information she provided in our 30-minute session.

And now, as a special treat, here’s a taste of @clickbaitrobot … yes a Twitter bot that takes trending topics and attempts to turn it into bizarro clickbait. (I dare you not to laugh or at least question humanity.)

Author: Melissa Ward

Melissa Ward is the managing editor for Target Marketing, and she has opinions! More importantly, she's a nerd for great copy and design, a disciple of authenticity, and really loves it when marketers get it right.

7 thoughts on “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next in this Shocking Post About Clickbait”

    1. As long as the bait is good, then it’s worth it. Otherwise you have a bunch of ticked off people (and that’s usually what typical “clickbait” does and creates).

  1. As a marketer I roll my eyes when I see clickbait, but at the same time I tend to get hooked anyways lol. Well mostly video clickbait…

    1. I completely understand. For me, it’s idle curiosity about what the site looks like and delivers. Usually I’m disappointed, or supremely annoyed that you have to click through a slideshow.

  2. When I was in middle school kids who were running for student body offices would create posters that said “SEX! Now that I got your attention, vote for…” As hormone ravaged kids, we were certainly disappointed once we read the entire poster. (If kids did that now they’d be prosecuted as adult sex offenders, but that’s an aside).

    Certainly you can call subject lines and OE teasers and even headlines clickbait. But that term has a negative connotation for me because it implies there is no payoff, so I personally would use it only to refer to poorly executed (lazy) copywriting. Good copywriting creates a seamless flow in answering the “What’s in it for me?” question as your reader opens your email or envelope. When that happens, you engage and you build trust.

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