Let’s talk about clickbait

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We’ve all done it, let’s be honest. Sat at home for the evening on the sofa, tv blaring away in the background as we refresh Facebook for the 5th time hoping to see something worth tagging a friend in only for a cheap lol, comment or like, it’s how we get some late-night self-worth.  

But what do those clicks mean?  What value do they actually have?

What we should also be aware of, and us marketing types especially, is that the video you’ve just clicked on sends a virtual pat on the back to someone at the other end. They’ll then run into a boardroom on Monday morning and present their click-through report with a beaming smile on their face, but honestly - what’s the point?  

Let me paint you a picture...

“We’ve had over 500,000 hits this week on this picture of a dog sat on lilo, knocking the competition out of the water” says one team member, clutching his MacBook tightly as applause ripples round the room.

“Brilliant”, “fantastic”, “how does he do it” the audience respond.

“Sorry, but what does that have to do with our brand?”, says a brave voice in the back corner. “How is it giving value to our customers?” ignored, he leaves, head down and doesn’t speak up again.

Well that bloke in the corner is now back behind his desk on a keyboard writing a blog.  It wasn’t me, but it could’ve been.

Recently I’ve been speaking with a good friend of mine (I can’t name names as James wouldn’t forgive me) who has seen his business transition from a top-quality content site backed by world renowned journalists into what can only be described as click-bait paradiso.  

Journalists have been forced out, taking with them relationships with clients, quality writing abilities and reputations, only to be replaced by dogs on lilos.

The first few weeks were fine, clicks went through the roof and it all but seemed that there was no need for content at all.

But once the memes stopped, there was nothing left to interest the audience, so off they go to the most recent LADbible seeking their meme related refuge.

As a result, the last remaining journalist was seen chortling in his seat as the meme crew made a hasty exit, leaving a project completely upside down and a large investment into an online platform dithering into the abyss.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that yes, clicks are important and serve a purpose, but do not be fooled by their instantaneous nature because once you’ve got the hook in you’d better follow through with something interesting and fulfilling for your audience. 

Take a couple of social behemoths for example, both with a reach of circa 150 million unique views per month. LADbible with its second-hand ‘you’ve been framed-esque’ type of content is a low budget, huge reaching platform – massively successful for its target market and it achieves what it has set out to accomplish. Vox Media Group on the other hand invests a lot into original content and while still hitting the numbers, provides users with detailed and beautifully written content that keeps them coming back for more. It’s horses for courses, but don’t let the numbers blind you.

Content still has its part to play, and although the role of the journalist may change from a platform perspective, one thing still remains: quality content will always be in demand, whatever form it takes. So, look after your social feeds and reinforce them with the good content – don’t be fooled by the click-bait rat race, because it might just not be the route for you.