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Avoid clickbait and sharebait: Write good content that matters

Avoid clickbait and sharebait: Write good content that matters

It seems we spend more and more of our time online. Many of us even have careers that depend on online activities: social media, online shopping, etc. And with the vast majority of content that exists on the world wide web, it’s not surprising some of the lengths people (and even large news organizations) will go to in order to get you to click through.

What is “clickbait?”

There are several ways to look at clickbait, but perhaps the most “agreed-upon definition” (if such a thing exists) is a headline that creates curiosity by being manipulative, or playing upon the reader’s fears – or worse, by promising content that it doesn’t really deliver.

I see clickbait all the time on Facebook. I’m not immune to having my curiosity piqued by a headline that tells me it’s going to “blow your mind.” The problem is that, very often, these posts not only fail to blow my mind – they also enrage me.

Be careful the kind of attention you seek

The internet is a crowded place, and if your profits or livelihoods depend on getting people to click on your ad or visit your site, then you obviously have to give them some reason to do so. The problem occurs when you do grab the attention of someone truly curious about your subject matter, then fail spectacularly at delivering what was promised. Even worse when you make them click through 20 pages to figure out that you under-delivered. I already have a list of sites in my head that I avoid as soon as I see the URL, as no matter how interesting the headline is, I know the content will be disappointing.

Perhaps even more insidious is what some people know as “sharebait.” These are the articles or snippets (or memes) that reinforce the beliefs of the intended audience (“Girls from Pennsylvania are the most beautiful in the US”), prompting them to share it among their friends – via Facebook, Twitter, etc – most of the time without even reading it.

A suspenseful headline is great – if you deliver

The bottom line when writing anything – whether it’s news, interesting facts, a “how-to” post, or a recipe – is to think about your audience and determine their interests. It’s OK to use an intriguing headline – after all, you want to foster ample curiosity so that your readers will click to read more. The problem is when the headline implies something that either is a flat-out falsehood, or is a really liberal or murky interpretation of the facts.

If you’re creating interesting content and truly thinking about your audience, you should be able to get them to your web page (or blog post, etc.) by piquing their curiosity honestly, while avoiding manipulative and salacious tactics.

Aug 17, 2015
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