You’ll Never Believe Why We Keep Falling For Viral Marketing
It's happened to everyone: you're scrolling down your social media feed, browsing status updates and images posted by your friends, only to notice a compelling headline implying something shocking about a favorite celeb or political candidate. Your curiosity piqued, you click on the article and begin to read, only to realize that there is absolutely nothing scandalous whatsoever going on with Kim or Kanye... Or if you're really unlucky you've scrolled past a piece that captures your eye due to the grotesque image they used about some disease you won't believe is on the rise! Whatever the topic, we have all clicked on one of these articles at least once and you then come to this realization as soon as your index finger has pressed down upon your mouse: you've been had by clickbait. (Fun fact: I did the mistake of trying to find an image example of the gross clickbait and the first thing that popped up was exactly that and now I cannot unsee and regret my decision. Click here for trauma)
Occasionally, an article with a clearly clickbait title has something to offer, but most of the time, the content isn't worth the time you spent waiting for the page to load. Even the most seemingly valuable articles are mostly full of bologna that you pretty much already knew. But even though you know that an article on Upworthy or Buzzfeed with a clickbait title won't deliver what it promises, you still click on it anyways, looking in vain for the fascinating, shocking information implied. Even celebrities such as Waka Flocka Flame and Ludacris have been first and foremost guilty of clicking on these type of headlines, but it is also a heavy dose of the type of content they share on their Facebook pages, reaching thousands and thus adding fuel to the fire of these viral monstrosities. So, what the heck is it that is so compelling about clickbait, and why is it so effective in viral marketing?
In essence, clickbait refers to any title intended to compel, lure, or otherwise motivate a reader into clicking on an article, regardless of how fitting it may or may not be. In most cases, clickbait promises shocking, emotional, or dramatic information that in many cases exaggerates or overstates an article's true topic.
Popular on pop culture and faux news websites, clickbait is generally used to attract the greatest number of readers possible, whether or not the artice within has merit. And somehow, it works. Even when readers are fully aware that a title is not a truthful representation, clickbait manages to lure them in regardless. One of the most popular website for these types of headlines include Clickhole, UpWorthy, and BuzzFeed (although granted, BuzzFeed articles are pretty spot on at times).
The Elements of Clickbait Titles
Clickbait titles can function in many ways, but the end goal, as the name implies, is to create a title that makes users want to click read more. As such, many of these titles use language that implies that the article to follow contains something so amazing that not clicking will lead to a loss of vital news, information, or even something mildly relatable that makes you feel better about yourself (exhibit A, for me being an introvert).
Most clickbait titles don't necessarily summarize the topic of an article, but rather create an open-ended assumption of what a reader might experience. Which, is not always a bad thing on the rare occasion that at least two sentences of the piece might actually give you an ''aha!'' moment. By using words like "shocking," "unbelievable," and "incredible," readers will be intrigued enough to click, even with the understanding that what is to come may not live up to the title. The unbelievably shocking but also incredibly thing about it is how frequently those 3 words are used, but how they work just about every damn time.
What Makes Clickbait so Appealing
When you are completely aware that an article is clickbait, you still may click anyways, despite an expectation that the end result won't be as overwhelming as you're expecting. Why? The answer is shockingly simple: curiosity.
Humans are innately curious. Even when we are fully aware that our curiosity will yield little, the possibility of knowledge and exploration is hard to ignore. Clickbait titles are written in a way that touches on this curious nature, leading web users to read an article simply because there is a possibility that it contains new and unknown information to process and absorb.
Whether you hate it and wish the trend would die or love incorporating baiting qualities into your own writing or marketing, the chances that you will click on clickbait again in the near future are great. The possibility of what an upcoming election can hold, what a celebrity might do, or what a new study has to offer is too great to ignore, igniting an unstoppable urge to encounter new information. Understanding what drives clickbait and why we find it so intriguing is only half the battle, however; the other half is resisting the strong urge to click.
Curiosity indeed kill the cat, and a few of our brain cells.