Clickbait headlines. We go for them a lot then wish we didn’t. The art of the enticing headline that promises lots and delivers little.
by Paul Newton
Hi. Well, this is awkward.
I haven’t discovered a new way to write clickbait headlines.
And there is no number 7.
You Won’t Believe What He’s Going To Tell You About Clickbait!
No matter what your aims are with content marketing, writing a good, eye-catching headline is key to clicks and success. This has resulted in the method of clickbait progressively evolving over the last few years.
Clickbait headlines are written, or thumbnails designed, to create intrigue, and in a way so that the audience must click on the link to find out what they’re talking about. Clickbait is compelling because, psychologically, we crave the information which is left out of headlines. And no matter how tacky they read, clickbait headlines successfully tantalise all sorts of people, and in doing so lure massive amounts of traffic to (usually ad heavy) websites.
But can clickbait be used by public sector organisations? In its rawest form, no. Fake news! Bad! But there are certain techniques that can be employed to increase the likelihood of clicks and conversion, and at the same time raise you above the clickbait noise.
1. Post. Evaluate. Repeat.
Social media algorithms (as well as audience behaviour) are constantly changing, so posts which may have performed well last year may no longer be as successful. If you see a post performing well in terms of engagement and clicks, employ the same style in your next few posts, then evaluate.
A personal favourite account of mine is BBC News on Facebook. Whilst it’s not clickbait, their post descriptions are short, emotive and create curiosity for the reader to stop scrolling and read the link title. And any method to stop a scroll increases the chance of a click. The BBC also does not use link descriptions, which keeps the amount of text on their posts to a minimum – yet they still manage to communicate to the audience why clicking the link will benefit them.
But if you are struggling for a headline, check out this headline generator!
2. YouTube Custom Thumbnails
It’s surprising how many organisations’ YouTube videos still don’t make use of custom thumbnails, and instead keep that awkward freeze frame of an interviewee’s face mid-sentence!
It’s best practice to create a custom thumbnail using a still from the videos, rather than use a stock image (if it can be helped), overlaid with a bold, readable title. However, don’t use the same tactic on Facebook; text on the thumbnail (or any image for that matter) will count against you.
When it comes to YouTube thumbnails, "intrigue, don’t mislead" advises YouTuber Casey Neistat.
3. GIF bait
Not one to go overboard with, but using a GIF alongside your tweet will catch the audience’s eye and increase the chance of engagement. For example, I would have scrolled straight past this tweet from @buffer had it not been for the CUTE DOG CARRYING A STICK OMG!
Sorry, where was I….
4. Winning with Instagram
Clickbait on Instagram, is that a thing? Yes! Asking for a double tap to complete the picture is just one approach. But we won’t stoop to that level!
Clickbait for Instagram is simply: POST BEAUTIFUL PHOTOGRAPHS. That’s why people use the app. To enjoy amazing photos. Posting full press releases in the description will get you nowhere. Give the people what they want, and be aiming to grow your brand and reputation rather than conveying that 500-word press release!
5. Make a list. Check it twice
It’s the oldest rule in the clickbait manual, but the human brain loves a list. Especially odd numbered lists. Lists help to quantify the length of the story, and are ultimately easier to read.
So those ‘7 Ways To Stay Safe Online’ is a go!
6. Be authentic
You don’t have to stoop to clickbait to get clicks. Develop a tone of voice on your accounts that your audience will relate to; connect with them as you would with friends. Make them laugh. Make their day! And encourage others in your organisation to do the same. A supportive and collaborative online community which champions individuality and authentic content will always outperform eye-rollingly-bad clickbait.
At The Start Of His Blog They Were Sceptical, By The End Of It They Were Asking For More
No matter where you are in your social media journey – whether you have an account with 50 followers, or 50,000 – focus on publishing inspiring content that grabs attention and embraces your brand values. Because, unlike clickbait, audiences will appreciate great content and will stick around for more.
But even after all of this, one question still remains…
How DO cruise ships fill their unsold cabins?
Paul Newton is digital communications manager at Keele University.