What is Clickbait?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary clickbait is content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page. In other words, it’s the intentional act of promising what to expect in a headline, on social media in an image or a combination of mediums.

It’s basically what the target audience is going to find when reading a story online. So, it’s really no wonder why there are several publishers who practise this clickbait social strategy religiously. Why? Well, in a nutshell because it’s an effective way of luring readers to not only click, but actually read most if not all the content.

A prearranged headline format?

The way we formulate titles, subtitles and sentences needs to be well-thought-out. Therefore, it’s important to understand the number of times a word is incorporated and its ideal positioning within the sentence, for it to be the most effective.

This rule of thumb can just as easily be applied to a group of words the writer desires to make most prominent, and interestingly, it’s usually at the end of a title, sentence or phrase. Think about it. How many times have you been reeled in to click on an interesting or incomplete title (no matter how predictable the end might have been), simply because of the words that have been chosen? Needless to say, the answer to this question is: several times.

Another prominent position in a string of words is the beginning. Any element in the sentence, other than the subject, may pack a punch when placed first. Yet, while a subject coming first in its sentence may be emphatic, it can hardly be done by its position alone.

The belief that the suitable place for what is to be made most prominent is the end applies equally to the words of a sentence, to the sentences of a paragraph, and to the paragraphs of a composition. Let’s face it, man is a storytelling species: take fiction for instance, we invent the conflicts within a story where we expect some sort of resolution, we seek that element of closure. This virtual reality, a substitute experience, helps us to resolve the conflicts of the real world.

So, what happens with non-fiction, then? This category of story-telling works at a second level. Not only does it shape our influences to face future struggles, but at its best, it works in the here and now – in all its real-time rawness and glory.

Stories that uncover corruption, ignite the flames of justice, and restore the well-being of the community. And let’s not forget light-hearted reading, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good relaxing, humorous read every now and again?

So how does Clickbait actually work?

Irritating as it sometimes may be, and despite its deliberate overtness, it really works. Some of its efficacy could be credited to semantic shift. You might be thinking… what the heck is that? Also, known as semantic change, semantic dift, semantic progression and semantic development (phew!); put simply, it’s the evolution of word usage – typically to the point that the modern definition is drastically different from the original one. Linguistically speaking, semantic change is a modification in one of the meanings of a word.

Each word has a diversity of senses and meanings, which can be supplemented, removed, or reformed as time passes, often to the degree that’s affiliated to space and time, giving it very different meanings. Yet a substantial portion of behavioural science also plays into it. There are a new number of studies which narrows down people’s clickbait habits to two simple things:

1. The outsized role emotion plays on our intuitive judgements and daily choices
2. Our lazy brain

But you might be asking, is it a good thing? Well, it’s all really subjective, but content is after all like art, it’s in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, the reader.

Manipulation that works

Admit it, you’re often conscious of this manipulation, and yet helpless to resist it. The reason can be pinned down to the fact that despite its superficiality and sensationalism, we want to find out ‘what he did next’ and how ‘it will leave us speechless’. Why? Because we’re innately curious beings, and despite its ‘baitiness’, such text still manages to be effective.

Of course, this has a lot to do with emotion and the role it plays in our daily decision-making processes. Tapping in to our emotions, or that degree of physical response to an emotion, is a fundamental element in readers’ clicking behaviours. Sadness and anger, for example, are negative emotions, but anger is much more powerful.

If content is King, context is definitely Queen. To put this popular theory into practice, you need to entrust content creation to experts. Here at Fibonacci Marketing we take our content very seriously, because our writers have an in-depth understanding of what makes a potential reader want to click or not. If you’re interested in learning more of what we do, click here.

Be sure to check out the second segment of this blog. But until then, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.