Beyond Bait and Click

by Bob Hughes on August 24, 2016

Bob Hughes · Technology · August 24, 2016

Pendulum in Action, clickbait, engage with customersDeception is the internet experience: Clickbait articles that promise more than they can ever deliver. Blog comments by hate-filled trolls that target women and people of color (or women of color). Invectives and ranting. Political screeching. Cyber-bullying. Stories that go viral but turn out to be false. You name it: we’re deceived by the ready access to information of all sorts.

We look for human-interest, but the internet is also a place we turn to when we want to reaffirm our belief in the worst that humanity can offer.

And yet we return to it constantly. How can we not? We not only want to be outraged or enraged, we hope to be at some point actually engaged with others on a deeper level. We look for connection, even if we’re often assaulted by the conviction that people are awful to each other, especially when they feel they can’t be held accountable for what they say or for how their words land.

But still, we scroll and hope and look for answers. We look to be surprised. We look for animal videos that make us tear up.

The thing is, we’re always scrolling and looking and rarely staying anywhere long enough for us actually to engage with something (except maybe puppies or kittens). I find myself doing this too, and despite my long career in journalism it’s rare that I finish a long article online (I’m more likely to finish one that appears in a physical form). I’ve become conditioned to the faster pace of temporary engagement: seconds, not minutes. Even videos need to be quite short or I click away.

It’s exceedingly difficult today to keep people interested online or on mobile, to engage with customers in a way that keeps them coming back to learn (rather than to tease them with bits of information). Clickbait failed because people were annoyed to discover they’d wasted time on something that proved to be disappointing. It’s little wonder that Facebook, constantly shifting its algorithms about what appears in a person’s news feed, is favoring posts from friends and family over those from outside sources, even if more and more people turn to Facebook for news of the world (or to find out, in a passing way, what’s happening).

So, how do marketers reach people? How do authors not only keep people interested, but get people to notice their work?

I think it begins by acknowledging that you can’t lure in people with an empty promise – you have to deliver with something of substance. And you have to do it quickly. You have to be trustworthy.

Not everyone might click into your link immediately, but if you do what you say you’re going to do, and actually provide answers to solutions, those who find you are more likely to stay with you. At least, I hope so. Surely there’s an online quiz of some sort that can let me know how that is likely to work out?


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