I have a confession: I am not a golden retriever, this is probably not the best blog DMA has ever published, and the real title for this piece should be, “What is Clickbait and Why is it So Bad for Your Brand?”
(Hint: if you opened this piece expecting an adorable canine savant and are now disappointed and feel cruelly misled—and perhaps even a little silly—you just experienced what each consumer feels every time they open a clickbait article.)
So What IS Clickbait, Technically?
Clickbait has been defined multiple ways, from “anything that makes people want to click on your post” to “completely useless content accompanied by an irrelevant or misleading headline.” Ouch. For an example of the latter, see this actual ad featuring an innocuous-looking gentleman who (apparently) terrorizes retailers across the country:
Look out for that guy, folks, and warn your supply chain!!
But I digress. For the purpose of this piece, let’s go with Ashuta Bhattarai’s definition of clickbait, which characterizes it as a “melodramatic title for an online article that is intended to manipulate people into clicking the link.”
Now if you’re like most of us, you have been familiar with the phrase “quality over quantity” virtually your whole life. The sentiment is admirable, but follow-through can be easier said than done when the success of your work is defined by how much awareness you generate. Indeed, if you have spent any length of time online in the last decade, you can testify firsthand that many marketers have developed an unfortunate penchant for clickbait in their quest for relevance online.
In the fresh produce industry, this could look something like:
- “WOW, You Won’t BELIEVE What This Farmer Found Growing In The Field!”
- “This Guy is a Genius—His Surefire Method for Cutting Costs in Your Supply Chain”
- “Her Farm Nearly Went Bankrupt, But Then She Discovered This Secret…”
- “This Kid Came Up with the Absolute BEST Artichoke Recipe We’ve Ever Tasted!”
- Anything that includes the phrase, “You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!”
…and each of the articles above typically links to a thinly-veiled sales pitch, complete with misspellings, shoddy sources galore, and information readers probably already knew. Womp womp.
If your end goal is simply to generate clicks, clickbait can be very effective—even when people know better, their curiosity often gets the best of them. (…we’ve all been there. Personally, I’m a sucker for every “funniest cat video ever” that floats across my screen). Despite that, because clickbait headlines typically mislead potential customers about what content they are about to find, readers tend to exit the page immediately, leaving you with a sky-high bounce rate—and absolutely no leads to show for all those clicks. Over time, the clickbait experience leads to frustration and eventual disgust, which means 1.) sacrificing credibility and brand authority, 2.) eroding trust in your brand, and eventually 3.) a longitudinal decrease in engagement—which will translate to a loss in sales downstream.
How to Seek Qualified Engagement and Avoid Baiting Your Readers
Put simply, clickbait headlines are borne from lazy marketing, folks. If you rely on suspense and extreme exaggeration to entice readers, you are resorting to trickery rather than providing people with information of value—don’t sell yourself short! Consumers across the board have become increasingly suspicious of sensational headings, which has actually led social platforms—including Facebook—to start penalizing clickbait headlines as far back as 2014. With the speed of the news cycle nowadays, it is true that more people will skim your headline than will actually read the linked article, but that doesn’t mean the content itself doesn’t matter!
It is far better to provide helpful content, even if fewer people click on your articles at first, because those readers will typically 1.) stay on your page longer, 2.) engage with—and even seek out!—your commentary, and 3.) eventually become customers and then true ambassadors for your brand. Regardless of the product or service in which your company specializes, you absolutely can be engaging without exaggerating to the point of being misleading—and if you aren’t quite sure how to make your consumers as excited about your brand story as you are, that’s what we’re here for!
Social media and blogging are all about the long game, and building trust is key. In most cases, your online readership won’t explode overnight, but with quality, consistent posting and smart social media management, your brand’s efforts will pay off online. Even if the dog doesn’t write your blogs. [winky face emoji]