As a BtoB publisher, you already know that readers are social animals and that in order to keep up with reader behavior, your content must make it into the social media. You also know that the ever-shifting advertising models are going through a critical transformation: it’s more about time spent than clicks.
But, how do you create incentives for your staff to interact with social media and to enhance ad performance, without encouraging clickbait - luring readers to an article or ad, but delivering little value?
First, let’s take a moment to talk about clickbait:
You likely know that it usually takes the form of sensational headlines (not plastic fishies) and the primary motive for using it is to entice readers to click on the link and hence arrive at a certain webpage, thereby delivering the clicks required for advertisers.
You also probably know that there is a strong movement against clickbait that includes baitshaming. Even though most people in the publishing world will argue that clickbait is nothing new (it’s been around since the days of newspaper boys shouting headlines on the corner) it’s also important to recognize that clickbait wields more power in the saturated world of the Internet and is increasingly viewed as a deception among readers. People don’t want to waste their precious time on empty promises. In BtoB publishing especially, they are looking for a relationship of trust with reliable sources; they are looking for useful information and meaningful, productive engagement with a community of professionals.
So, when you are incentivizing social interaction among your writers and editors, don’t lose sight of what your readers ultimately want.
Follow this simple rule: deliver what you say you are going to deliver. It’s okay to develop headlines with social interaction in mind, but it’s not about tricking readers—ensure that headlines aren’t making empty promises. A good bait-less headline will actually be informative—so that readers learn something even if they don’t decide to click on the article. But ultimately, the content must deliver what the headline promises. Buzzfeed has a great take on this.
Remember: engagement over clicks. There has never been better time to practice this, especially when you think about how publishers are experimenting with advertising models that focus on time spent with content that contains ads. Writers and editors should, at the foundation, be thinking about what will keep a reader on your site, which will naturally lead to “likes.” Whereas, thinking about “likes” first, won’t necessarily lead to deeper engagement.
Think of “sharing” as an end goal. People can like a piece of content, but does that translate to more time spent with a website or more interaction around that piece? Likely not. In order to share a piece of content, readers must engage more deeply in it and find enough value in it to pass it along. Additionally, sharing also comes as part of a dialogue among a community of users—one that your writers and editors should be actively and consistently involved in if they want to increase shares.
Pay attention to Facebook’s algorithm changes. Facebook is adept at measuring reader interaction and working to deliver the kind of experience that users want. One of their latest changes involves a strong shift away from articles/content that leverage clickbait. Not only does it behoove publishers to attempt to comply with changes, simply watching what Facebook does is a great way to get to know your audience better.
Give some time to instilling these concepts in your team along with your shifting incentive and compensation strategies. By doing so, you’ll help avoid clickbait casualties.