Have you ever found yourself scrolling on Insta to find a headline that immediately caught your attention? Just like “A New Face Wash That Makes Your Eyes Glow in the Dark”? Did you click on that headline to read more about the topic, only to waste your time reading an anticlimactic blog post or article? If you have answered “yes” to either, if not both, of these questions, then you have experienced clickbait. Clickbait has its dangers just like every other popular marketing technique out there. Let’s break down the real meaning of clickbait and its place in society today.
Find our what clickbait is and how it’s impacting our experience online.
What Is Clickbait?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines clickbait as “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.” In other words, clickbait is hyperlinked text that entices readers to follow that link. While this may sound all good and well, the link attached to the headline or visible text seems misleading, deceptive or exaggerated. Advertisers use clickbait as an incredibly extra way of trying to attract people to their agenda and their own endeavors.
Clickbait headlines, also known as teasers, add an element of dishonesty by conveying text that doesn’t accurately describe the content attached to that link. Typically, those teasers or headlines appeal to an emotion to evoke a reader’s response enough for them to click the link. Clickbait finds itself prominent across every social media platform including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest. The funny thing about clickbait is that the post embedded in the text doesn’t require likes or shares for the clickbait to benefit the brand or business behind it. In other words, clickbait content is not created for the purposes of being enjoyed.
How Is Clickbait Used?
Companies use clickbait as technique to advance a business endeavor or to promote a specific brand. Once a reader or consumer clicks a link, those putting the clickbait out there know that an audience has viewed their content. Those in the fields of advertising, marketing and others involved in promoting and putting clickbait out there know what attracts readers and viewers. They know that people, especially in today’s day and age, have short attention spans so putting out headlines that are short, and appealing to emotions, perfects the supposed art of clickbait.
Though clickbait has its perks for advertisers, it has malicious motives, including installing malware, bringing you to phishing sites and other scams as well. Hackers and scammers try to reach the largest audiences they possibly can to further their troublesome agendas. If they can get you to click a link, they think they can get you to install dangerous software and send you to scamming websites. Typically, scammers and hackers just want to hack into people’s personal computers to steal their money.
This might come off as a surprise, but clickbait has become a rampant trend among Youtubers. For example, Youtuber Jake Paul and his girlfriend faked getting married for one of his videos. Not only that, later on it was revealed that they weren’t even dating and their relationship was a scam. While this is an extreme case of clickbait, it’s a case that shows that the two Youtubers came together for their own personal gains, and for video views. Other Youtubers have mislead their audience too, all in the name of getting views on their videos, such as Haliey Sani, Pewdiepie, Tana Mongeau and Toughdalight.
Is Clickbait Good, Bad or Misleading?
Clickbait can appear good, bad and misleading all at the same time. Clickbait can seem good because advertisers promote their agenda to a large audience through techniques like clickbait. They might not use it to trick people, but instead to promote their brand in a way that makes sense. Clickbait can appear bad because of malicious intent. Hacking and scamming might seem like the worst ends of the spectrum. Clickbait even gets a bad rap despite it not being as bad as one might think.
Despite clickbait being good or bad, it always seems to mislead an audience. The next time you find yourself scrolling through social media and come across something considered clickbait, ask yourself a series of questions to determine clickbait’s validity. First, does the headline promote something that doesn’t sound realistic? Second, does the headline send you into different Internet windows to install software? Third, does the text behind the link sound like something totally opposite from the headline? If you said “yes” to these questions, you have unfortunately experienced clickbait.
Keeping wary of what you see on the internet helps to steer clear of bad clickbait. With more awareness, hopefully knowing the signs of bad clickbait will help you spot it and protect yourself.