If you’re human and have access to the internet, you’ve probably fallen victim to ‘click-bait’ at least once in your life. If you’re like me you hover on the edge of cynicism and curiosity every time you open Facebook. We’ve almost become desensitized to it and have learned to ignore it on Facebook…but what the hell has happened to LinkedIn?
And when did marketers think to themselves ‘hey that thing I loathe in my personal life could be a fucking fantastic addition to my lead gen campaign?’ In case you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘click bait’ let me enlighten you.
Click bait is content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page. Typically the sensation is not substantiated beyond the headline of the content which elicited the click-through.
Why does shitty click bait work?
Click bait attracts our attention and often earns our click because we’re weak. And bored. And we’re so saturated in content that we’ve seen it all, so we’re always looking for something we haven’t seen. In our personal lives we seek to be informed and entertained, and no longer are the boring facts of life and those things you hear on the news interesting, provocative, or shocking enough (it’s why we love Donald Trump news reports even if we hate him).
I think we can all agree click bait is annoying, but it works, so we kind of deserve it. But what is click bait for? I don’t know this to be true, but I image it was concocted by vicious hackers and malware creators who have a shockingly enlightened grasp of human psychology. For a long time legit businesses did not bait us so cruelly.
Now that its proven effective, however, it seems enterprising enterprises have decided to jump on that morally dubious bandwagon to ‘earn’ our clicks the easy way – with exciting headlines and empty promises. And LinkedIn has (d)evolved into an effective platform for the proliferation of their crappy content.
Why would legit business use click bait?
It’s google’s fault. This is an oversimplified explanation of search engine optimization (SEO), but basically it works like this: To show up in unpaid search results on search engines like google, your content needs to contain the search terms people are looking for, but also prove that others find it interesting and valuable. The value of your content is measured by how many people look at it. Thus, to build credibility for your website in the eyes of search engines, you need high traffic. To obtain high traffic you can earn it slowly over time by producing high quality interesting content targeted at individuals who are your target readership, or you can trick a broader audience into visiting your site with broadly interesting headlines.
Could you offer those people substantive content which fulfills the promise in that headline? Sure, but that’s time consuming and expensive, requires talent and an you have to care about good marketing. You will get the clicks and downloads you seek without bothering to put anything worthwhile behind the gated form. So why bother? Because you have integrity? Apparently not.
The latest offender? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Salesforce Pardot – a company marketing to marketers – thought they would get away with fooling us this with this enticing headline: 7 Inspiring B2B Marketing Campaigns: Must-See Examples of Marketing Success That You Can Replicate
I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking to be inspired and see examples of great marketing. Even better when there are takeaways I can implement. This could have been an awesome piece of content…except it wasn’t. There was NOTHING in it. I mean, not nothing…there were pictures and wimpy descriptions of what one might loosely call a campaign, with accompanying links to the featured company’s twitter account (more click bait!)
To be honest, I’m not sure whether this was intentional click bait; Pardot’s weak attempt to try to dazzle prospects by showing off the big-name companies that use their software; or a young millennial content marketer’s honest attempt at content creation skewed by the generation (s)he grew up in, which has blinded him/her to the difference between real content and internet garbage.
Think I’m too cynical? Maybe…but here’s what happened next….
About 15 minutes later I got a phone call, which I did not answer. There was no voicemail, but I did get a follow-up email from a sales rep who said he just tried to call me. I ignored it. Two days later I got another phone call with a voicemail from the same rep. And another follow-up email. He wanted to know when I was available to speak about my interest in Pardot. I politely told him I’m not interested in Pardot, I’m perfectly happy with my (much more robust) marketing automation platform, and I was simply interested in the topic promised in the content. He did not reply.
Normally I’m annoyed by over-zealous sales reps, but this time I was nice because his marketing team set him up for failure. Putting aside the especially disappointing lack of content in this particular piece of content, generally speaking creating content that’s of interest to a broad group of people may make for good lead gen, but it’s not sufficient qualifying content. Just because you got someone to download a provocative piece of content does not meant they’re interested in what you have to offer or ready to speak to a sales person. You’d think that Pardot, a company that markets and sells to marketers a product which has automated lead scoring and qualification capabilities, might exercise proper use of the tool they are selling.
I hope this was an isolated incident and that they will learn from their mistake, but I suspect more likely they will see the huge download counts and call this piece of click bait a success. And they will continue to have a proliferation platform in LinkedIn – a tool I once valued, which is rapidly becoming the click-bait emporium of the business world.
I hope you felt the click bait headline I lovingly gave this post yielded satisfactory content.