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Clickbait (or click bait) is a phrase posted online – often on social media networks like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn – that is trying to convince people to click the link. Usually this is done without providing much value to consumers directly on the social network.

The only goal is to get people to go to whatever site the link points to.

Related: How to be clickworthy and not clickbaity

Many times clickbait phrases are teasers that promise content that you don’t want to miss and can’t live without (or some exaggerated statement like that).

Examples include:

  • I couldn’t believe this… (LINK)
  • This can’t be the truth … (LINK)
  • I wouldn’t wish this on anyone … (LINK)
  • You won’t believe what’s in this picture … (LINK)

Obviously, all social networks – even Twitter with its 140 character limit – allow for more space than that. Entire stories can be told in a Tweet. No linking necessary.

I’ve publicly said that some organizations have mistaken social media for a link delivery service. Linking isn’t all bad. But if that’s all somebody does on social media, that doesn’t sound very social to me. Sharing links with some context is one thing. Readers might still be able to get something of out of that – even without clicking the link. And they can make an informed decision if they actually want to click the link.

Then there’s clickbait content. Clickbait content usually doesn’t offer any value unless you click the link. And we don’t even know if it will offer value once you have followed the link – until you do.

Let’s take: “I couldn’t believe this… (LINK)”

They might end up talking about red lollipops and I only care about green ones. (You know what I mean.) Readers waste time because clickbait content is just interesting enough to get enough people to click but if the content is irrelevant readers just wasted time going to a site that doesn’t even interest them.

That might look like success (Traffic! Yay!) but that readers will likely never return.

As much as linking to articles from social media all the time can be annoying, clickbait content typically is just a waste of time. Unfortunately, we won’t know until we click.

It likely works well enough that some people won’t stop doing it.

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