I’ll just come right out and say it – click-bait content doesn’t work anymore, and consumers are sick of it.
Over the last ten years, social content has evolved alongside user expectations and the sheer volume of content production. Today, a demand for entertainment and education has been balanced with a need for transparency and value.
It’s time to produce user-focused content your consumers want to read.
Despite the whispers around the Internet, click-bait is not a product of the digital age. As far back as 100 years ago, journalists have used a catchy headline that pulls users in but falls short of expectations. Today, users have made a shift to hold content producers accountable to the promises they make.
To maintain your authority and engagement, brands need to understand these shifts in content and user expectations to deliver quality content.
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History of Social Content
It’s been almost ten years since we saw the transition of social media and digital content begin to take place. As MySpace began giving way to modern social powerhouses such as Facebook and YouTube, we saw growing demand for user-focused content to fill the digital channels.
Amongst the many brands attempting to reshape their marketing strategies to incorporate digital, brands like Buzzfeed were born in 2006 to pioneer a new frontier of platforms dedicated exclusively to digital content and user-focused engagement.
Buzzfeed focused on crafting content that users cared about reading and wanted to share. Over time, the brand has dramatically expanded its content structure from just articles to more interactive and engaging mediums such as quizzes and video. After the launch of a video initiative in 2012, it only took 18 months for Buzzfeed to reach 1 billion views. Almost ten years after launch, Buzzfeed is valued at nearly a billion dollars and has reached profitability alongside massive authority in the digital space.
This success has spawned many competitors such as Upworthy, which launched in 2012. Upworthy has since been recognized at the fastest growing media site of all time, thanks to the focus on delivering timely, relevant, and valuable content at a feverish pace. This combination helped the brand clock 8.7 million monthly unique visitors within its first six months and more than 10 million unique visitors a month today.
While it may be a common assumption that brands like Buzzfeed and Upworthy are the kings of click-bait, but the numbers tell a different story. These brands deliver on the promises they make. They have seen great success by offering a catchy headline that tantalizes users and generates clicks while offering transparency in their titles and value in their content. Simply put, it's all “click” and no “bait”.
Content Evolution In The Digital Age
With the new shift in social content and user expectations came a new rulebook brands must follow to keep readers engaged and search engines ranking content. One of the biggest changes brought on by this shift has been the fast pace of content production required to stay relevant. With the speed of social media, brands must stay timely and consistent with delivery.
Another major trend that has surfaced is the need for brands to showcase their human side and build relationships with users. Even technical and seemingly “boring” industries have a chance to build connections by incorporating human character into content and leveraging emotional data to target users.
Recently, a new shift in user behavior has directed content to fit the needs of the device and platform it resides in. The surge of mobile devices has demanded a need for brands to make their content accessible and engaging on screens of all sizes by leveraging mobile optimization and responsive design. Visual content such as images, infographics, memes, videos, and gifs has become a powerful engagement tool across social channels. The tone of much social content has shifted to fun and easy-to-read articles that often encourage interaction. For example, Buzzfeed’s top performing content of all time remains a quiz with over 41 million views in just about a year’s time.
Lessons Learned – Increasing Visibility
With a deeper understanding of the evolution of digital content, marketers can apply the following best practices to their content strategy and increase their digital authority.
- Be Timely – Develop content calendars to keep production consistent and continual, and be ready to react to breaking industry news/events with quick delivery.
- Be Relevant – Understand the behaviors and expectations of your audience and mold your tone and delivery to increase user interaction and sharing.
- Be Accessible – Develop content that is optimized for user engagement across all devices and platforms.
- Be Valuable – Shape your content to fill the needs of your target audience segments.
- Be Interesting – Offer your fans a reason to click with enticing headlines and content that entertains or educates.
- Be Human – Deliver your content in a format that is attractive and engaging to your audience.
- Be Transparent – Offer straightforward headlines that are descriptive and catchy, but deliver on the promise made in the title.
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Content creation has evolved with user behaviors and will continue to change as technology and the digital landscape grows. Keep ahead of the competition by following trends, building strong relationships with your audience, and monitoring data to understand what is effective for your brand.