Today’s content climate presents an interesting dilemma. With so much priority being placed on “viral” content that lends itself to sharing, a new breed of content has emerged, one that prioritizes shareability over quality. Some people call it sharebait, others call it clickbait, but the fact remains that this type of content is taking the Internet by storm, for better or for worse. Sharebait has already begun to supplant conventional content marketing articles as a go-to way for companies to get attention.
What Is Sharebait?
There’s no official definition for sharebait, but you know it when you see it, and you’ve definitely seen it. Sharebait content is notorious for headlines that are eye-catching, yet don’t tell the whole story, prompting you to click the link to read more. The content isn’t necessarily valuable, but often gives a twist that encourages the reader to pass the piece along to others. A popular sharebait article that recently went viral had a headline that read, “This Man is Dating Someone Even Though He’s Married.” The twist, of course, is that he’s dating his wife. Another common form of sharebait is “listicles,” articles of lists that are geared towards specific niches of people.
What’s the Big Deal?
Sharebait works because it accomplishes the two major goals of any company—it gets people to visit their site, and it gets people to follow them on social media. A third major benefit is that the site barely has to promote itself; instead, social media followers do the dirty work. This type of exposure is pure gold, and it’s the definition of success in 2014.
How Does This Affect Me?
Shareable content with the potential to go viral is very valuable currency. Your Facebook feed is already littered with dozens of sharebait posts, and nobody seems to mind their shortcomings. The question is, is this type of approach a good idea for your company? After all, people are always looking to share something funny or quirky they found online. Why not have your piece be the one that’s passed around?
If even one piece you publish goes viral, you’ll probably get more exposure than you’ve ever had before. You’ll also open up the idea of publishing even more viral content; after all, once you develop a name, people will automatically gravitate towards you. There’s a lot to be gained from taking a more viral approach. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot that can be lost.
The Big Picture
You already know how the principles of sharebait can help you, but you might not realize how they can hurt you. Internet users are notoriously fickle. What’s in style today might not make it to next week. Do you really want to fill your site with content that’s meant to follow trends, that’s meant to be shared as opposed to providing relevant information?
Trends come and go, but quality content lasts the test of time. Your company has to be built on integrity and customer loyalty, and publishing an endless stream of unfulfilling content will send customers packing. Besides, it’s much easier to stick to your mission statement when you’re talking about what you stand for, not what you think other people will like.
This isn’t to say that you have to remain stuck in the past. There’s nothing wrong with sending out some content with viral potential. To make sharebaiting your overall strategy, though, is foolish. Solid content is the backbone of any company’s Web presence. It will carry you through any number of online trends.
Bryan B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.