There is no other two-word combination in the English language (other than “fat free”) that incites so much frustration, anxiety and rage.
We see click bait headlines as the lowest, cheapest way to get a click. They’re lazy, offend our intelligence and appeal only to our most basic instincts. We almost feel dirty when we’re duped into clicking.
On the other hand, can anyone really be blamed? Billions of pieces of content are published to Facebook every single day. Marketers need to cut through the noise somehow and headlines are meant to be attention-grabbers, right?
When it seems like you can’t open up Facebook without seeing the phrase “and you won’t believe what happened next,” here are four headlines (and pages) to remind you that there is still great value in honest headline writing.
By its very nature, science is pragmatic, straight-forward and oftentimes dry. In other words, it’s boring (at least by Facebook’s standards).
That’s why this headline is perfect. IFLS masterfully captures here (and elsewhere on their Facebook page) how quirky, mind-blowing and sometimes terrifying science can be. They use humor to relate to the Facebook audience while publishing and commenting on some tremendous discoveries and advances in all fields of science.
City Pages is one of my favorite pages for interesting news, good eats and cool happenings in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. They also absolutely nail their headlines.
This particular headline employs one of my favorite tactics of theirs called “Reader Comment of the Day.” They’ve taken their favorite comment from the blog about the Cities’ artist loft boom (and the controversy it’s spurred) and turned it into a headline.
Not only did they get a great headline for free, but since it came from their audience, they know it will resonate with their audience.
It probably comes as no surprise that a legacy news organization like the New York Times is great at writing headlines. They’ve been doing it for 165 years.
Although writing headlines for social media is a completely different ballgame, this delightfully simple and clever headline serves as an almost cathartic antithesis of the… ahem… less restrained headlines you might see elsewhere on Facebook. The New York Times shows they can play the game without forfeiting (at least not completely) the journalistic integrity their audience expects.
In terms of content, Thrillist is all over the map. They span many different types in about 13 different categories. And, though no one has ever accused them of creating the most substantive content, their headlines are undeniably great.
This is certainly one of their best. It’s loud, brash and a little insulting for ketchup users. This perhaps even borders on click bait, but I love every single word. Even if I don’t eat ketchup that much and have no interest in reading the actual blog, I’m enticed to click on it (as were the 2,700+ users who shared it).
This Thrillist headline demonstrates they understand why people go on Facebook in the first place: to be entertained. Users might find their way to a news page to read some heavier content, but they opened up Facebook to take a break.
No matter how you spin it, headlines are extremely powerful. It’s the gateway to your content, no matter where it lives. When you think about how much content is being produced every day, competing for a click without a catchy, clickable headline is next to impossible.
There are, however, ways to do it without making you feel icky inside. These four examples prove that although click bait headlines work, they’re not the only kind that does. Great headlines can exist without shock value. You just have to know what your audience is looking for.