There’s a new trend online that seems to be, unfortunately, catching on: the overblown, first person headline. You’ve likely seen them. Here are a few to see what I mean:
Why They Do It
You can quickly surmise why sites like Upworthy, BuzzFeed and Distractify (which at least has an honest name) do this. They know the average online user will only give them 1-2 seconds (if they’re lucky) and they need to do something captivating to get the click they want. Getting the click is the site’s goal because more clicks increase the site’s visitor numbers and higher visitor numbers mean they can raise advertising rates.
These headlines are particularly used on Facebook to pull people away from Facebook an onto their own website.
The Real Problem: Eroding Trust
The main problem with these headlines is that they’re usually a bait and switch. They are overblown statements combined with curious images to lure you into a click. Once you click what you usually find doesn’t live up to the hype, and therein lies the real problem for anyone using this. Do you really want to implement a technique that is only going to lead more people to mistrust you? Surely not, but that’s the ultimate impact these headlines have.
The promise almost never delivers so the person who clicks on the link begins to build immunity from the trick so they don’t get suckered into it again. The likelihood that these work will only get smaller over time as people are more aware of what’s really going on.
What’s most concerning to me is that “mainstream” media outlets are beginning to adopt this technique to boost their own traffic. Even here in Nashville, our own Tennessean has begun to resort to doing this.
While these headlines undoubtedly get clicks, they’re also making cynical people even more so. People are going to be less and less inclined to believe them because they know there’s a catch. The temptation will be to use them because they will, for a time, probably work. What they may be undermining about your brand, however, is far from worth it.
Don’t fall for overblown headlines and better yet, don’t use them. They’re ultimately not good for you. We won’t have to guess what happens…we can go ahead and see that this leads to people losing trust in you.