Even if you have a Ph.D in astrophysics or biochemistry, or your artistic interests include Bach and John Cage, or your regular reading includes Thomas Pynchon and James Joyce, if you see a headline reading “17 Photos of Plastic Surgery Gone Disastrously Wrong,” you’re probably going to click on the link. Call it what you will—base, trashy—but there’s a part of us all that simply cannot resist the lure of tabloid #journalism. It’s why we eye the headlines on Star when we’re paying for our groceries and why sites like Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and Dose have all become so popular. No matter how refined we are, the sensational is scintillating.
The enduring success of tabloid journalism should serve as a powerful lesson for B2B content marketers. There’s a lot to be learned from the clickbait strategies of media outlets like Buzzfeed, and in this blog, the second in our series on what marketers can learn from the history of journalism, we explore just what those lessons are.
Lesson 1: Headlines Matter
Log onto a site like Upworthy and you’re bound to see an astounding array of attention grabbing headlines, from “15 Photos of Cats You Have To See To Believe” to “Watch This Kid Struggle To Eat An Entire Blueberry Pie.” These types of headlines immediately peak our curiosity and are designed to go viral. They’re also very direct and promise something we feel we cannot miss. In truth, the headlines are just very effective marketing devices. In b2b tech marketing, even though we’re dealing with complex subjects, we shouldn’t be afraid to spice up our content with punchy headlines that use slang and appeal to a general audience. Headlines are the gatekeepers to our content, so they must be accessible. We’re all trying to get eyeballs on our material and titillation stirs interest.
Lesson 2: Be Fun
Those headlines resonate with us for a reason—they’re pure fun and bit inane. We know we’re being a little tawdry when we click on them, but that’s fine—not everything has to have the solemnity of Tolstoy. Complicated technology content is often presented in a way that is mind-numbingly dull. Making our content more fun is a vital first step to getting it read.
Lesson 3: Create a “Can’t Look Away” Effect
Clickbait sites have mastered the “Can’t Look Away” effect. Even if you would not have thought you wanted to see a kid eat a full blueberry pie or liposuctions gone wrong, when you see that headline, you’re likely going to click because it’s the online version of the traffic accident on the side of the road. Marketers need to strive to create this type of impact with their materials as well.
Lesson 4: Listicles and Quizzes Are Effective
The human brain is naturally drawn to order and therefore, lists. Marketers should explore new forms for their content, mimicking the listicles and quizzes clickbait sites use so effectively. A 10- or 15-item listicle promises that we can learn a lot about a subject in an easy to digest way, or it offers a ranking of best to worst that helps us categorize a topic. Quizzes add an element of fun and user interaction. Both help to show a level of inventiveness that can create a connection with the audience.
Lesson 5: People Like Personalization
Content marketers can capitalize on micro-targeting to select sub-audiences. Buzzfeed has articles on Game of Thrones geekdom and Catholic schools for a reason—those articles might not appeal to everyone, but they appeal very strongly to a select number of people. It’s crucial to keep in mind that not everything we produce as tech marketers is going to have a universal audience. Customizing content for specific audiences demonstrates that not only that we are content experts, but we also understand the unique pain of our readers, whether they’re data analysts or CFOs.
Lesson 6: Promise Content Expertise
Believe it or not, readers go to clickbait sites to learn as well as to be entertained. Whether it’s the best drinks for summer or the top places to avoid as a tourist in Europe, packaging advice in succinct articles is immensely useful. A white paper on the benefits of #big data analysis has its place. But so too does a listicle offering the “10 Big Data Tricks Every Analyst Should Know.” Content expertise helps build brand credibility— people view you as a credible source regardless of whether they’re interested in a particular product.
Lesson 7: Play On Existing Interests
Just as personalization makes people feel understood, so too does playing on the existing interests of different types of readers. That’s why Buzzfeed has so many stories about parenting, music, and travel. These are all subjects that appeal to huge cross-sections of humanity. So tying an article on new software to Taylor Swift lyrics can help make technical material more engaging.
Tabloid journalism has been successful for decades because it give us what we want how we want it. It can be edgy and raunchy, but it’s also exciting. Livening up tech marketing with the clickbait strategies can go a long way to building audience affection and producing highly effective campaigns.
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