Chasing likes, shares, follows and retweets can be a frustrating game and one that leaves you scratching your head. You could post something you think is eloquent, funny, thought-provoking and factual, yet have it pass everyone’s eyes without comment. Meanwhile, your friend who posts “Yay! Bacon is great!” gets 50 likes in half an hour.
In fact, on Facebook in particular, you might look at some of the most liked and shared posts and wonder whether poor quality ‘clickbait’ is the way forward. With thousands of people readily liking and sharing the silliest, most base-level content, why should you actually try to make your social media content clever and engaging?
Here’s an example of the sort of content I’m talking about. I haven’t gone far out of my way to find this – it was on my Facebook newsfeed while I was writing this article:
Ignoring the rogue apostrophes after the years (and some people might argue that slip-ups like this are slipped in intentionally to get people to comment on them), it’s easy to see why people click through to this sort of link. People like music, and they like a challenge. They’re told that if they get more than 6 out of 10, they’re special. If people learn that they’re special, they want to tell other people this, and the cycling of liking, sharing and clicking through to the quiz continues.
Of course, the quiz itself is very easy. I had a quick go and scored 10 out of 10, and I’m much more an ‘80s and ‘90s music man than ‘60s and ‘70s. With points on offer for correctly identifying ‘The King’ as Elvis Presley and Brian May as a member of Queen rather than Brian April, I don’t think too many people would struggle to score six in this particular test. However, that’s the point – the more people perform well in the test, the more will share it. Few people are going to proudly announce that they scored 1 out of 10 in a music quiz, so making it nice and easy helps in the aim to get plenty of interaction.
This is by no means the worst example of poor quality content getting engagement. You’ve probably also seen nonsense like “I bet you can’t think of a city with an ‘a’ in its name”, and people still fall for the old “type a reply and see what happens” chestnut. Some are deeply dishonest, like the ‘win a car’ scams we’ve mentioned previously, yet thousands of social media users fall for them.
So if this works, why shouldn’t I do it? Why should I bother coming up with anything creative or interesting when “name a vegetable beginning with C” will get me much more interaction?
The simple answer is because gradually, social media users are wising up. Think of the very first time you picked up a newspaper, only for a lot of brightly coloured flyers and inserts to fall out of it. At first, this might have surprised and interested you, and you may have looked into the inserts. Gradually though, you learn that newspapers contain clutter that’s trying to sell something to you, and these items end up in the bin without a second glance.
It may take a while, but Facebook and Twitter users will eventually start to recognise this new form of ‘junk mail’, or the social media sites may come to learn how to detect it for themselves. Until then, it’s our job to put out more useful and helpful social media and minimise the dross.