How Facebook clickbait gets users to engage with posts

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A study of 4,000 Facebook posts from news outlets provides unique insights into clickbait and user engagement. The study, published in the open access journal PLUS ONE by Anna-Katharina Jung of the University of Duisburg-Essen and colleagues, suggests that both headlines and the text used in the posts can “bait” users into interacting with a post, although some techniques are more successful than others.

Clickbait in journalism is controversial: it can increase exposure for articles, but some studies suggest it reduces trust in a source. The authors of the present study wanted to understand how specific characteristics of clickbait in headlines and text for news posts on Facebook influence user engagement, measured by shares, comments, and reactions.

The team collected posts from the Facebook pages of ten US and UK news outlets, including “reputable” and “Tabloid” sources, for seven consecutive days in late 2017. At the time of the study, Facebook was the most important social network for news consumption.

The researchers found the following:

  • Unusual punctuation in the headline was associated with up to 2.5x more reactions, shares, and comments. However, in the post text, it was linked to a drop in shares.
  • Questions in the headline or post body were not associated with increased engagement
  • Longer words in headlines were associated with lower engagement with a post. The opposite was true in the post body, where longer words had more engagement.
  • Doubling the number of headlines resulted in 23.7% fewer comments, but with no difference in reactions or shares. The opposite was observed for post text, where total engagement increased with a doubling of word count.
  • Common headline clickbait phrases – like this will blow your mind – were associated with a loss of around a quarter in reactions, shares and comments compared to those without such phrases.
  • Analyzing sentiment, the team found that negative wording in posts can increase comments, but for headlines, positive tone increases comments.

Although it was not possible to examine actual clicks because this information was not available, the study will be useful for those who want to understand how to get users to interact with relevant messages and what features attract the attention of a user Do not excite the user directly.

The authors add: “Clickbait to get people to click on a linked article is commonly used on social media. We analyze the impact of clickbait on user interaction on Facebook in the form of likes, shares and comments on 4,000+ Facebook posts from 10 different news sources to analyze how clickbait in post headlines and post body affects user engagement. While clickbait is widespread, digital nudging is still on the rise and shares similarities with clickbait – but fundamentally differs in nature. The study discusses these commonalities.”

Facebook launches war on clickbait headlines

More information:

Click me…! The Impact of Clickbait on Social Media User Engagement and the Role of Digital Nudging, Plus one (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266743

Provided by the Public Library of Science

Citation: How Facebook Clickbait Draws Users into Engagement with Posts (2022, June 29), retrieved June 30, 2022 from

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