Have you ever been scrolling through the video jungle that is YouTube, and an alluring video thumbnail catches your eye? However, once you click to watch on the video, the video has nothing to do with the thumbnail. A sense of dread befalls you, as you realized that you’ve just been played. Conned by the facade of an exaggerated thumbnail, or title littered with exclamation marks and text in all caps. That is clickbait. Digital deception. Clickbait has existed throughout the history of YouTube as a platform. However, nowadays it has become increasingly abundant. This is due to YouTube making two changes to its platform. They have added a new recommended section, and changed the search/discovery algorithm to time spent watching, instead of total views. The two of these changes were supposedly to get users to spend more time watching content that would actually intrigue them, instead of watching a video and abandoning it a third of the way through.
The recommended section shows content from creators that you’ve watched before, or videos of a similar subject matter. For example, if you’ve been absorbed into watching PewDiePie videos for a while, then the recommended section would show you other PewDiePie videos you haven't watched yet, as well as other videos of a similar subject matter. Then this algorithm change has focused the discovery options for users to rank videos based on time spent watching. This is opposed to overall total views.
According to Eric Meyerson, YouTube’s head of Creator Marketing Communications, the reason behind this switch is to “encourage people to spend more time watching, interacting, and sharing with the community. To support this, we’ve updated what we call video discovery features, meaning how our viewers find videos to watch via search and suggested videos. These changes better surface the videos that viewers actually watch, over those that they click on and then abandon.”
With these changes from YouTube itself, YouTubers are now changing up their tactics to try and take advantage of this new algorithm change. This is where the clickbait aspect comes into play. To get more and more people to click on their video, content creators lure in unsuspecting viewers with exaggerated or unrelated thumbnails, so that views seem to be interested, until they realize the video has nothing to do with the title or thumbnail.
These changes occurred during a huge rise in businesses creating video marketing content for YouTube. Most recently this can be seen in the trend of the “1000 degree knife challenge” trend. In which a cooking knife is heated until it glows red hot, and then is filmed cutting through random objects. Many of these videos are coupled with titles that display “warning explosion” or “gone wrong.” As you can guess these titles are grossly exaggerated. These clickbait features are purely there to have viewers click on their videos, and watch them all the way through to find out where in the video it “goes wrong.”
Content marketing on YouTube is a great way to bring in traffic to your business, especially when you produce actually good content. However good content is being tainted by this obsession and ubiquity of clickbait videos. With these new changes to YouTube's discovery section, how will businesses be able to make sure that not only do users find their video, but watch it as well. The longer your video and the longer people stay watching it, the better. The trouble here is actually maintaining viewer attention span. The challenge for marketers is to create compelling and valuable content that is better than ever before.
Does this mean that companies should start implementing clickbait tactics to gain traction with their video content campaigns? Or should companies create longer videos to get longer viewing times, and then appear in recommended sections? Both ideas have their own downfalls. It is not recommended to try clickbait-ey titles or thumbnails, especially if you're a business trying to promote traffic to your own sites. No one likes to get excited over a very cool video, and then begrudgingly be disappointed at the fact that you received nothing from the video that was promised in the thumbnail. This would easily irritate people, and incite negative reaction towards a company. Making longer videos is a safer option, but they would need to be continuously attention-grabbing. Otherwise you are creating more content for no reason.
With YouTube's most recent changes, it is harder for businesses to implement video marketing strategies without dipping their toes into the clickbait pool. But have no fear, and do not fret against making YouTube content. Because if the content is genuinely clever and interesting, it should create a buzz on its own. If you apply a consistent schedule to your uploads as well, then more and more people are going to find you. Authenticity and consistency are the two key ways to make your video marketing campaigns a success, and to fight the rise of clickbait.