Updated: Apr 4, 2019
Two days ago I indulged in clickbait for the first time. It didn't feel good, but it got me a lot of views. Now I'm wondering, is click-bait ever okay?
Clickbait is everywhere on the internet. We’ve all seen those articles with titles like “15 near misses you wouldn’t believe if they weren’t filmed – number 8 will terrify you!”
On YouTube there’s a lot of it around as well. Getting people to click on your videos plays a big part in growing your YouTube channel. So it makes sense to have exciting titles and intriguing thumbnails.
Here’s the title and thumbnail of my most recent brickfilm:
Avengers Infinity War: Full Movie in LEGO
You can see the appeal, right?
But people who clicked on it found out within a few seconds that it was nothing of the sort. Yes, it was a Lego stop motion animation two and a half hours long. Yes, it had some people cool fighting, and featured awesome Marvel characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Rocket Raccoon. But it was actually two hours of Thanos fighting the Avengers, in a 45 second time loop created by Dr Stephen Strange.
As soon as I uploaded the video, it started getting hundreds of views. It reached 2000 views in less than 48 hours. But was it okay that I click-baited my subscribers and took in other YouTube viewers with this cunning act of deception? Was it okay that I blatantly lied in my title, and misled them with the words “FULL MOVIE” in capital letters on the thumbnail?
Okay, so there is an explanation to all this. The day I uploaded this video was April 1st – April Fool’s Day. And at the beginning of the video I put an April Fool’s message so that everyone would know what they had just fallen for. Not only that, but today I changed the title and thumbnail to what you can see below.
So why the change?
Because really, apart from on 1st April, clickbait is not okay. There’s a few good reasons why you shouldn’t use clickbait. First of all, it’s just plain wrong. Deliberately misleading people in order to promote yourself isn’t cool. Secondly, your video might get more views, but it will get less watch time. As soon as people realise they’ve been fooled, they’ll click onto something else. And watch time is really important for your channel. It’s one of the most important influencing factors in how YouTube decides whether to recommend your videos to other viewers.
Thirdly, if you use click-bait, your video will get a ton of dislikes. Getting dislikes isn’t really a big problem in itself, but it probably means that very few people are going to subscribe as a result of the video even if you get tens of thousands of views. And if you keep on click-baiting, you’re likely to end up losing subscribers rather than gaining them.
If click-bait isn’t cool, what should you be doing with your thumbnails and titles? Well, that’s a big topic that would need a whole blog post of its own. But a couple of things to keep in mind are as follows. Firstly, while you want the title and thumbnail to be as interesting as possible, the video needs to live up to the hype. If you want to grow your channel’s popularity, it’s not about getting people to merely watch the first couple of seconds of your videos. You want them to watch the whole way through, to like, to comment, to subscribe, to hit that notification bell, and to come back for more.
Secondly, your thumbnail and title need to be accurate. If your title is “5 tips for growing your YouTube channel”, your video shouldn’t be 3 tips for growing your Instagram influence, no matter how good those tips are.
So you should only use the title “Avengers Infinity War – Full Movie in Lego” if you’ve really gone to all the hard work of recreating the greatest Marvel movie of all time frame by frame with Lego bricks and minifigures. Unless of course it’s April Fool’s Day.
Gold Puffin is a Lego YouTube channel, specialising in brickfilms and stop motion tutorials.