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How Facebook clickbait works, according to science

University of Duisburg-Essen researchers analyzed thousands of Facebook posts to determine the effectiveness of clickbait tactics.

Published Jun 30, 2022 7:44 AM CDT   |   Updated Wed, Jul 27 2022 3:46 AM CDT

A study on Facebook clickbait titled "Click me...! The influence of clickbait on user engagement in social media and the role of digital nudging" has been published in the journal PLoS ONE.

How Facebook clickbait works, according to science 01 |

Researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen studied four thousand Facebook posts from various news organizations to gauge what constituted clickbait and how effective various techniques were than others. Though clickbait increases attention to certain articles, some previous studies have suggested that it erodes readers' trust in a given source.

The team collected the posts over seven consecutive days in 2017 from ten news outlets' Facebook pages based in the United States and the United Kingdom, which included "reputable" and "tabloid" sources. They found headlines including typical clickbait phrases were associated with about a quarter of reactions, shares, and comments compared to those without, e.g. "this will blow your mind."

Posing questions in the headline or post itself wasn't associated with increased interaction. Reduced interaction with a post was associated with longer words in headlines, longer headlines in general, and unusual punctuation in the post's text. However, increased engagement came from negative wording, longer words, and higher word counts in the post itself, and from a positive tone and unusual punctuation in the headlines.

"Clickbait to make people 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 liking, sharing and commenting. For this, we use a data set of more than 4,400 Facebook posts from 10 different news sources to analyze how clickbait in post headlines and in post text influences user engagement. While clickbait is commonly used, digital nudging is still on the rise and shares similarities with clickbait - yet being essentially different in its nature. The study discusses this common ground," the study authors wrote.

You can read more from the study here.

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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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