The Business Of Clicks

Often the reaction to being told not to do something is fascinating. It’s fairly well documented that kids don’t respond well to a parent or authority figure saying to them that they cannot do X, Y or Z – more often than not they just go right ahead and do it anyway. That is, unless it’s definitely going to have a negative and immediate impact on their health (i.e., “don’t touch fire”, and even that usually comes with its own learning curve). But just saying that you aren’t allowed, or must not do this, is rarely enough.

Indeed, as we mature, the things we’re told we shouldn’t do, and especially those that are forbidden, take on their own mysterious allure. They become taboo, and taboo sells. It sells big. Sure, taboo as a industry is made up of lots and lots of tiny (and often decidedly peculiar) niches, but pretty much everybody relishes the idea of a little danger.

Earlier today, I posted this on Twitter:

The Business Of Clicks (Exhibit A)

You’ve probably seen this before, but I thought it would be a fun experiment. Sure enough, people started clicking immediately. Within a few minutes, there had been dozens of clicks. A couple of hours later, I resubmitted my link (I hadn’t posted anything else in the meantime), but made the spin a little more severe:

The Business Of Clicks (Exhibit B)

This triggered more clicks. Click, click, click, click, click. At the time of writing, there have been 124 clicks on that one link. I’m fairly confident I could have kept on re-posting it every hour or two and probably picked up close to a thousand visits over a full day.

The numbers, reasonable as they are against my network size, aren’t really all that important. And this isn’t about duplicity – I specifically told people not to click. It’s reassuring to note that, until today at least, my network trusted me enough to assume I wasn’t going to send them somewhere very dark and very bad.

What matters is this: often you can get people to do what you want by presenting something the opposite way around – forbidden fruit will always be tough to turn down for a healthy percentage of your network. And that’s not a negative at all – I’m more than a little partial myself.

More importantly, it illustrates the value of getting the copy in your headline or pitch exactly right. It’s rare that you only get one genuine shot at anything but if you totally screw up the opening it makes the second attempt significantly tougher.

And when it comes to the business of clicks, you really have to sell that link. A link on its own looks weird on Twitter – people still do it, but who clicks on that? Why would you? It could be anything. But it does at least have a certain purity; a link that comes with useless, trite or redundant prose not only puts you off the click, but the poster as well. Never underestimate the value of good copy.

In case you’re curious, my link went here. But please, believe me – the last thing you want to do is click on that.