Misleading Headlines Lead To Disappointment

Creative headlines will lead people to click a link, but if the headline is misleading you are at risk of hurting your credibility.

Common sense should reinforce the above statement, yet companies and news organizations continue to push this principle aside.  Case in point, let’s take a look at media coverage of a recent snow storm blanketed that many states with several inches of snow.  In central Indiana, one local news organization posted this story to its website supported by social media posts promoting this story.

screenshots captured by Shane Goad, original story posted at http://fox59.com/2012/12/26/several-central-indiana-cities-dig-out-of-more-than-30-inches-of-snow/
screenshots captured by Shane Goad, original story posted at http://fox59.com/2012/12/26/several-central-indiana-cities-dig-out-of-more-than-30-inches-of-snow/

As you can see in the above screenshots, the reporter (presumably, maybe a producer) combines snow totals of multiple cities to one aggregate total in the headline.  Now, let’s look solely at the headline.  On its own, the headline suggests you can step outside in these central Indiana towns and measure 30+ inches of snow.  In reality, and stated in the text of the story, you’d actually have to add up the snowfall amounts of 3 different communities to find 30+ inches combined.  Who thinks, talks, or acts in this manner?

Whether its news, marketing, or any other communication on the internet, you don’t want your followers to feel cheated after they click on your headline only to find out it is intentionally misleading.  As posted in previous entries on this site, and others, social media is built on trust.  Followers ‘opt-in’ to receive your posts, expecting engaging, entertaining, and relevant content.  Posting misleading headlines is the equivalent of a retail store advertising a sale item to get you in the store, where you learn the sale of the desired item won’t be honored.

Bait and switch tactics were deemed ineffective (even illegal, in some cases) years ago.  If you resort to these type of tactics, expect blowback.  In 2013, your followers aren’t going to let their followers fall for your misleading tactics online.

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