Eight Things Online Marketing Has In Common With Satan

If you’re reading this, it’s probably  because the headline above convinced you to click on a link or open an email.

Now here’s the catch: First, this article has nothing to do with Satan. Second, I didn’t even write the headline myself. I used the totally awesome Linkbait Generator. (If you’re seeking a chuckle and have a few minutes to burn on your summer vacation, I highly recommend it.)

And there lies the point of this article: sensational linkbait. According to PPC For Hire, linkbait is something on your site that people will notice and link to. By linking to your site, other sites are saying they value its content and that they think other people will be interested in it, too. It’s a tactic used to drive traffic and search engine optimization.

With information sources proliferating, everyone — from businesses to individuals to anyone with a message — is clamoring for attention. On the Internet and elsewhere, that is resulting in a proliferation of sensational linkbait —  desperate, attention-grabbing headlines and teasers in every communication.

Sensation is more critical than ever if you want to compete through the noise. However, each sensational impression adds to a collective cliche and desensitizes people, forcing attention-seekers to sensationalize even more. Sensational linkbait has become so prolific and shunned, it has prompted satiric reaction, such as with Linkbait Generator (which, ironically, is linkbait itself). This glut of sensational linkbait is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The consequence? Sensational linkbait is driving distraction, urgency and short-term focus. It is making it more difficult for people to cut through the noise and pick out more meaningful and relevant information. That is a big risk of using the Internet today. You have to be careful and disciplined, or you’ll get sucked in.

This introduces a paradox for marketers, many of whom are increasingly conditioned to drive sales by intercepting and capturing attention through the use of sensational linkbait. But that tactic is not sustainable.

John Hagel invented the concept of the infomediary, an agent that works on behalf of consumers to help them take control over information gathered about them for use by marketers and advertisers. We need infomediaries not only to manage our expanding personal data, but to filter and interpret the many intensifying signals in our increasingly sensational linkbait culture.

That’s why the future of marketing lies in driving meaningful, long-term customer relationships — ones where marketers become personalized infomediaries. When that happens, short-term sales goals become secondary to delivering on trust, simplicity and anticipation of customer needs.

Such a role has long been played out with financial advisors and wine merchants who get to know you better over time, making more relevant decisions for you, amidst complex seas of choice. Netflix and Amazon are machine versions of the infomediary. We need a lot more of these, and I would prefer to consolidate my wallet with businesses that live up to the highest standards of the infomediary.

With that, apologies for my lowly use of sensational linkbait in this headline. Point made.

(Illustration: Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagonist of John Milton‘s Paradise Lost c.1866.)

This also was my last column in MediaPost.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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