With the evolution of each and every social media channel over time, we witness the advent of content gimmicks.
What are content gimmicks?
Content gimmicks are things like
- posting a link in the comments of your own post versus including it in the original post itself;
- changing and dramaticizing the headline of your articles over time to see if you can attract a different wave of viewers;
- using fear-mongering headlines to attract clicks (eg "10 Things You're Doing Right Now That Will Ruin Your Entire Life")
- And now: writing clickbait-style LinkedIn posts in vertically stacked sentences.
The idea is that you'll have to click 'see more' to read the whole post. Why does this matter? Because LinkedIn now offers metrics, which means writers can see how many people interacted with their posts, and in which ways.
Why do people start using gimmicks?
No matter how a social media channel starts out, there is always a point where the channel becomes monetized, or used for some form of financial gain. Influencers are big talk right now--people on channels who have clout with the community. As LinkedIn starts to enter its next phase of evolution, people are beginning to see the potential payoff of being seen as a LI influencer. So now they're all clamoring for engagement.
The thing is, this type of shallow, meaningless engagement doesn't benefit anyone in the long run--and usually, really harms the social media channel itself.
How do content gimmicks hurt you--and all of us?
Gimmicks often abuse the intended format of the channel. For instance, LinkedIn provides a whole separate 'article' space for writing long posts, but when users write these vertically-stacked mono-sentence anecdote posts in their status bar, they warp the usage of the status area and dilute the value all all status updates. People start thinking, "Do I want to scroll through LI right now? Ugh, no, I'm not interested in reading a bunch of self-aggrandizing tales today."
Additionally, there's a very good chance that your gimmick will be an affront to the person you're most trying to impress. When I see something like a stack-of-sentences LinkedIn post, I conclude one or all of the following:
- You're an unskilled writer
- You think you're clever 'beating the system' but you're not
- You put your own priorities (metrics) over the welfare of the entire platform
- You think my time is yours to waste--you want me to spend my precious few social moments scrolling through a poorly-written vertical post, trying to divine the value of it.
If you've jumped on a particular gimmick bandwagon early enough, yes you will get clicks and engagement; but in a very short time, you'll lose the eye of the people you most wanted to attract--the savvy users, the A-type entrepreneurs, the (often successful pro's) who easily recognize gimmicks and avoid those who use them.
How to avoid being a gimmick user:
The easiest way to keep yourself from falling into gimmicky behaviour is to remind yourself what the purpose is of this particular channel. As you click to open your app, close your eyes for a second and think, "Ahh, twitter: microblog site." Not, "Ahh, twitter: somewhere to post endless links to off-site articles." Or, "Ahh, instagram: pictorial storytelling app." Not, "Ahh, instagram: place to post flyers about sales."
And of course: "Ahh, LinkedIn: Business networking and news site." That's it. Stop there. Stop. Right now. I mean it. You want to share a self-congratulatory anecdote, in paragraph fragments? Awesome; go build a blog where you can abuse the English language and your readers' patience at will. But let's please stop abusing our social media channels with gimmicks that only serve to water down the value of the channels overall.