The Dark Side Of Franchise Statistics – Click Bait!
Although not yet defined by a major dictionary, Wikipedia describes it as:
“Web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the "curiosity gap", providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.”
At FranchiseHelp, we may paraphrase this to BS headlines used to get people to click something.
If you’ve ever visited a website that specializes in click bait (like Buzzfeed or Yahoo! News), you’d be met with a litany of headlines like:
Can You Get More Than 7/10 On This Insanely Difficult Quiz About Actors Who Played Teenagers?
If Ellen DeGeneres Could Give You Advice, What Would You Ask?
7 Ridiculously Easy Makeup Ideas That Will Simplify Your Life
It’s pretty easy to see why this strategy is successful. When you read something like this, you almost have to click and see what’s behind the curtain.
Click bait is not intrinsically a bad thing. I’m not going to argue that it’s the best thing society has ever come up with, but you won’t find me on a crusade against the strategy either.
This morning I was met with an email in my inbox that really got me going. This headline is a near clinical example of clickbait – “Why 98% of top franchise recruiters in recent survey are married”
If there’s one thing, we absolutely will not stand for here at FranchiseHelp, it would be the improper use of statistics as click bait.
From the beginning this is a completely flawed idea:
Just because 40 out of 41 people surveyed are married does not mean that 98% of top franchise recruiters are married. (A claim implied but not made by the headline.)
Drawing or implying any sort of causality between being married and being a successful franchise recruiter is unbelievably questionable. This fallacy generally falls under the general idea that correlation does not imply causation. You can read more about it here.
Perhaps the most blatant issue is the implication that the author knows the reason that 40 people are married. If the answer to why 98% of top franchise recruiters are married is that they found someone they loved and decided to make a commitment to each other THEN I would submit that the author knows why these people are married. It’s going to be tough for me to believe any other explanations.
This particular author even cites later in the email that “We’re not suggesting you have to be blissfully married to be a great franchisee recruiter.” (Really? Isn’t the headline a perfect suggestion of that point? If you weren’t suggesting that, then why didn’t you go with “A recent survey found 98% of successful franchise sales people are married. Here’s why that’s not surprising.”
So what’s the real risk here?
It is the responsibility of those marketing franchises to maintain the highest standards. There are myriad example of marketers and sales people using data to their advantage. But do we really want to start seeing headlines like this:
76% of successful franchise owners make over $100K a year
9 out of 10 franchisees say their life is better than before
You gotta see how much money this woman made opening a [INSERT BRAND.] Hint: It’s over a million!