At some point maybe in the last 12 months, it became official. People love, love, love¹ lists.
“20 ways you know you’re from Upstate New York” or “8 reasons you should be eating MORE bacon” or “15 cats who didn’t land on their feet” — these are the stories we share the most on Facebook. I haven’t seen the shift on Twitter nearly as much, but that gets into the differences between the two social media giants and an entirely different post altogether. (By the way, if you repeated any portion of the last sentence as an homage to the movie Airplane, we should hang out more.)
1) “OMG that’s so true!”: Of course it is! It’s not difficult to write the “10 worst things about winter” and not have most of those things be true for a large portion of people. There’s a reason there are “12 things a guy should never text to a girl” and it’s because they’ve all happened. It’s always relate-able, and that’s the point. They’re like horoscopes in that way. Say something generic about life or change or positive thoughts and you will reach 90 percent of your audience, making them think they’re the one you’re talking about.
2) Stop when you want: Daunting full-length feature articles intimidate readers, especially in the digital realm. If you’re online and particularly on Facebook, you probably don’t have or think you have time to read a 1,000 words on anything. When the content is broken up, you feel more comfortable getting started knowing that there’s a nice clean break between numbers 17 and 18 where you can throw in the towel.
3) Everyone else is doing it: No explanation needed.
4) Copycats: This is actually “Everyone else is doing it” but from the perspective of the producers of these articles. Yes, including myself now. It works for Huffington Post and Upworthy, so let’s cash in on that click bait!
5) Specific and targeted: While the lists may be long, they are typically targeted at a specific audience, sticking to a specific point and hoping for a specific outcome. It’s partly why they’re so easily produced. “12 feel-good foods under 500” calories is not an article to reach the masses, just the specific mass of people interested (or faking interest) in weight loss or health in general. It’s not for everyone and it’s OK with that, which makes readers feel more special (reference “OMG that’s so true!”).
Lists aren’t good or bad, they’re just popular. They’ll fade. In fact, click here for 10 Reasons Posting Lists Won’t Survive 2014.
(made ya look.)
¹love, love, love: meaning ‘love’ but using the word several times for emphasis, convincing yourself that this is totally worth at least three loves. Thanks, Pinterest.