It uses the lightning animation instead of the normal nature animation.
When compared to a Mage[Frostbolt], this does slightly less DPS. However, when coupled with Lightning Mastery, Lightning Bolt can do more damage at 2 sec cast. However, Frostbolt may be more effective with it's chill effect on enemies, useful in both PvP and PvE.
Lightning Bolt's spell power coefficient is greater than that of [Chain Lightning]. While its maximum damage is initially less than that of the first strike of Chain Lightning, it draws level at approximately 2071 spell power (less if Lightning Bolt is glyphed). Beyond this amount, therefore, Lightning Bolt causes more damage than Chain Lightning to a single target. However, Chain Lightning's shorter cast time prevents Lightning Bolt from ever achieving higher DPS.
Convection reduces the mana cost of Lightning Bolt.
Concussion increases its base damage, while [Stormstrike] increases the damage of the 2 next nature spells after it by 20%.
Elemental Focus talent would give you the Clearcasting state after landing a critical strike with a Fire, Frost, or Nature damage spell, that reduces the mana cost of your next 2 damage spells by 40%.
Eye of the Storm reduces pushback suffered from receiving damage while casting by 23, 46 and 70%.
Elemental Reach increase your Lightning Bolt range.
Call of Thunder, Thundering Strikes and Tidal Mastery each increases your base spell critical strike chance, while Elemental Mastery gives you a 20% increased critical strike chance and 20% lower mana cost for 30 seconds.
Elemental Oath increases your spell critical strike chance by 5% for 15 seconds after hitting with a spell critical strike.
Mental Quickness increases your spell power by an amount based on your attack power.
Elemental Precision increases your chance to hit with spells while reducing your spells' threat.
Lightning Mastery, Maelstrom Weapon and Nature's Swiftness each reduces its cast time.
Lightning Overload gives your Lightning Bolt spell chance to cast a second, half damage spell of the same type at no additional mana cost and with no threat of its own.
Glyph of Lightning Bolt increases damage by 4%
Shamanism increases damage gained from Spell Power.
Tips and tactics
This is a good spell to start the fight and pull enemies until level 75 when you can learn [Lava Burst]. Untalented and used against a foe with no speed boosting abilities at max range, you can cast 3 Lightning Bolts in the span of time it takes for a mob to reach you. You can even cast a shock just as the 3rd Lightning Bolt finishes casting to max out damage against a pulled, incoming mob.
It is also more likely to use during combat because of its 2.5 second casting time as opposed to other classes' similar function spells ([Shadowbolt], [Fireball]), and is fairly mana-efficient.