6 Minutes Read | Communications

Here’s the Lowdown on Interactive Content in 2017

Pierre de Braux

Content Strategist | Spiralytics

Over the last few years or so, businesses have realized the power of content marketing and are creating content at breakneck speed. However, with the unfathomable amount of content produced each day, it’s hard to cut through the noise, resulting in low engagement rates.

Buzzsumo and Moz analyzed the engagement rates of more than one million pieces of content and found that most published content goes completely unnoticed in terms of shares and links. It seems that despite producing quality content, many brands fail to amplify their content effectively.

Brands and marketers may also be afflicted with the content marketing paradox, which implies that there is less user engagement as more content is generated. The huge amount of clutter results in steeper competition when it comes to grabbing and holding a user’s attention. Simply put, users just don’t have enough time to consume every piece of online content that’s produced for them.

As the digital world becomes more challenging for marketers, the need for innovative strategies arise. Users now want to be a part of the content they’re consuming, thereby increasing the demand for interactive content.

Interactive content at a glance

Merriam-Webster defines “interactive” as something that is mutually or reciprocally active and involves the actions or input of a user. In a nutshell, interactive content is any content that allows the user to actively participate rather than simply reading or watching. It combines highly visual media, educational narrative, and elements that ask a user to perform an action such as answering questions or clicking on buttons.

In exchange for that engagement, users usually receive more relevant information that actually matters to them. Many brands like Google develop mini-games that add value to their existing products. Apart from that, here are a few examples of the most highly-utilized interactive content types:

#1. Assessment

Assessment interactive content

Source: Buzzfeed

Users are matched into specific categories through a series of multiple choice questions. You may remember answering a personality quiz on Buzzfeed. These quizzes can be used to segment your target audience according to how they respond.

#2. Polls and surveys

Twitter poll

Source: Twitter

Typically used for gathering user opinions and feedback about specific issues, these are great for collecting audience insights. Twitter Polls is an easy tool that you can use to create your own polls for engaging your Twitter audience.

#3. Calculators

These tools have been built to calculate just about anything. From determining marketing ROI to recommending daily calorie intake, calculators can help users get insights tailored to their own specific circumstances, which facilitating the provision of more relevant content.

#4. Brackets

Brackets interactive content

Source: XXL

Brackets pit groups against each other in a set of rounds where users cast votes for anything from “your favorite Avenger hero” to “the best touchdown of all time”. Brackets are a great way to get repeat visitors to your site because multiple rounds of engagement are required.

#5. Interactive videos

Interactive Video content

Source: RAPT Media

There are numerous ways you can make a regular video interactive. You can incorporate a wide variety of interactive elements including clickable overlays to make it a two-way experience or simply using a gallery format as shown above.

#6. Contests

Instagram interactive

Source: Instagram

Contests bring out people’s natural tendency to compete. Most users are eager to join contests, especially if the prize offered is something deemed valuable. Hosting a contest is a great way to encourage user-generated content and increase brand engagement.

#7. Galleries

Galleries interactive content

Source: Designhill

Galleries are valuable because they provide brands with an opportunity to tell a visual story from an existing piece of content. A great example of an interactive gallery is Designhill’s Interactive Guide to Famous Logos.

#8. Interactive infographics

Interactive infographic content

Source: The Guardian

Infographics are already a great tool for educating your audience in a more creative manner. Take for instance Guardian’s interactive infographic on The History of Aviation. The possibilities are endless!

#9. Conversational Technology

conversational technology

Source: Typeform

In pursuit of the ultimate human experience, many brands have developed innovative new ways to interact with their users. One of these ways stems from the concept of conversational technology, which basically refers to user interfaces that focus on “chatting”, either with bots or real humans (via text or voice).

Chances are, you’re already familiar with the likes of Siri, OK Google, or Cortana, but you probably haven’t come across an interactive blog article before. They’re a great way to promote user engagement, especially when the nature of blogs usually means one-way communication.

Benefits of interactive content

benefits of interactive content

#1. It’s Engaging and entertaining

The battle for engagement is upon us, and it’s increasingly more difficult for marketers to keep their audiences entertained. The majority of content out there doesn’t encourage two-way interactions, so if yours does, you’re already one step ahead of the competition. It will certainly help your brand stand out from all the digital “noise”.

#2. It Encourages brand recognition

When your content grabs a user’s attention, so does your brand. Due to the enhanced nature of the experience, users that are exposed to interactive content have better brand recall when compared to those exposed to static content.

Better recall keeps your brand top-of-mind when prospects finally come around to making that purchase decision. Bottom line, you want people to remember you.

#3. It has a longer lifespan

For as long as your content is valuable and engaging to your audience, the opportunity for additional reach and engagement exists. In general, the shelf life of interactive content is longer than its static counterpart.

Take for example, the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. quiz that was propagated by email more than a decade ago. Back then, it was just in MS Excel format, but it became very popular. The same concept is just being recycled and repurposed to fit the new digital age.

#4. More audience data

Here’s the undeniable truth about interactive content – it’s awesome for collecting audience data. Marketers are crazy about data because it helps them understand their customers, who expect personalized experiences and content that speaks directly to their needs.

Interactive content is a creative solution to getting to know your target market better. Data gathered can help you serve your audience with better content in the future.

#5. Generate leads

Interactive content is a huge asset to any lead generation strategy. They’ve already provided some information through your interactive content, so you’ve hurdled that initial barrier. Think of it like an ice-breaker. Interactive content kicks off the initial dialogue so marketers have a foundation to work on.

When it comes to conversion rates, having prospects opt-in increases their receptiveness to your marketing efforts in the future.

Noticeable interactive content trends

interactive trends

#1. Informative content

Education and information are still the key objectives. According to a study done by the Content Marketing Institute, 75% of the marketers interviewed claimed that education is still the primary reason for using interactive content.

#2. Tailor-fit for buyer’s journey

Content format and interactive elements are dependent on the buyer’s journey. The aforementioned CMI study stated that contests and games perform well during the early stages, while calculators and interactive whitepapers work well in the later stages.

It’s expected that brands will become savvier about tailoring their interactive content to fit their prospects’ needs at each stage of the buying process.

#3. High-tech user experience

Interactive content will give users a high-tech experience. Brands and agencies with years of experience in designing and developing digital content will up the scales with interactive microsites and other digital media. Pushing the envelope will cause the emergence of new and innovative interactive content types that enhance the user experience.

#4. Virtual reality

Interactive content may progress its user design to incorporate virtual reality. Some brands are already using virtual reality to increase engagement levels with their audiences. With VR devices becoming more affordable and readily available to users, brands can expect this new trend to rise in 2017.

#5. Interactive tools and software

Due to the rising popularity of interactive content, more tools and software will be developed to assist content marketers in creating interactive material for their audiences. CMI reported that 52% of marketers are willing to use interactive content if there are tools to simplify the process.

When there’s a demand, supply is usually not far behind. So expect to see some awesome new interactive content tools to pop up over the next year or so.

Tips for using interactive content

tips for interactive content

#1. Choose the best platform to publish your interactive content

Okay, so you’re finally convinced about making your content interactive. But before you create content, figure out where it will shine best.

If you have a website or blog that gets a lot of traffic, then you can post it there. But if you want your interactive content to perform independently of your blog or website, then consider creating a microsite.

#2. Aim to inform and entertain

Educational content doesn’t always have to be dry. As a matter of fact, the best examples of educational content always find ways to inject a bit of entertainment into the mix. I have to mention BBC’s Your Life on Earth infographic because it’s as entertaining as it is educative!

#3. Pick the right tools

Hubspot lists 7 tools that can help you create interactive content. Check them out and select the tool that best works for you. For those without much  graphic design experience, stick to these options because most of them are pretty simple to use.

#4. Make it shareable

Like any other piece of content, interactives require effective promotion to reach their intended audience. Follow the 80/20 rule of content marketing and make sure social media buttons are prominent on your microsite or blog post.

#5. Monitor KPIs and analyze

Once you’ve got your interactive content up and running, monitor its performance and analyze your metrics well. This will help you figure out best practices for your particular circumstances so you can develop more optimized content down the road.

Conclusion

To battle the content marketing paradox and increase your brand’s ability to engage with its audience, you should know by now that interactive content is one of the best ways to go.

Not convinced yet? What if I told you that the most read story on the New York Times website in 2013 was an interactive quiz? Or that 96% of users that start quizzes on Buzzfeed end up finishing them. Or how about the fact that Zenni Optical created a quiz that received over 29,000 lead conversions and generated over $1 million in revenue?

If you’re not already creating interactive content for your brand, it’s about time you considered it!

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