Interactive Content: Turn Passive Viewers Into Active Users
Reaching and engaging an audience remains the biggest challenge for marketers. In a landscape with an ever-increasing number of channels, devices, and other distractions, the task has become tougher than ever. That’s why it’s critical to look for innovative ways to make your content more compelling to your audience. Interactive content can help.
Though it can be more expensive to create, interactive content gives you an opportunity to share your message in a unique way that cuts through the digital noise. It includes enough functionality to turn a passive reader into an active participant, requiring them to engage in some way—perhaps selecting answers in a decision tree, actively scrolling through a timeline, or typing numbers into an ROI calculator. More importantly, interactive content—also called interactive media or interactive tools—can often be leveraged as a demand gen tool to drive leads.
The primary goal, however, shouldn’t be the cool factor, but figuring out how to create a piece of content that connects with your audience, delivers value, and inspires them to share it with others. Check out the examples below to spark your own creativity.
You say potato…
Quizzes can be a handy tool for lightweight topics—think of all the BuzzFeed quizzes that go viral, such as “What [‘Friends’/’Sex and the City’/’Simpsons’] Character Are You” or “What Age Are You, Really?” But a quiz has more range than you might think. Sure, it’s not going to be your go-to format for sharing complex financial data, but don’t count it out of your content marketing mix.
Take the December 2013 New York Times dialect quiz: 25 questions about your preferred words and phrases yield a prediction about which U.S. region best matches your dialect.
The quiz, which posted on December 21st, was the most popular piece of content on the NYT website in 2013. Even more interesting is that an intern (!) based much of the content on a Harvard linguistics project that was more than a decade old, demonstrating that content doesn’t have to be brand new or timely to be appealing. Also, quizzes can be highly replicable, with any number of companies offering plug-and-play capabilities. That can save on costs and offer more bang for the marketing buck.
Making data fun
Data can be deadly dull when presented in a boring way, or fascinating, when the folks at Bloomberg get their hands on it. They’ve mastered the art of bringing statistics to life with their data visualizations.
Take their State-by-State visualization, a destination for the economic health and political status of the United States. As a static chart, this data could help solve your insomnia problem. But Bloomberg creates a user-friendly interface that lets readers dig deeper for details. You can opt to view the map of the United States and hover over each state to find out how it ranks, and even weave in additional data, such as jobs, income, and voting patterns in elections.
Bloomberg Best (and Worst), updated weekly, covers interactive rankings on a variety of subjects, running the gamut from the largest M&A deals to the top-selling artists in 2014 to the most underfunded pension plans by state. These visualizations address an issue with tackling timely subjects: The information is out-of-date the minute you post it. In this case, data is regularly updated on the back end, keeping the visualizations timely and relevant.
A book by any other name
Interactive e-books are as varied as their spelling (eBook, ebook, and e-book are all out there). Sometimes they take the form of an interactive PDF, but at Tendo, we developed an e-book for the HP Software Professional Services group on a hosted platform, which enables greater flexibility, including more visual and technical options.
From a user perspective, you get the feel of an actual book, with pages that flip, sound effects to match, and the ability to jump ahead to chapters—with a user experience that’s more consistent across devices. You can also watch auto-populated videos and see other dynamic imagery. Links click through to product brochures, executive profiles, thought leadership content, and blog posts. From a marketer’s perspective, tracking the content is much easier, with calls to action that are mapped and tracked.
Variety is the spice of (web) life
Interactive content pops up everywhere now, in many formats and on both B2C and B2B websites. Home Depot has a playful Vine profile while Siemens offers up the Power Matrix game, in which you have to figure out how to balance your energy resources for your community. Someone buying a house might want to check out Zillow’s mortgage calculator, while competitive earners will be compelled to find out how their salary stacks up to John Paulson’s (I can save you a click and break the bad news: John Paulson wins). And there are a number of ways to create smart interactive timelines; take a look at the Xerox company timeline and Google Through the Years, or any of the topic-based timelines courtesy of the New York Times.
Great interactive content is useful, shareable, and unique. But don’t confuse these benefits with the main objective. At its core, interactive content—like all content marketing initiatives—needs to speak to your audience and relay your message in an engaging way.