Interactive content: leading the digital revolution, or just another buzzword?

Surprise surprise…another digital revolution is on it’s way. Since starting in digital (a mere 9 months ago) I’ve seen countless marketing moguls jump on the bandwagon of the latest craze or innovation, forecasting how it is going to change the digital marketing space forever. The latest in this constant barrage of trends and predictions is ‘interactive content’. It’s another one of those buzzwords being banded about among know it all commentators, who propose that they can predict the future of digital, but is all too vague in it’s definition.

Digital marketing bigshots Ceros have said, “This [interactive] next generation of content will reinvent what content marketing means”. But with no solid agreement on what actually constitutes as interactive marketing, how are we supposed to know what this so called reinvention will look like? Feeling your hands get clammy yet? The vagueness is infuriating, and quite frankly could send any of us *sane* digital marketers into a bit of  a frenzy. Here’s just a few questions which have been getting me into a bit of a tizz: what formats count, what kind of audience are most responsive to it, what sort of channels does it use, basically how the hell do we know if something actually is interactive marketing and how can we jump on board before all other content is wiped out?

OK deep breath. In, out, in, out: turns out interactive content is actually pretty simple. It’s not going to replace, revolutionise or erase the validity of the work we have been doing and continue to do as content marketers. But, it will be changing the way we go about things, can offer new opportunities, and new ways to engage with audiences. To make the distinctions a bit more clear, we’ve pulled together views from the industry and narrowed it down to create our guide to what we think interactive marketing actually is, the sort of formats it can take, and how it will sit alongside your content strategy.

It’s a two way conversation

A key part of what makes something “interactive content” is in the name: it has to be interactive. Rather than just speaking at your audience, you’re engaging in a conversation, and building a two way relationship. This sounds very friendly, and it no doubt is, but this conversation has to have value for both participants: you and your audience.

It is this two way aspect which can seem somewhat confused by some in their definition of interactive content. Jeff Bullas, frequent digital marketing blogger, for example, lists infographics as interactive content. Just like an article on a screen, an infographic is simply presenting information to an audience. Yeah it’s a bit prettier, is represented by images, and may be a quick way to communicate a message, but it does the same job as an informational article. What’s interactive about that?  In the same way, some say that podcasts are interactive…apart from clicking play it’s not really a case of interaction, rather just listening as opposed to reading. To avoid confusion let’s lay some ground rules:

  • Interactive content has to allow its audience to interact with it (duh). So whether that be actually being able to enter in details, click and change something, or even playing a role in the creation of that content, they have to be able to have some influence over it.
  • It should be personalised and specific. You don’t have a conversation with hundreds of people at the same time, so why would interactive content be any different? It’s simulates a one-to-one experience.
  • The content should be dynamic, changeable, and respond to the person consuming it. I’m not saying it has to always manifest itself as something different each and every time it is consumed, but there should be some degree of change audiences can see.
  • With that in mind here are a few examples of the different routes you could go down: quizzes, webinars, videos, calculators, assessments, interactive e-books, live chats, polls, surveys, and finally (getting a bit ahead of ourselves) virtual reality. These new formats allow you to get a bit more creative with your content, delivering information in a different way to what your audience might be used to.

    What’s the point?

    Now we’ve got things a bit more straight, let’s get to grips with what the fuss is all about. Just like the difference between a lecturer and a chat with a mate, you’re more likely to invest and relate to someone you interact with rather than someone that just talks at you.  

    Interactive content adds a new dimension to your audience’s consumption of content. With tools such as quizzes, assessments, and calculators, you can provide users with a valuable tool: something which they can invest time and energy in and will relate to your brand. Webinars and videos give your audience the opportunity to actually involve themselves in content creation, manipulating it to suit their needs and tastes. It’s this personal investment that set’s up a great foundation for users: associating your brand with helpful tools and fun content that they are more likely to share and remember.

    Don’t all rush at once…

    There’s no doubt that interactive content is on the rise, and is working wonders for brand’s all over the digital world. But whilst calculators, quirky videos, and quizzes are great ways to get a buzz around a brand or contribute to lead generation, information still reigns supreme. You’ve got to get the balance right between the fun extras and the content your audience actually needs.

    So before you think about dipping your toes in the interactive content pool, think about the value it will actually have for your audience and how it will work alongside other content you are producing. Say if you’re a brand targeting entrepreneurs for example, maybe it might be a good idea to make a “How much will it cost to start my business” calculator, alongside some great pieces of content on how to be successful in different industries. It’s all about collaboration, making interactive content that works in parallel with your ‘traditional’ offerings.

    Interactive content is something which will not revolutionise the way we do everything, rather, it will play a hand in the ongoing evolution of digital marketing’s future. So before you all give up on long form, short form, or indeed any type of content which isn’t ‘interactive’, take every content commentators revolutionist views with a pinch of salt. Interactive content is simply another handy tool us content marketers can use in our conquest of the digital world. Want to get a bit more clued up on your content strategy? Get in touch, we’re more than happy to help.

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