Content Marketing

Interactive content can be a great way of engaging your audience but adopting it without fully weighing up the benefits and risks can be a costly mistake.

Interactive content is defined by the need for the reader to perform an action, rather than allowing them to read passively. It can be a simple user poll, or a more sophisticated bespoke tool that crunches through data to compute a result, like mortgage calculators do:

mortgagecalculatorscreenshot

Such interactive content is becoming increasingly popular as marketers look for innovative ways to make their content stand out from the crowd. They aren’t just competing against other businesses; news outlets and social media are all vying to get noticed. Offering something a little different may be just what it takes to grab a customer’s attention.

Pros of Interactive Content

Interactive content can be a great option for a number of reasons:

Personalisation – By asking customers a few questions about themselves, you can present them with precisely the information that caters for their specific needs.
Insights – Interactive content could reveal useful information about your customers, such as their preferences.
Engagement – There’s something about a great game or quiz that’s irresistible. If your content entertains readers, they’re more likely to spend time engaging with it and may even share it on social media, which will help your rankings in search engines.
Data visualisation – If you hold a lot of data, interactive tools can help simplify the information and present it in a visual way that’s easy to digest.
Problem solving – Producing content that users find useful is key to gaining traction in content marketing. For example, if you sell a huge array of products, your customers may be overwhelmed by the choice on offer. So, if you can create an interactive tool that helps them narrow down their options and find the best choice for them, they’re more likely to convert on your site.

This tool from TravelPicker is a great way of helping people choose a holiday:

TRavelPickerScreenshot

Types of Interactive Content

There are a huge number of ways to incorporate interactivity into your content. Here are just a few popular examples:

Calculators – These are great for problem solving and can save customers’ time too.
Polls and surveys – You can use these to open up a discussion with your customers and make them feel involved in your brand. You can also gain valuable insights into what matters to them.
Assessments – Diagnostic or troubleshooting tools are exactly the kind of useful content people love.
Heat maps – Often used to visualise results in elections, these can equally be used to illustrate regional differences in other scenarios.
Quizzes – The appeal of testing yourself makes quizzes a popular form of content and they can be used for fun and more serious topics.

And that’s just for starters. You can also have interactive videos, infographics, ebooks, brochures, white papers, timelines, emails and lookbooks. This example of an interactive lookbook is an impactful visual way of presenting products. Clicking the plus symbol reveals details about each of the products.

interactivelookbook

Potential Drawbacks of Interactive Content

Interactive content often sounds exciting and promising, which makes it easy to pursue before properly considering if it’s the best option. I’ve seen this mistake made a few times while working on content.

Simply adding an element of creativity doesn’t guarantee results in itself. Asking a few simple questions beforehand can help you decide if you’re making the best choice:

  • Are you simply putting an unnecessary barrier in the way of the customer getting what they need?

You need to be wary of over complicating something that could be done a lot more simply because you could turn off your audience. If you’re asking for personal information, be sure it’s clearly warranted, so it doesn’t make people wary of engaging with your content.

  • What’s in it for the audience?

Like with any piece of content, you shouldn’t lose sight of what your audience needs. Aim to inform or at least entertain them.

  • Do you have clear goals that producing the content will help you achieve?

Don’t be vague about what you want to achieve, make sure you have a clear goal in mind and think about how you’ll measure your success too. For instance, if your tool recommends products, you can track the sales generated. Or, if you’d like to capture leads, you can track how many email addresses you get.

If you’re creating your own bespoke tool from scratch, you also need to consider the potential downsides of investing in interactivity:

Cost – Sophisticated or bespoke interactive tools often require expensive technical expertise to create. According to a report released by the Content Marketing Institute earlier this year, lack of budget and technical expertise are the top two reasons content marketers give for not using interactivity.

Time – Creating a tool which crunches through masses of data, or needs a complex algorithm, can be time consuming , especially if you need to test that all the possible outcomes it could produce are correct.

Load times – Complex tools can slow down your website, if they have a lot going on in the background. You need to have a clear view of how your tool may impact the load time of your website. Anything longer than about three seconds is likely to make users look elsewhere.

Browser and device compatibility – Unlike straight forward text and image based articles, not every browser or device will necessarily be able to cope with certain elements of interactivity. At the very least, make sure your tool works on the browsers and devices your audience uses the most. Tools with fiddly buttons to click will be a no-no on mobile phones – which you can’t afford to ignore nowadays. Most customers do their research on mobile phones.

SEO – Embedding content using iframes (where there appears to be a website within a website) can be a convenient way of incorporating interactive content onto a page. But you need to make sure your iframed content doesn’t contain all your keywords because they won’t be picked up by Google.

If you don’t need to create something completely bespoke, there are a number of free or relatively cheap tools you can use to create your content, such as Survey Monkey, Typeforms, HSTRY, Google Maps’ JavaScript API and ThingLink.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for innovative ways to bring your content to life, then interactive content is certainly worth a try, just make sure it’s the best choice for your business and your customers.

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