Barb Mosher Zinck looks at why interactive content matters, how it fits into the buyer’s journey, and gives her advice on moving forward.

Source: Interactive content can break through the noise – diginomica

With all the content that out there on the Internet, how does a brand break through and get their content at the top of the pile? Many are saying it’s interactive content.

Interactive content is not exactly new. Financial services have used calculators on their websites for what seems like forever. And quizzes, contests, and sweepstakes are the norms in B2C marketing. B2B marketers have been getting on board too, the last couple of years. But it seems like now is the age of interactive content.

The right interactive content is important

There are plenty of different types of interactive content: quizzes, assessments, calculators, surveys, interactive whitepapers and ebooks, guided tours and wizards, and the list goes on.

Some of my favorites:

  1. Interactive whitepaper or ebook: These are pretty cool and ease the reading and skimming process if you like doing your research online. There are links embedded that shortcut you to the sections you want. There might be a quiz that if you answer right will move you forward, and if you answer wrong might take you somewhere else where more information is provided.
  2. Self-assessments or knowledge tests: Typically 6-10 questions, these types of “quizzes” tell you how much you really know about a topic, or where your company is on the expertise scale (from ‘are you a newbie’, or ‘you rock the topic like Mick Jagger!’). With these assessments, additional information is usually provided to give more information or tips and best practices. Sometimes, to get your answers, you have to provide an email address (not a big fan of that).
  3. Galleries: Galleries and interactive microsites are a great idea for B2B and B2C marketing. There are collections of images, videos and other content that provide a unique content experience on a particular subject. It’s a place people can dive in and learn, whether that’s brand and product focused, or subject matter only.

Interactive content is very much about getting customers and prospects engaged. Most of us are not engaged when we read blog posts or whitepapers, what is referred to as passive content. Most people don’t comment on blogs, and when they share content on social, it’s typically a direct link to the content with little to no additional thoughts or ideas.

But brands desire engagement because engagement means visitors have the potential to become prospects and then customers. Engagement means they are interested and invested in going further.

Scott Brinker presented this view of the different types of interactive content and where they fit on the engagement scale:

interactive-content-scott-brinker

Image from marketingland.com

Not every brand should use all these different types of interactive content. Knowing your audience and the types of content they consume is very important to figuring out the type of interactive content you want to create.

The other part of interactive content focuses on entertainment. There’s a bridge you need to create between informative and entertaining that some can’t figure out. Too much fun and you may not get the results you expect. Not enough fun and visitors may lose interest and not complete the engagement.

The right strategy is even more important

Different interactive content works better at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Recent research from the Content Marketing Institute (commissioned by ion interactive, Scott Brinker’s company) looked at which content types worked best at which stage:

content-deliver-peak-experiences

Image from CMI’s Deliver Peak Experiences with Interactive Content (PDF link)

In the CMI research, 53% of companies create interactive content 2015, but that number was expected to increase to 75% this year. There has been a lot more conversation around using it and a number of vendors coming to the forefront who enable its creation.

But interactive content is more expensive to create than passive content, especially if you don’t have technology. Digital marketing agencies are likely see a boon from companies to create this content manually. Even if you do use a technology like ion interactive, SnapApp, Ceros, Uberflip or another, there are associated costs, so it’s very important to have a well-defined strategy for using it and measuring its success.

Jason Brewer, in a blog post on Convince and Convert, pointed out that interactive content needs to solve problems first and used as a content marketing campaign second. It’s a great point to make, take the time to think about why you want to create interactive content.

Ask yourself:

  • Who is the audience I want to reach?
  • What information am I trying to share with my audience?
  • What information am I trying to find out to improve my marketing, products or services? Can I get information that improves lead scoring?
  • What type of interactive content does this audience like and does it fit the information I want to share/obtain?
  • Where do I want to publish this content? What is my distribution and promotion strategy?
  • How will I measure success?

All content marketing should educate your customers; that’s the core focus of content marketing. It’s used for lead generation, but it’s not about your products or services (unless it is about your products and services – which means it’s actually product marketing content).

But unlike passive content, interactive content lets you learn a lot more about your visitors (or prospects or customers) and not through a lead gen form. Done well, it can help you better understand pain points and challenges they face, problems they want to solve. It can help you create deeper profiles that improve the relevancy of the content you show then and at later times or stages. It can certainly help improve lead scoring.

It can also help you improve your products and services. Interactive content can help you map out a customer support portal, improve a product development roadmap, create a new product or service.

Final thoughts

Interactive content provides great opportunities if used in the right situations and used first to educate. But there are numerous ways you can use this type of content to improve how you market and what you market.

Technology plays a key role in how quickly you can get interactive content out, and improve it (instead of a build once and learn for the next time). Next week I’ll be looking at some of these vendor tools.

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