Will interactive content finally become mainstream?

interactive content

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Which Disney princess are you?

That was the first major encounter I made with interactive content.

I was cruising the web, looking for some distraction, and I landed on one of BuzzFeed’s notorious quizzes.

Yeah, I found it cringeworthy and clickbait-y, but with some quizzes reaching up to 22 million views, I discovered they belonged to a group of content that is more shareable and attention-grabbing than regular ads and content.

And while these quizzes have lost their novelty, interactive content itself is more prevalent than ever.

The Digital Marketing Institute named it one of the top marketing trends in 2020.

But, first of all…

What is interactive content?

Interactive content is anything that people can click on, swipe, or interact with online. Quizzes, polls, 360-degree videos, and scrollable graphics all count as interactive content.

Perhaps you have created interactive content yourself.

Think about it — the moment you launch a little poll on Twitter, you are asking for user participation and creating interactive content.

In a world with content shock and banner blindness, you have to push your content (and brand) further, and classic ads won’t cut it anymore.

According to a 2014 Goo Online Advertising Survey, 73% of Americans ignore online banner ads, followed by social media ads, ignored by 62%.

Contrast that with content like the BuzzFeed quizzes where 96 percent of users who start the sponsor quizzes actually finish them.

On top of that, they a tendency to go viral through their built-in share-ability. Some of the most popular quizzes, such as “What City Should You Actually Live In?”, have been viewed up to 18 million times.

How to use interactive content

Whether you want to grab attention and retain it, educate your users, convey a specific brand message, or simply collect leads, interactive content has a variety of popular uses.

Entertainment and lifestyle brands use this technique to entertain and/or raise brand awareness. The main goal, e.g. in BuzzFeed’s case, was obviously to raise the pageviews for ad revenue.

Publicly-funded institutions like the BBC use it to educate their audience. They launched an AI-related search box, backed up by research from the Oxford University. The question simply read:

Will a robot take your job?

After filling out your profession in the box below the question, you could check your job’s risk of automation.

It’s a simple hook that appealed to millions of people. After all, which adult doesn’t fear (to some extent) getting replaced by a robot or algorithm?

The BBC provided tons of additional links and AI-related content below the search box, turning the site into an evergreen content hub.

In 2018, the Pew Research Center created a 10-question quiz asking the user whether they could tell the difference between factual and opinion statements.

The goal was to educate the user about fake news. While doing research for this article, I took the test myself, got 3 out of 5 factual statements right, as well as 5 out of 5 opinion statements.

But it’s not just quizzing that functions as interactive content. Before the mega-blockbuster Infinity War launched, CNN created a massive interactive timeline of all prior Marvel movies.

interactive content

As a user, your only involvement comes down to scrolling, but the mix of stunning visuals, digestible info chunks, and minimalist animation make this content easy to consume and irresistible to share.

Since all the major social media platforms incorporate visual imagery, it makes sense to include them in your interactive content strategy.

Speaking of which…

How to leverage interactive content

There are a couple of issues to keep in mind when you plan to incorporate your own interactive content. Consider the list a primer to jump-start your interactive content idea creation.

1. Bring value to your user, but don’t pitch

Since you’re asking for engagement, the user must feel they are getting something valuable in return, whether that’s entertainment or knowledge. Otherwise, your interactive content feels like yet another (banner) ad, and risks getting ignored like it.

2. Target specific niches, fandoms, and identities

This is an easy option if you’re creating interactive content in your field of expertise. You simply have to know what drives your audience and gather as much information as you can.

Using polls on Twitter or surveys with SurveyMonkey are the simplest ways to collect information from your target audience.

3. Know the goal of your interactive content

Do you want to entertain like a BuzzFeed quiz, educate your user about your brand or even learn from them?

Since interactive content takes more effort to create than regular content, you want to 100% nail your content’s purpose.

4. Make your interactive content visually appealing and easy to share

CNN’s Marvel timeline is stylish and flashy. BuzzFeed’s quizzes have big letters and lots of imagery.
They’re meant to be consumed and shared quickly.

After all, no one wants to share unappealing and cluttered content.


So which Disney princess are you?

Apparently, I’m Belle from Beauty and the Beast, since according to the quiz result, “I have the uncommon ability to see the best in everyone”.

Ok, jokes aside…

Will we see more quizzes, polls, 360-degree videos, and augmented content in 2020 and 2021?

With no sign of content shock or banner blindness going down, brands and companies will have to offer people more memorable experiences to stay relevant.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

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