If you read the Vidyard blog you’ve probably heard of interactive content. You probably have also been told that if you’re not already doing it, you’re too late, that all the good ideas have already been taken. While that last part is totally not true, it’s something that is said because this type of media has a high chance of feeling gimmicky. And the truth is, it often feels like a lot of companies out there are doing it just because someone told them to and to do it fast before your competitor does.

To understand where interactive content came from, you have to understand where content marketing came from. A few years ago, there came a point where internet ads were so ubiquitous that they all became white noise to users, even if they were actually interested in the product being advertised. This is when marketers shifted strategies and decided to become experts in the subjects pertinent to their clients, and provide them content that would make them trusted. This approach was a lot more palatable than traditional ads, and it worked really well for a while.

However, we are currently approaching content critical mass dangerously fast. The same way that ads became white noise, content is starting to be ignored because there is so much of it. Companies need to find new ways to separate themselves from the pack. The big problem with traditional content like blog posts and white papers is that the user can still just ignore them. The idea with interactive content is to produce something so compelling that it’s impossible not to engage with it.

58% of responders in a recent Demand Metric survey said their content didn’t create enough opportunities for interaction and engagement. This is why more and more companies are turning towards types of content that have interaction at their core. By segmenting content and structuring information like a story, customers are way more likely to read through to the end, like in this case.

From Content, to Interactive Content.

Humans are not meant to simply sit and absorb. We all have an impulse to be active when we learn. The birth of this type of content is linked almost exclusively to the rise of content marketing. At this point, we all know the benefits of content marketing. It gives more leads, provides them more consistently, and it makes the sales cycle much easier.

As good as content marketing is, it does have its flaws. A lot of people don’t want to read walls of text (except the one you’re currently reading, because it’s super interesting), no matter how well laid out and pretty they are. Many products still struggle to be well-understood through traditional methods. And even if it brings in more qualified leads, it’s still hard for a salesperson to understand exactly what the buyer has read, and what he understood.

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Interactive content serves two purposes in fixing those flaws. It makes content more interesting to consume, and it’s a way to gather early customer data in a non-scummy way. That information can then be used in the sales cycle to better understand the needs of potential clients. In short, everybody wins.

The Low Down

At times it seems like every type of content can be spun into an interactive version. We’re still honestly waiting on an interactive quarterly earnings report (please no). Our friends at SnapApp have identified a staggering ten types, including interactive video, calculators and quizzes. Looking at the list can be a little dizzying but really, they break down into two categories, visual and personalized.

The visual category encompasses things like infographics and images galleries. The move towards illustrated assets is a no brainer when most people describe themselves as visual learners. Interactive infographics make information more compelling, but also allow you to see what the customer clicked on, how far he went into the story, and potentially where he dropped off. Great examples like this one include dynamic animations that keep you scrolling, you want to know what happens next, just like a movie. The whole logic is one step ahead of images, this isn’t just about being noticed, it’s about maintaining the attention of your reader.

The personalized category is where things get really interesting. These are designed to make customers truly live the benefits of a solution. It’s a huge challenge to all SaaS companies. Even if their products are truly revolutionary, they sound extremely abstract at first. Things like ROI calculators can clarify the value of a product, and makes things really personal since customers are using their numbers.

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This category is also great to stimulate engagement from your customers. Sending a video to a prospect is one step, and sending one where he is personally called out in the video might seem trivial, but it leads to 47% higher click-through rate.

Letting your content do your hard work.

The danger with interactive content is the same as with any new media: doing it just because it’s cool. Many marketers fall into this trap. You might make an interactive white paper, but then just use it the same way you did the old ones. However, this type of content has one big difference, it gives you a slew of new inputs from your clients that you previously didn’t have.

With a traditional piece of content, it’s for the client to consume, and hopefully he or she gives you a call or shoots you an email after careful consideration. Whether that prospect does or not, you’ll never know what part of your document made them reach for the phone, or what the drop-off point was.

The main draw to interactive content is not the novelty, it’s the information it gives you. Sure, the initial buzz was about the fact that it allowed you to make boring stuff somewhat fun. But the true lasting benefit will be the analytics to help you improve your content and the robust prospect profiles it helps you build so well.

If you notice that no one reads past page 10, or everyone stops watching your videos after a minute, it’s time to make things shorter. Or maybe it’s time to add a quiz at page 10 of your white paper to keep people engaged, and maybe you can keep your videos long, but you need to add calls to action after the first minute.  

Sure your content should be good, it should be interesting, it has to be useful to the reader. But your end goal is always that extra lead, and learning more about the leads you already have. The old way was very much about putting up a bunch of content up on your site and hoping for the best. This might be a little more involved, but the rewards are exponential.

Something old, something new.

Since the dust has sort of settled now, and we all have fancy clickable white papers and interactive videos, it might be time to look back. It’s easy to dismiss the content you made two or three years ago. You probably don’t realize it, but a lot of the things you write are fairly timeless. What often happens is that the wrapper ages badly.

So take that old white paper, and divide it into three pieces. Take the challenge now with your biggest and most successful piece of content. Chances are you can turn a section into a quiz, you can poll users on what they thought about it, and create a calculator about it to drive your point home.

Not only is that awesome because you now have refreshed content and fresh ways to learn about your database, but it’s also very little work. Let’s face it, the challenge to creating content really is about research and coming up with ideas. So why don’t we repurpose our old ideas when we had really good ones? You’ll most likely discover that you have a new outlook on the matter, and making things interactive will make the content feel fresh to your customers.

It’s time to look back.

So it looks like interactive content has only been around for a couple years, and we’ve already all gotten worked up over it. If anything, it’s time for all of us to pause and take a breather. It’s not too late to start getting into that game, if anything, now is the time. Just remember that making the content is just one step. Doing it just for the hell of it because it looks cool will achieve nothing.

If you’ve been doing interactive content for a while, look at ways to repurpose old content and make them fresh again. If you have a solid library in place, figure out new ways you can use interactivity to pull data and feed it to your marketing automation platform for more tailored nurture streams or even to your CRM platform to better arm your sales team. Maybe it’s time to try new mediums to make old content feel fresh.

Interactive content is in a great place right now. It’s past the state of a fad, and people can start really thinking about how it fits into their strategies. More than simply fitting in, it’s starting to make things markedly better. As DJ Quik once said, if it don’t make dollar, it don’t make sense. And interactive content certainly does: Marketers have found it 60% better than traditional methods at generating leads, and 40% better at nurturing existing leads. If this isn’t on your radar, it doesn’t mean you’re doing everything wrong, and it certainly isn’t too late to start. Think of this as an exciting new time, a time where your creativity has the power to influence people and their decisions.

interactive video

Max Doucet-Benoit