This article originally ran on PR Daily in February of 2017.
Users are getting sick of force-fed content, just as they’re sick of ads.
Consumers want to feel that they’re an active and willing part of the experience; otherwise, they might feel manipulated or ignored.
How can you create content and experiences that assuage those feelings of alienation? One key is to use interactive content, which gives users more influence and a greater connection.
Interactive content makes the user an active and engaged part of the experience, either by responding to user input with new material or by giving users something to do in coordination with the existing material.
It’s easier to understand interactive content by studying examples, rather than through its technical definition. Here are popular types of interactive content, which you can use in your own campaign:
1. Quizzes. When you first see the term “quizzes,” you might think about social media clickbait such as, “Which ‘Game of Thrones’ character are you?” You can, however, create more serious, practical types of quizzes, such as guiding users in understanding their current medical needs if you’re writing for a hospital. Even if your quiz is just a few questions, it engages users more deeply than most types of content do.
2. Calculators. Calculators help readers understand certain numerical concepts; for example, you might use an online calculator to estimate the effects of compound interest in investing. You could also use a calculator to help customers come up with quotes for your work or their pressing needs, such as the square footage of their house.
3. Customizable content. This format is difficult to pull off, but there are many ways to approach it. The idea is to present slightly different types of content based on the individual who accesses it; for example, you might have a flow chart that leads users to different eventual results, or you might encourage different users to read different follow-ups to the original piece.
4. Worksheets. These get your readers involved. Often printable (or at least easily saved), these items give users a chance to experiment with a concept you’ve described in your main content. For example, you could give them an editorial calendar template to fill out on their own.
5. Interactive videos. You can also make your videos interactive in several ways. For example, you could include more clickable pop-up bubbles or guide users through step-by-step instructions—affording them time, of course, so they can follow along.
6. Subjects that encourage debate. Choose topics that naturally encourage users to communicate with one another, creating a conversation around your work. You could ask your users a direct question, for example, or post new information about a controversial subject.
Interactive content holds many advantages, but these are three of the most powerful:
- Engagement. Engaged consumers are more likely to develop brand loyalty, which means they’ll probably return to you for their content or consumer needs.
- Visibility. Next, because your content is more engaging, it’s more likely to be shared and show up in outside newsfeeds. Overall, interactive content is more visible, which will draw more traffic to your website and earn more attention for your brand.
- Differentiation. Few people offer interactive content to their users. If you do so, you’ll set yourself apart from the crowd.
If you want to get the most out of your interactive content, focus on these best practices:
- Remember your audience. Your readers make your content succeed or fail. Make sure your interactive pieces fulfill readers’ wants and needs.
- Update your content. Keep your pieces up to date; revisit them to respond to commenters and interactors.
- Test everything. Interactive content often involves extra mechanics and functionalities, so make sure you test everything—thoroughly—before you publish the final version.
- Reward your users for interacting. Respond to your users. Thank them. Do whatever it takes to reward them for interacting.
- Learn and improve. Pay attention to your users’ feedback to find out what they like and don’t like, and update your strategy accordingly.
By making these types of interactive content a bigger part of your campaign and by refocusing on your users’ wants and needs, you’ll earn more readership and greater customer retention.