Find out what 400,000 articles taught us about content engagement
We live in a world of content overload, and interactive content is one way marketers try to stand out. However, not all interactive content is created equal; and do-it-yourself tools have lowered the barriers to producing interactive content. Unfortunately, easy to produce does not always mean quality.
Over the past year, the number of interactive posts has increased by 168%, with a significant surge in April 2020. Year-on-year, the average number of engagements has only increased by 0.8%.
Although April saw a big increase in engagement, this has since dropped back down.
In this post, we’ll look at examples of engaging interactive content, particularly posts that have gotten far more than the average number of shares.
We’ve have grouped these twenty examples into four broad categories as follows:
As we looked at these interactive examples, several takeaways emerged. They can be applied to interactive or other types of content. If you want to go straight to the applications, they are at the end of the post, with instructions for how to find interactive content in your own industry using BuzzSumo.
Here’s everything we’ll be covering:
Quizzes have long been a favourite engagement tool, particularly on Facebook.
The most shared quiz published during the last 7 years has gotten a total of 10.3 million social interactions, almost all of them from Facebook.
Of all the interactive content types, quizzes are the most ubiquitous. They can vary from a simple outcome based quiz (in essence a diagnostic that predicts your management style, the decade you were born, or your Hogwarts House) through to quizzes that are effectively assessments.
Quizzes are quick to produce; they help people feel good about themselves; and they are very shareable.
Publishers will often call a quiz the most difficult ever, then make it easy to “pass” or succeed. This plays to our vanity. Food lovers would especially want to share their high score on this difficult food terminology.
Here is a selection of quizzes from the past year that have gotten a high number of interactions:
How many can you score 100% on (see what we did there)?
This quiz from Buzzfeed taps into what we discussed above, this time focusing on generational identities.
The millennials of BuzzFeed’s audience have been specifically targeted with this quiz. This tongue-and-cheek quiz isn’t designed to be extremely difficult, but it does pose a challenge.
This ties into the recent, wider discourse between generational differences and the assumptions about them. Buzzfeed has quite a few interactive quizzes that use a similar format, which are always linked at the bottom of the page.
Takeaway: You can use interactives to boost other content.
This quiz from Unicef tackles misinformation on the global COVID-19 pandemic, by asking people to see if they can distinguish what the key coronavirus facts really are. It only came online in March 2020 and, at the time of writing, already has 176.1K engagements.
This is an important and timely example of how linking to a trending topic can help distribute information that can save lives.
The links to more articles about COVID-19 makes this quiz an example of how to boost the distribution of extremely important content.
This quiz from the Chelsea Football Club is also linked to a news event – their player’s 300th appearance on their team. It has 40.2K social interactions.
This quiz appeals to people’s affiliations with their interest groups. We saw this tribal factor as an engagement driver in Facebook video shares as well.
NPR’s version of the How-Educated-Are-You-Quiz has gained 13.8k interactions since it’s launch in 2018. The format offers a downloadable checklist which makes this quiz a bit more meaty than others in the “how smart are you?” category.
No discussion of engaging quizzes would be complete without a grammar or IQ selection!
As described above, we seem to have a high need to test our intelligence and share our stellar results with our friends.
However, there has been a recent shift in this going from IQ to generational knowledge.
Take a look at these highly shared quizzes from the past 12 months:
Out of the top five shared quizzes, three are based on age.
Buzzfeed dominated the list of most engaged-with interactive content, and its posts were the most engaging for the year.
The site itself leans on quizzes. Their strategy was unlike many of the quizzes that we looked at on other sites. Most were part of a larger piece of content or standalone pieces that linked to other articles and served as a vehicle to draw attention to the other post.
The quizzes at Buzzfeed are different — they are a main content category, emphasized with a spot on the top navigation menu.
Buzzfeed also offers the option to subscribe for new quizzes. Their messaging around quizzes is that they’re fun, lighthearted entertainment that you can binge play.
There were a number of content links associated with the quizzes we saw, and some were sponsored. However, most of the quizzes didn’t seem to be designed to promote other content. The site itself, and each quiz, has ads displayed alongside the quiz.
If shareability is the goal, remember, that people are more likely to share things that make them look good.
Beyond quizzes, practical and useful content always does well. Practical tools such as calculators have been neglected by many marketers. They take more time to develop but can drive high levels of engagement, shares and importantly links, with lasting value.
In the marketing space Hubspot’s Site Grader tool is one of the most well known. Another staff favorite is the “time-saved” calculator at coschedule.com. It claims to show the time that a team would save by using the Coschedule suite of tools.
ThredUp’s Fashion Footprint Calculator was posted online in Jan 15, 2020. It’s been had 42.4k social interactions.
The calculator’s publication corresponded with the growing interest around sustainability in fashion. Notice the increase of Google Searches for the term “sustainable fashion” over the past 3 years.
This handy data calculator has instant appeal–it shows how much water you should be drinking. This post online in May 30, 2020. It’s had 48.8k social interactions.
Giving personalised recommendations based on quick-to-fill-out data, the appeal of this calculator is how it will give out different recommendations per user.
It also encourages users return: all the variables it uses in calculations can change, from activity level to seasons.
Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, was launched in the USA in 2019.
With more entertainment streaming services becoming available, this calculator allows users to calculate what they are actually spending on streaming services.
Although published in November 2019, this calculator still remains relevant.
The increase of people staying at home resulted in an upwards trend in streaming entertainment earlier this year, as seen by the graph below.
A couple of years ago, this list included a calorie calculator. This engaging calculator, about the size of the horse people of different weights can comfortably ride, is a new take on body mass!
The Good-Horse.com site offers several other equine calculators:
The site’s calculators show the value of answering an audience’s questions in an interactive way. For example, one quiz promises answers to the question, “what can I do with a horse that can’t be ridden?”
Another addresses the weight a particular breed can carry. This is a clever use of similar information to answer different questions…once the range of weight bearing is established for a breed, it can be easily reframed to create the which breed is right for my weight calculator.
This calculator from quartz.com also got a significant number of links, 27, and 4.5k shares. It takes a common yet emotionally-charged topic – gender inequality – and attempts to quantify the problem monetarily.
Takeaway: Create an emotional response.
I was drawn to this example because of its high-tech approach to an age-old question. The takeaway for marketers?
Takeaway: It’s never too late to provide information in an easier to use, more accessible way.
If you want to experiment with a calculator, remember that you will need to make it relevant to your audience by answering a question or providing information they can benefit from. That information should not be something they can easily find without you.
Anything that can be quantified mathematically, or estimated mathematically, is a good candidate for a calculator. Topics like money, weight, time, and calories are obvious examples.
Importantly, calculators take broad swaths of information and make them personal, based on a variable. So, a question like “What is the average lifespan for people” would not create a good calculator. A better approach would be a calculator that determines lifespan based on criteria like gender, current, age, or place of residence. The best approach would allow for multiple variables and create a very specific result.
In other words, the calculator will need to tie a variable known by the audience to a more obscure variable, which you can provide.
For example, in the “Will my tax rate go up or down?” example, there are several audience-known variables — including income. The author provided variable is the new tax rate by income level. The result of the calculation is the tax amount for the audience supplied variable.
In the “What breed of horse can carry me?” example, the audience-known variable is weight. The author provided variable is the weight certain horses can bear. The result of the calculation is a list of horses appropriate for each individual’s weight.
To apply this to your own topics, consider what questions your audience may have that can be segmented based on variables. Ask yourself what information would be needed to provide a specific, useful answer.
If you know about a great interactive, and you can help your audience find it, you can get great results!
For example, in the top 5 most shared interactives this year, 2 of them are descriptions of interactives available at other sites.
Takeway: The power of interactives extends to curation.
This piece from Business Insider doesn’t actually include the interactive map. It mentions the map in the title, summarizes the contents of it, links to the map, and includes screenshots. (I spent a few minutes pointing and clicking the map, waiting for it to “go.”)
Notice the difference in interactions between the post about the interactive map at Global Forest Watch:
Drawing conclusions here is a bit dangerous, but, here are a couple of possibilities:
(I’m sure there are others. I welcome your thoughts in the comments.)
There are several examples of success with curating interactive content from IFL Science, including the radioactive water map.
See the list of IFL’s most shared interactives.
The key to these posts’ success seems to align with best practices for curation: Make sure you add something of value as you call your audience’s attention to other content.
See all the locations that were visited thoroughout the TV show ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’.
This piece, which came online August 14, 2019, illustrates the power of linking a popular intellectual property with an activity (in this case, travel). The post has 132.3k engagements.
This beautiful map combines amazing interactive visualization with storytelling. As you scroll through the page, the story unfolds one paragraph at a time.
Takeaway: Make your topic beautiful.
This “Giant” piece from pbs.org includes an entire package of information, including a timeline, spreadsheet, explanation, and image.
Published in June 2018, this piece has 42.8k engagements and 30 backlinks.
Part of its appeal may lie in providing information in multiple formats. The clickable spreadsheet is great for people who like to use spreadsheets, the infographic-like timeline appeals to those who don’t want to click.
Make the message available to people in different formats.
Lost the narrative thread of the Marvel Universe? It happens. CNN Entertainment steps up with an excellent interactive guide to all of the Marvel movies. Published in April 2018, we imagine this piece rescuing many movie goers from every universe for years to come.
The animation above, described as a sponsored infographic,has 1.4k social engagements, but many of visualcapitalist’s still maps and infographics have engagements in the tens of thousands.
Not for the squeamish (Full disclosure: I only watched the first few minutes)
When describing how to build a calculator, I mentioned the importance of providing the “Author Known Variable.” The success of this VR film provides the same thing–it gives an audience access to a closed experience. The piece, published on Wired, has 2k engagements.
This idea of letting an audience in on a process that is otherwise closed to them is a powerful one for content marketers. Is there something that you could show your audience that very few others can? Is your audience interested in seeing it? If so a video experience of some sort may be a good, high production value content piece for you.
If you want to learn more here are twenty ways you can use interactive video.
Interactive content can be a great way to make your content stand out from the crowd and to gain both shares and links. But, remember the world doesn’t need another pretty clickable infographic or a simple quiz.
Be creative. Make the content practical, awe-inspiring, and beautiful or alternatively make your interactive content really practical like some of the calculators. Hopefully these examples will have helped inspire you.
So what works in your industry or sector? Use BuzzSumo to search for your topic and add terms such as interactive, quiz, calculator, etc. to see what is working in your industry.
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