In a world of content overload, interactive content is one way marketers try to stand out. However, not all interactive content is created equal. Although do-it-yourself tools have lowered the barriers to producing interactive content, easy-to-produce does not always equal a successful piece of content.
What exactly is interactive content, and why should we be paying attention to it?
This is a specific type of content that users can actively engage with in real time. This can be anything from entering information and pressing buttons, to answering questions. The options are endless!
Essentially, interactive content presents information in a highly engaging way. Think of it as users playing. Static text information is just less dynamic in comparison.
Interactive posts create high engagement. This, in turn, can improve brand recognition, reputation, loyalty, conversions and more. It’s a multifaceted marketing approach that can have a significant impact.
As interactive posts are a novel form of content, they’re great for attracting links. In turn, this can substantially boost your PR and SEO metrics.
These are specific tools you can use to create interactive content with. However, as we will see later on, creating interactive content doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s all about how you are trying to help your users.
When looking at the impact of an interactive piece of content, you can analyze the following:
You can tailor how you measure the success of an interactive marketing strategy to your brand’s wider objectives.
As we looked at examples of these interactive posts, several takeaways emerged. What’s useful about what we learnt, is that these lessons can be applied to all sorts of content marketing, not just interactive.
We’ve got a whole bunch of examples of interactive content in this post, but there’s plenty more out there to get inspired by. Whether you’re looking for specific examples, supporting data or just to get a flavor of popular posts, BuzzSumo’s Content Analyzer and Analysis Report tab is here to help. Using BuzzSumo to find Interactive Content.
The Content Analyzer allows you to research any topic of your choosing. With interactive posts, you’ll find that they’ll mention their format in their headlines. Think of keywords like quiz, infographic, or calculator. To find these examples, a simple search for these keywords will deliver results. If you’re looking for something more specific, include the interactive content keyword + a topic. You’ll be presented with a selection of ideas that can inspire your own interactive campaign.
BuzzSumo’s Content Analyzer Report tab can also help you spot the topics ripe for interactivity. To use this tool, search for your focus keyword and check the "Average engagement by content types" chart in the tab.
This will show you the most engaging content formats surrounding your topic. Look out for examples that are in some way interactive. This can include videos, infographics, presentations and podcasts. You’ll be able to see whether your audience finds these formats particularly engaging, and which formats are the most successful at this.
The example above shows how certain types of interactive content around complicated topics, like mortgages, have high levels of engagement. In this case, it’s infographics. With this data, you can justify creating your own interactive content around that format.
In this post, we’ll look at examples of engaging interactive content. We’ll be paying attention to posts that have gotten far more than the average number of shares. To make things easier to understand, we’ve grouped these twenty examples into four broad categories.
Quizzes have long been a favourite engagement tool, particularly on Facebook. The most shared quiz published during the last 5 years has gotten a total of 5.5 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 through to quizzes that are effectively assessments.
The benefits of quizzes for interactive marketing:
But it's worth noting is that there's been a 79% decrease in quiz engagement since 2017.
That's because Facebook’s algorithm has shifted to focus and prioritize news, meaning quiz content has become less popular.
Plus, Facebook users have matured in their usage – ie. it's not always "cool" to share this kind of content anymore.
For more information on this shift, read our updated headline study, which analyzes quiz headlines over the years.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom! An average quiz can gain on average 107 shares – that’s nothing to be sniffed at. There’s still opportunity to engage with certain audiences through quizzes.
Let’s look at some examples of quizzes that have bucked this trend, and have landed millions of shared!
This is a great example of an interactive food post. Publishers will often call a quiz the most difficult ever, then make it easy to “pass” or succeed – it all plays into our vanity! This is very much the case in the quiz above. Food lovers would especially want to share their high score on this difficult food terminology quiz.
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 content. It isn’t designed to be extremely difficult, but 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 came online in March 2020 and, at the time of writing, already has over 177K 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 over 40K social interactions. It 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 over 13k 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 shared at the beginning of 2022:
Out of the top five shared quizzes, two are based on age.
BuzzFeed dominates highly engaged-with interactive content.
The site itself leans on quizzes. Their strategy is unlike many of the quizzes we’ve looked at on other sites. Most were part of a larger piece of content or standalone pieces. These often link to other articles and serve as a vehicle to draw attention to the other post. The quizzes at BuzzFeed are different. They’re a main content category, emphasized with a spot on the top navigation menu.
Takeaway: If you want maximum attention, give space on the nav bar.
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.
Takeaway: If shareability is the goal, remember that people are more likely to share things that make them look good. Remember the vanity aspect we discussed earlier!
Beyond quizzes, practical and useful content always does well. Practical tools such as calculators have been neglected by many marketers. They do take more time to develop, but the results can definitely balance this. Tools can drive high levels of engagement, shares and importantly links, with lasting value.
Something to note is with interactive calculator content is that engagement metrics are high. This is despite the fact that there’s not a lot of this type of interactive article out there. In fact, engagement outweighs the amount of calculator posts there are. This suggests that there's a big opportunity in creating a unique calculator concept.
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.
Let’s have a look at some more successful examples of calculators and interactive tools.
ThredUp’s Fashion Footprint Calculator was posted online in Jan 15, 2020. It’s had over 44k 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.
Takeaway: Leverage a trending topic, while delivering high value content. Remember, if it’s trending people want to feel connected to it.
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 over 48k 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.
More and more entertainment streaming services are becoming available. This calculator allows users to evaluate what they are actually spending on streaming services. This means they can make financial decisions based on what streaming options offer the best value for money.
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 too. 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.
Takeaway: Use existing interactive posts to inform new interactive content
This calculator from quartz.com landed 30 links, and over 4k shares. It takes a common yet emotionally-charged topic – gender inequality – and attempts to quantify the problem monetarily.
Using BuzzSumo, we can see that 192K people have reacted to the topic of unpaid labor – that’s 15% of all Facebook engagements. Of that, 34% were angry, and 24% saddened.
Takeaway: Interactive posts which build on an emotional response can lead to high engagement and sharing.
Finally, this calculator is designed to determine the amount of money needed to fulfil a religious obligation.I was drawn to this example because of its high-tech approach to an age-old question. The takeaway for marketers? 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. You need to answer a question or provide 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 post, and you can help your audience find it, you can get great engagement results. For example, in the top 5 most shared interactives in 2020, two are descriptions of interactives available at other sites.
Takeaway: The power of interactives extends to curation. This rings particularly true to interactive visual content, which can create a very emotive response with users.
Let’s have a look at some highly-engaging examples of interactive visual posts that are ready to share!
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 and this accurate world 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 thorough out 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 over 139k 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.
As we’ve already seen, the types of interactive posts are broad. Here, let’s look at some more examples of interactivity that engages users.
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 over 42k 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.
Takeaway: 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. It also can appeal to fans of the franchise and taps into trending content (the MCU continues to grow and get people talking!)
If BuzzFeed owns the quiz space, then visualcapitalist.com owns the illustration of investment data. The animation above, described as a sponsored infographic, has over 1k social engagements. However, many of Visual Capitalist’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.
From all these different content types and examples, let’s recap what to consider before making your own interactive content.
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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