Blog posts, social media updates, articles, white papers, infographics and videos. There is no shortage to the amount and type of content we can put out there. And we should. We all need to produce content to stay relevant and show our expertise. But as we distribute more and more content, there is only so much audience attention up for grabs. Content is not enough, we need to make it compelling so our audience with limited time decides to select our content over someone else’s.
The Evolution of Content
Fortunately, content marketing has evolved from simple text to rich content with videos and infographics. But this means there is even more noise is out there with more choices for the audience. For example, data visualization, in the form of infographics, really stood out as something unique. Now it has become a tool that is available to everyone. Infogr.am alone has helped people create 4.8 million infographics. Video has also grown as a content channel. Three hundred hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Having user-friendly tools to create and share rich content is a great thing because it makes it so easy to create visually engaging content, but it also creates even more noise by being accessible to everyone.
The next evolution of content marketing is interactive content, which is content with software functionality that invites the audience to actively engage with the content. A great example of a brand using this content type well is Buzzfeed, who are known for their quizzes. Their "What City Should You Actually Live In?" quiz has been viewed millions of times since it was published several years ago. For brands like Buzzfeed, this type of content keeps people engaged and every time someone fills out a quiz, it is an opportunity for a brand to collect data about the audience.
Content Marketing Goals
As marketers, we create content to entertain, but also to educate our audience. Education as a content goal makes sense. The sales team of a marketing agency cannot sell an AdWords campaign unless prospects understand what PPC, CPC, clicks, costs and conversions are and why they matter. In this scenario, interactive content could be used to gather a baseline by asking prospects about their knowledge of AdWords and use what they learn to educate buyers and think beyond a passive content strategy.
In addition to quizzes, some brands also offer guided tours, sweepstakes, workbooks, assessment tools, interactive ebooks, and games. Taking it to this next level invites people to provide even more information about themselves and in exchange for completion of a lead generation form, they can see the results of their interaction. At this level though, brands really need to deliver. If a website visitor is going to spend ten minutes or more providing information to receive a report or recommendation based on their submission, it needs to have value, not just a sales pitch for the brand.
Providing Valuable Content
An example of a company that does deliver is Dell with the Dell Mobility Assessment for IT managers. Dell asks questions about encryption control of devices to learn about security, managing corporate Wi-Fi networks, and other security issues. It is not a short survey. It has about 20 questions, but Dell delivers value to the IT manager that completes it. The assessment educates managers on the different issues that matter to someone who is responsible for the corporate IT network.
At the end of the assessment, the IT managers are asked to fill out a business profile with contact information. Once they do that, they receive detailed information for each of the questions with a green, yellow, and red rating to score how their organization is doing against best practices. Dell does not just say “Buy from us” at the end of the assessment. Instead, they provide useful information while also gathering information about the challenges faced by IT managers.
Interactive content is fairly easy to do. There are a number of tools to create surveys and assessments online for free or at a low cost. Since there is no installation, content marketers can get started with few technical skills. Before shifting to an interactive content mindset, the question to first ask is “How can I deliver value to my website visitors and what opportunities are there to learn from them?” That will help content marketers stand out among the noise while collecting data to help guide their strategy.