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You might see the phrase "interactive content marketing" and think that it's something contemporary. But interactive content marketing, as I define it, is a groundbreaking new spin on content marketing that has yet to fully take hold, and when it does, it will change the world of content marketing.

The problem with content marketing today

Content marketing wasn't always popular, nor was it always possible. Before every business in the world had a website, most businesses relied on traditional advertising tactics, such as printed flyers or television ads, to spread the word about their products and services. But in the wake of the information age, traditional advertising is no longer as effective. There are three main reasons for this:

  • Audiences are bombarded with advertisements, and quite frankly, are sick of them. Advertisements became so commonplace and so blatant that they started to become white noise to their target audiences, even if they would otherwise be interested in the product.
  • Audiences don't trust corporations as much as they trust individuals. For this reason, any advertisement that does catch their attention tends to be treated as garbage, disregarded and thrown away.
  • Audiences have access to unlimited information, and would rather do research to find the products and services they need than be subjected to a flashy, manipulative advertisement.

These three motivations actually spurred the rise of content marketing's popularity. It addressed each problem respectively by:

  • Offering a niche environment in a new space, so audiences aren't bombarded.
  • Demonstrating authority with facts and expertise.
  • Giving users the information they're looking for directly.

By positioning content in this way, content marketers have aligned themselves with the changing views and preferences of modern audiences. Countless businesses have reaped the benefits of being seen as experts, without ever needing to resort to traditional advertising. But now, there's a big problem with content marketing: Everybody's doing it.

Now, there are still thousands of sites operating as experts in their own respective niches, and they're still enjoying streams of revenue as a result of their efforts, but content marketing has exploded in popularity because of its benefits. This accumulation of content marketers has been great for consumers--who are now able to find an article covering pretty much any need they can imagine--but for business owners, things are getting a little crowded.

Currently, content marketing is alive and well, but this trend is unlikely to continue. Eventually, content marketing will hit the same obstacles as traditional marketing:

  • Audiences will be so bombarded with content that most of it will become white noise.
  • Audiences will not trust traditional content, at least not immediately, because there are so many competing so-called experts.
  • Audiences will find new ways to find information that circumvent traditional content marketing.

The last point is speculative, based on the idea that interactive content marketing will someday come to replace content marketing as we know it today.

The significance of visual content

Before I delve into the idea of interactive content marketing, I want to examine the rising trend of visual content marketing and how it ties into the idea that traditional content is falling into the same trap of traditional advertising.

As a content marketer, you've naturally realized the importance of visual content. Having an image associated with your blog results in a much higher click rate, and images and videos have a much higher chance of going viral through social media. As a result, most content marketers have integrated visual content--such as infographics and short video demonstrations or testimonials--into their campaigns.

Audiences react to this visual content more significantly because it engages them more. Rather than needing to read several hundred words, they can immerse themselves in the visual medium. It's more of an experience, and therefore, it gets more attention and more favoritism. This is an important concept to understand when I start discussing the possibilities and implications of interactive content marketing.

How content marketing will become interactive

We know that traditional content marketing will someday become as passed over as traditional advertising, and we know that users favor media that give them a better experience. In order to identify the next marketing breakthrough, we need to find a strategy that addresses the three main problems we discussed earlier and give users an engaging experience.

Interactive content marketing does this. Because it's new, it won't be overwhelming. Because it will be personally customized, it will be trusted. Because it's personally informative, it's more valuable than traditional content marketing. And because it's personally immersive, it's a more engaging experience.

So what exactly is it? Put simply, interactive content marketing is a strategy that uses the personal information of your users to generate a unique, customized experience. We see small, rudimentary examples of this today. For example, remarketing advertisement display ads for specific products to people who have expressed interest in those products in the past. Also, interactive online quizzes such as "Which Game of Thrones character are you?" rely on individual user input to generate a unique result. Combine these ideas with information you've gathered with big data, and you have content fully adapted to a user's profile and input.

This could mean displaying different articles for different types of users when they visit your site. It could mean producing a "choose your own adventure" style video that explores different ideas depending on the input of the user. These are simple ideas that will likely become radically complex once technology evolves to support such a platform. Companies that are able to find a way to integrate big data insights into real world content applications, with an emphasis on catering to the individual user, will win out in the next phase of marketing evolution.

How to prepare today

Of course, at this point, that highly advanced form of integrated content marketing is speculative, and therefore somewhat unpredictable. However, it's important to be aware of the possibility of its development and, if you can, prepare for it. There are several actions you can take to get yourself ready for the dawn of interactive content marketing--and they'll all help you refine and execute your current content marketing strategy:

  • Work on open-ended content. Instead of writing an article with a beginning, middle, and end, experiment with articles that explore a specific premise in multiple different directions.
  • Start collecting more data on your customers. Find out exactly what they like and don't like. Find out who they are and what they want. Use qualitative surveys and quantitative research methods to start compiling data and adjusting your strategy accordingly. For more information on how to do this, check out my article Why Knowing Your Audience Is the Key to Success.
  • Emphasize user input. Ask your readers' opinions on a given subject before you write about it. If you can, hand over the reins of your content development platform to your users by giving them a chance to suggest topics for discussion.

Eventually, your content marketing strategy will naturally become more interactive, and when more advanced forms of interactive content become available, you'll be ready to harness them.

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