A new contender for the content crown
Content has always been considered king for online marketers. Whilst an amazing front end design supported by a strong SEO support will bring audiences in, without content to hold their stare even the most beautiful of online presences will start to fade.
Audiences demand more substance from even the most mundane of websites. Websites that appear at first to be transactional, such as Air bnb, have built their content around a story with a strong narrative running from the homepage page to the check-out taking in reviews, personal profiles, and zoom-in maps along the way.
Over the last five years we have seen the rise of the infographic but as audiences become tired of this format and marketers have to work harder to display information creatively, the Interactive’s star is on the rise.
Interactives are content that the user can manipulate to suit their tastes. Think of a map on a local news website driven by data that can be filtered by you, the audience, hyper-local content at its best. This puts the content in the control of the audience for the first time and is taking a broad approach to format where anything goes from a fresh take on the infographic to maps, video, and live dashboards.
Leeds based media technology company Hebe Works use data to drive multimedia experiences. Simon Zimmerman, Director at Hebe Works says: “We've built a business around storytelling - primarily via The City Talking - and we're focussed on creating media and media technologies that are both deep and beautiful. We see Leeds Data Mill as a huge opportunity for us to form new insights about our city and create rich visualisations, in the broadest sense of the term; we're not just interested in interactive graphics but also video, photography, motion, installations, web and mobile services all supported by quality editorial and delivered in ways that blend context and emotion.”
“We’re currently working on a visualisation of the impact of the Tour de France in Leeds using economic, social and environmental data. This will be published across the The City Talking platforms in 2015, in partnership with Leeds Data Mill. It would be much easier for us just to run with an article on The City Talking about the impact of the tour but people already know it was great for the city. We're setting out to do something that informs and inspires, and helps people to understand Leeds in new ways” adds Simon.
The real power of interactive content can often be found in those more difficult brands to build an audience around. Take lawyers for example, often the audience doesn’t engage with them until they need help so building advocacy, profile and personality among an latent audience in a crowded digital space could be an uphill struggle.
One agency that has some form here is Engage Interactive. Based alongside the growing creative and digital community at Munro House, this small but perfectly formed agency has taken 2014 by storm, doubling its turnover, expanding its team and snapping up clients. One such client was Clarion Solicitors who wanted their audiences to see behind the legal front to the people who make the difference.
Alex Willcocks, founding partner and Creative Director at Engage Interactive said: “Clarion set out to disrupt the legal stereotype with a bold design and informal tone of voice, that was true to the personality of the firm. As an agency, it's great to be given opportunities to work with forward-thinking clients such as Clarion where we can look to change industry perceptions and challenge the status-quo. Every person who works at Clarion has their own story to tell, their own interests, specialisms and approach to solving issues.”
It’s not just the opportunity to build a relationship with the audience Alex feels that interactive content delivered in this way can have a huge impact on internal comms and staff relations. “It’s hard to maintain that level of content and engagement if it’s just the responsibility of the marketing team. Having internal buy-in across all levels of the business was essential. The importance of digital for the brand has always been stressed at the highest level, with the partners themselves getting their hands dirty and creating content for the website, they’ve already created more than 800 blogs! By taking a personal approach you almost convert your team and build advocacy for your brand from within, which is what we saw with Clarion.”
Interactive content isn’t new. Video, blogs, user-generated content and interactive galleries have been around for years. What’s new is the strategy and application of these tools. Marketers are moving to being interactive by default fitting content around audiences, and planning a long-term approach building advocacy through storytelling that is built up over six months to a year then building on this.
With interactives shaking things up content is likely to be king for quite some time.
This article was originally published in The Professional business magazine in February 2015.
Image: Ozerina Anna/SHUTTERSTOCK