February 5, 2018

Interactive Storytelling is the Next Big Thing. Here’s How to Not Get Left Behind.

keyboard and screen showing interactive storytelling
Interactive storytelling startup Hullabalu’s Lightwell platform via TechCrunch

Brands can no longer take a “wait and see” approach to a rapidly changing digital marketing space. If you followed the advice of our previous article on upcoming video marketing trends, you should already have a game plan in place for harnessing the power of video in your marketing efforts.


But what if your brand isn’t ready to take that step? Hey, we know video is hard, and is best left to the professionals. There is another option out there for increasing customer engagement without hiring a camera crew: interactive storytelling. Avid readers of our blog will notice this sounds a lot like video storytelling; indeed, many of the same rules apply. However, interactive storytelling lets you do certain things video can’t – and it could be just what you need to mix up your content strategy this year.


What is Interactive Storytelling?


According to Benjamin Hoguet, interactive storytelling is “the art of telling stories enhanced with technological, social or collaborative interactive features to offer content adapted to new behaviors in a rapidly changing cultural ecosystem.”


That’s a lot of jargon that can be more simply put. The definition of interactive storytelling is storytelling with built-in interaction.


It’s adding an interactive component to transform your content from static words into something your readers can engage with – not just mentally, but physically. Think online quizzes (who hasn’t taken a Buzzfeed quiz to see which Disney princess they are?), interactive charts and infographics that show real-time data, and even things like Issuu or the online IKEA catalog that give their digital catalogs that old-school, flipping-pages feel.


Sometimes words just aren’t enough to tell a complex, captivating story. You need to engage readers on multiple levels to create a truly unique experience they can’t get anywhere else.


A Few Examples of Interactive Storytelling


Online Quizzes

various foods and text stating how food matches personality
All your deepest questions, answered. Via Buzzfeed Quizzes

The Buzzfeed example above was meant as a joke (in case you’re wondering, I got pizza), but you can use the quiz format as an effective tool for audience engagement. Zenni Optical is an online prescription eyewear retailer that was looking to increase organic traffic and, more importantly, online sales. How do you get people excited about glasses, though?


Easy: Make them take a quiz! Or rather, a questionnaire, but you get the point. By framing (pun somewhat intended) it as a fun personality test, the quiz produces an “ideal” style of glasses for each user, and presents a link to purchase them in their online store.


According to a case study by Internet Marketing, Inc., this quiz alone generated over $1 million in revenue, over 29,000 lead conversions, and an absurd 9,655 percent ROI in just six months. Not too shabby.


Interactive Data

finger pointing to various boxes in a series

Let’s say you wanted to share the findings of a study on the hamburger preferences for major cities across the U.S. You could write a standard article on the topic that presents the data for your readers, but they’d only be able to engage with it mentally. What if you could get them to engage with it physically as well?


That’s what Time Labs, a division of Time Magazine, sought to do with their interactive article “The New Burger Capitals of America.” Not only does it present information in a fun, flashy way, it encourages readers to use an interactive burger builder to create their perfect sandwich, then tells them which city most closely shares their tastes. It’s a simple trick that instantly turns a trivial piece of content into a memorable – and shareable – one.


Why Does My Brand Need Interactive Storytelling?

abstract geometric shape of wires
Photo courtesy William Bout

Does this really need to be said? Over four million blog posts are published every day (including this one). Gone are the days when a simple 500-word blog would keep bringing in new readers. With so much content out there on the internet, yours needs to stand out in a big way.


From a survey cited in this Votion article, 93 percent of marketers agreed that interactive content is effective in educating its buyers. In that same survey, 88 percent of marketers said that interactive content is effective in differentiating their brand from their competitors.


Like we said in our previous video marketing blog, the number one reason to get on board with interactive storytelling is because your competition is already doing it.


Getting Started with Interactive Storytelling

giant calendar painted on concrete seen from above
Courtesy Curtis MacNewton

Before you jump in with both feet, consider a few factors that may affect your new interactive storytelling strategy:


  • Marketing budget. As with any creative strategy, you’ll need designers, writers, and an interactive content platform. Unfortunately, none of these things come cheap.
  • Strategic goals. What do you hope to accomplish with your interactive content? Shape the format in order to meet those goals.
  • Messaging and audience. You’ll want to vary the level of interactivity based on who you’re talking to and what you’re trying to say. Serious industry case study? Dial it back and let your content take the lead. Social-friendly puff piece? Turn up the charm.


Start Small


In the beginning, you’ll want to keep things simple. Eric Peters of HubSpot suggests embedding simple quizzes or flashcards in a blog post using PlayBuzz. “These assets perform well at the top of the funnel because they motivate the user to share and see how their peers stack up against their own experience.”


Be Bold

hand holding unlit lightbulb
Photo courtesy Diego PH via Instagram @j.diegoph

When you’re ready to take things to the next level, don’t be afraid to get wild with it. In many cases, your only obstacle in the interactive storytelling sector is your imagination – oh, and hiring a talented web developer.


Online software companies like Apester offer tools for both businesses and individuals to easily incorporate interactive elements on their sites. As you scroll down the page, notice how alive it feels; everything is constantly moving, and it feels as if the site itself responds to you as you move through it.


Now, imagine if your content made your users feel like that.


Authentic Interactive Storytelling with Scenic Road


At Scenic Road, we’ve positioned ourselves as the go-to guys and gals for expressing your brand’s personality through video and content marketing. The work we do is authentic, professional, and creates emotional connections between your brand and your customers. Check out our work and subscribe to our email list for more interactive storytelling tips from Scenic Road.

Want your interactive storytelling work featured as part of our blog on best practices? Email us to share.