Visual content is taking the web by storm with infographics, motion graphics and micro-content, to name a few. It’s hard to keep track of it all.

While these concepts are making waves now, I’m here to talk about the next big thing: interactive graphics.

Here is why they are the next big thing.

What makes an Inter-ACTIVE?

Interactive graphics, or "interactives" for short, are like the Transformers of visual content: They can take on a variety of forms. You can find an interactive that’s a micro-site, dashboard or a map, to name a few. But at the core, they’re all visualizations that allow viewers to explore the information presented for themselves.

By definition, interactives engage viewers in a very active way -- and that engagement can be incredibly powerful to marketers. People viewing interactives spend more time on the page while also seeing a brand associated with content that interests them, all at their own pace.

If infographics blew up because they caught people’s attention where a boring report wouldn’t, interactives are blowing up because they catch people’s attention -- and hold it.

The difference comes down to being active vs. passive. People consume information in infographics and motion graphics passively by sitting and staring at whatever’s on their screen. Interactives, however, are more dynamic. The information you see can change depending on where you click and scroll.

The Power of Three: When to Go Interactive

Now, making content more active is great but don’t ditch the infographics and motion graphics quite yet. A smart marketer needs to know when to make their content active. As always, context is key.

There are three situations where making an interactive is the way to go 1) complex data visualization 2) personalized branded content and 3) customized product explainers.

Complex Data Visualization

Distilling complex data into a meaningful visual is what vaulted infographics into the spotlight in the first place and made visual content a "thing." It’s no wonder, then, that interactives excel in data visualization too.

A great interactive allows easy exploration of data with multiple layers. Viewers should be able to dive deeper into the info that most interest them and gloss over other details. All while seeing the ‘big picture’ on how everything’s interrelated.

Take Visually’s Startup Universe, for example, where we visualized CrunchBase data on startups, founders, and venture capitalists.

Why Interactives are the Next Big Thing in Content Marketing

The Startup Universe provides an interactive platform for users to explore CrunchBase’s startup ecosystem. In it, you can focus your scope on one particular startup, look at an industry segment (e.g., biotech startups), or even select one founder or venture capitalist that you want to track.

The beauty of the Startup Universe lies in how it took important yet unwieldy CrunchBase data -- data that before had been buried in the CrunchBase API -- and made it accessible and understandable. Suddenly everyone could track the Silicon Valley’s network of money, ideas and people, all in one sleek and sexy interface.

Personalized Branded Content

Sometimes marketers need to make visual content that raises a brand’s profile but doesn’t necessarily highlight one of their product or service offerings: That’s Branded Content 101.

With an interactive, you can make branded content that’s informative and entertaining -- and personalized.

Toyota and the Huffington Post recently came to us, for example, wanting to make an interactive U.S. map that lets families discover fun ideas for road trips this summer. Depending on what you select -- your region, state, and family type -- the map reveals a different travel destination for you to check out.

Why Interactives are the Next Big Thing in Content Marketing

Toyota and HuffPo’s interactive map taps into the same formula that’s made BuzzFeed quizzes so wildly successful in terms of driving readership and engagement: giving people “personalized” results based on how they answer a series of questions.

Interactive quizzes and maps will continue to drive brand engagement going forward, and it’s because it’s not always enough to just make branded content informative or entertaining. It needs to be personalized.

Customized Product Explainers

Riding the same wave as personalized branded content comes customized product explainers.

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll have different customer segments - from active to inactive, corporations to small businesses - and the question for marketers has always been, how can I tailor my brand’s message to each of these customer types?

Instead of making a one-size-fits-all product explainer, with an interactive you can make a responsive interface that gives out tailored information based on each customer’s needs.

Twitter made a small business guide that did just that, offering customized tips for small businesses on how to use Twitter. The tips were filtered based on how active users already were on Twitter: Were they new to the service, familiar but not experts, or experts who wanted to take their marketing to the next level?

Why Interactives are the Next Big Thing in Content Marketing

The result was a smart, useful resource that drew small businesses further into Twitter’s service, no matter how deep (or not) they were in to begin with.

Interactive Content: The Future is Now

“I believe the fourth wave [of content marketing] is making content more interactive, on a mass scale,”Scott Brinker, editor of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, told VentureBeat in a recent interview.

Marketers need to pay attention to interactives. And don’t just take my (or Scott’s) word for it. The numbers are in: Interactive content leads to higher education and conversion rates.

According to Demand Metric, an analyst firm, 45 percent of marketers who used interactives rated their content “very effective” in educating buyers, versus 6 percent who used passive and not interactive content. Conversion rates bumped up, too. Nearly twice as many respondents in the interactive group said they saw “moderately well” or “very well” conversion performance compared to the passive group. If interactive content’s the next big thing in content marketing, then the future is now: you need to find a place for interactives in your marketing tool belt.

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