Here’s the truth: not all brands can talk like Denny’s or Old Spice – nor do we want them to. People don’t necessarily want to hear the same lighthearted tone from their financial advisor as they would from their favorite purveyor of hashbrowns.
Can you imagine?
“Investing $15-thou of the dividend moola turned out to be a bomb move — talkin’ $25k in six months, son! Rolling in the Benjamins!”
Yeah, not thrilled about that.
That being said, most brands want to humanize their voice. At Boombox, we’re finding that interactive content (quizzes, polls, realtime lists and the like) gives brands a golden opportunity to connect with their audience on a personal level.
But even the word “audience” suggests a self-centric tone. We tend to think of content in a “presenter-to-audience” format, where information is imparted in a one-way flow. We talk, you listen.
There’s a place for that, but I think we can do better. Let’s examine that model of communication first, then a few alternatives.
Presenter → Audience
As a content creator myself, this seems to be the easiest conversation pattern to fall into. Maybe it’s because we only have to think about what we want to say, rather than what people want to hear.
It could also be that, subconsciously, we want to control the narrative. It can be hard to hear criticism or contrarian viewpoints, so, why risk it?
As a content guy myself, I think we fall into this approach due to a lack of time. It’s harder to build in channels for feedback. We’re overworked and time-scrapped, so we fail to make the time to do it. We lie to ourselves by believing that status quo is good enough.
The status quo is never good enough, though. If we’ve learned anything from intelligent writers of late (here and here, for starters), it’s that adopting a more human voice online pays off. But doing so while staying within your style guide can be tricky. Fortunately, interactive content helps.
Both quizzes and polls allow the person taking the quiz or poll to collaborate with the brand as if with another person — both giving input and receiving something in return. This turns the interaction into more of a conversation than a traditional post, where information is imparted in one direction only.
Here are three communication models that we’ve seen people employ with the use of interactive content.
Collaborator ↔ Collaborator
This is where things get interesting, though tough for brands accustomed to unilaterally setting the tone and tempo of their content. Quizzes and polls allow a brand and consumer to produce something magical together. Think Swayze and Moore in Ghost:
Carefully crafted questions and contemplative answers carry the duo of brand and consumer through a delightful give-and-take, where the end result represents something meaningful — the joint payoff to an investment of time and emotion. And what do people do with things that they find meaningful? They share them, wanting to pass the meaning on to their friends and family.
It really is a leap of faith, and not an easy one. A good, engaging quiz, for example, takes some time to create, and you’re going to wonder whether that time is best spent elsewhere. Remember though, that according to BuzzSumo, the average quiz has a clickthrough rate of 82% and is shared more than 1,900 times. Collaboration will help you earn more shares and attention.
Moderator ↔ Contributor
This model functions much like a debate, and works particularly well with a controversial subject when the brand itself does not want to take a side.
Building a poll allows you to introduce a timely topic and let your community weigh in. Displaying the results gives your audience an idea of where they stand in comparison to their peers, and can be a great conversation-starter in comments, social media or even its own follow-up post.
Take this example from Utah-based news outlet KSL. They presented a poll to their readers, and asked them to choose between two popular Utah national parks.
Had they written a post stating how much better Zion National Park is than Bryce Canyon, they would’ve had a meltdown on their hands (Utahns can be quite opinionated about their natural wonders). But knowing that the topic held potential for some great buzz, they presented the two options to their readers and stepped back to watch the fireworks. The result has been nearly 4,000 interactions and a heap of readers that felt more engaged and involved.
Friend ↔ Friend
For a brand struggling to connect on a one-to-one level with their community, this is nirvana — difficult to achieve, but worth the journey. You’ve broken past the need to speak only “at” an audience, opened up to the viewpoints and contributions of your readers, and now you’re ready to share an entertaining, and mutually educational, experience with each of them.
Like most successful marketing efforts, it begins with research. If you’re going to consider them friends, you better know enough about what they want and what you have in common.
Comptia is a fairly conservative brand that specializes in information technology certifications and training. But they know their personas well, so they opted to have some fun and created a quiz about one of the new Avengers movie, “If IT pros were Avengers, which one would you be?”
Thanks to the quiz format, their playful tone went over well with their business audience. And in the process, Comptia gained insights about their audience too. Everyone went home happy.
For some brands, humanizing their voice comes easy. But for others, it can be really tough. And — if not handled right — can at best sound forced or unnatural, and at worst lead to fractured voice and messaging, alienating potential customers. Interactive content gives you a way to dip your toes in the waters of person-to-person community building.
Sound daunting? Here’s the thing — friends embark on adventures together.