With the wealth of information available today, people are struggling to consume traditional content. As a result, the one question increasingly being asked by businesses is how they can transform the way that they produce content and make it more engaging across the workforce.
The answer is simple. With emerging technology offering a far greater immersive experience, interactive videos capture an audience’s imagination in ways that traditional linear storytelling doesn’t always succeed in doing.
So why has it taken longer for organisations to catch on to the benefits of interactive video? The reasons vary. In most cases, businesses don’t have the experience required to use multi-layered technology to turn traditional passive content into an engaging and interesting experience. You just need to make sure that you have the right editorial, planning, production and technical support in place.
Interactive videos generally require more planning and technical skills, but the simplest videos can be just as powerful as the more complex narratives. There’s no reason why interactive videos can’t be done on a smaller budget. On the other hand, complex productions that require more branching choices, performance and analytics, can easily cost the same to film as post-production.
An immersive experience
On the face of it, interactive video can transform the enterprise by revolutionising the way employees communicate, engage and learn. Giving viewers the opportunity to interact with video and control the narrative, results in a far more impressive and memorable experience. By incorporating interactive triggers into videos, there is more opportunity to engage with the narrative, whether it’s for product launches, training videos, vlogs or company announcements.
Microsites can support and enhance the experience and provide additional content, such as extra downloads or links to other relevant content. Alternatively, interactive videos can be housed within an existing intranet platform or learning management system.
How you produce an interactive video depends largely on the topic and messaging – this is a key part of the process when it comes to planning the format, storyboards and technology. Usually, normal video rules apply – they need to be short (2-3 minutes) and to the point. In terms of functionality, interactive videos incorporate gestures, voice, touches, decision choices or menu options and are based around people having a certain amount of time to make a decision or score points.
Decisions that are made via clickable areas allow viewers to steer the direction of the story as they play an active role in the viewing experience. For example, a compliance training video offering different scenarios will allow viewers to make a choice based on their knowledge or expertise. They may start to see they had made the wrong decision, but they can make another choice later on to correct the problem.
Turning passive viewers into active participants
As interactive videos are set up around various branching options and decision trees, the production needs to be very carefully planned so that content doesn’t look disjointed. By using different scenarios, you can adapt the style of video – it won’t always be a yes or no, or a right or wrong. If designed well, viewers can ‘recover’ a wrong decision and see the positive outcome at the same time.
A good starting point to producing simple, yet powerful interactive videos, is to keep the branches quite narrow. Give people a few choices, but keep bringing them back to the same storyline. People have different levels of engagement and approaches to content, so interactive videos allow viewers to dig deeper if they want to continue with their journey. You can also target different audience segments within the design – for example, a time-poor senior management team may watch the top-line route instead.
Businesses are often very impressed with how powerful the analytics can be when it comes to interactive videos. Data can be captured and reviewed around choices, decisions, scoring and timings. In terms of real-time analytics, you can present information back to the viewer using a live dashboard. By producing something bespoke, you can find out a lot about the popularity and trends of particular strands of content, as well as your audience’s reaction to it.
What are the ‘watch points’?
Of course I’m an advocate for interactive video, but I do give clients a few health warnings. The most common ‘watch point’ is making sure your video doesn’t trap people into doing something they can’t get out of. You need to give viewers the opportunity to make more choices. Unlike traditional linear video, interactive videos don’t allow you to skip ahead or jump back. This is why it’s so important you understand your audience, their expectations and needs during the pre-production process.
In order to offer a seamless interactive video experience, it’s better for businesses to start off with limited choices. A well-thought through short list will result in a polished and credible production that achieves continuity, as well as keeping production costs down.
Additionally, interactive video can complement live video events, whether it’s giving the viewer the ability to change camera angles, or allowing them to branch off to pre-recorded interactive video.
The future of interactive video
Interactive videos can be fun to make, but they can become complicated. There are several technology providers offering platforms for creating them - they all have their pros and cons and security, configuration and testing can be complex. Interactive videos work well in built-in web browsers on all desktops, tablets and mobiles, but in-video navigation is not available on iPhones unless you download the associated native app.
These issues are easily surmountable, and my experience is that the outcome more than justifies the investment. As more people understand this, the future of video within the enterprise is exciting with interactive video poised to become the next big powerful communications tool.
Looking ahead, I predict businesses will begin to embrace a new level of interaction by combining virtual reality with interactive video and 360 technology. This fully immersive and interactive platform is certainly a discussion I’m looking forward to having more in 2016 and beyond.
By Mark Williams, Digital Innovation Lead, 27partners
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