As online behavior evolves from social media to private media, marketers will need fresh approaches to reach their target audiences. Brands have slowly embraced the paradigm shift from traditional communication of one message to many to two way messaging. The “age of the consumer” has forced this evolution and is now driving the growth of two way content. In new research from the Content Marketing Institute, interactive content is quickly gaining importance among the 20,000 content marketers surveyed, where 81% stated it is more effective at “grabbing attention.”

El Gansito
Via El Gansito

We’ve already seen Taco Bell have tremendous success with Snapchat filters, and luxury brands are using WeChat to reach consumers in personalized ways that have scale. What’s next? Virtual Reality is becoming more accessible with Facebook’s investment in Oculus and the introduction of Google Cardboard. This interactive content allows for customizable experiences that do not rely on the user to share it with thousands of followers to be successful. Interestingly, marketers cited education as the primary purpose of interactive content by a large margin, and the potential impact of VR on education has been widely discussed. It is an exciting opportunity to capture and hold the attention of targeted audiences who have notoriously shrinking attention spans.

One reason for this shift to private or limited sharing engagement is a change in attitude. As Facebook grew, young people in particular began to develop a fear of being left out by not being constantly engaged and reading the latest posts. Others are so consumed with sharing their experiences online that they miss the moment. When the Pope visited New York City, it seemed more people were interested in taking a selfie with him in the background than having any kind of connection at the moment. Now the pendulum is beginning to swing back toward a balance between our social and private lives.

Justin_Wood_
Via @Justin_Wood_

Another reason for this shift to more private communication is the prevalence of trolling and online bullying. Internet trolls are nothing new and not a new issue for Twitter, but Periscope made news last week announcing its new plan to battle internet trolls. They are moving beyond user reported abuse to include the users in the judgement and discipline. Ryan Bell who tipped me to this news asked “is it too late.” My response: It’s never too late to combat bullies, but hopefully the “flash jury” can distinguish between offensive and disagreeable. Periscope’s move is geared toward protecting the individual, and another step in the pushback and awareness efforts such as the #morethanmean PSA video that brought harassment of female sports journalists into the spotlight.

Marketers are all too aware with a number of brand #fails when interactive social campaigns were taken over by the community. The worst example of this may have been the #CosbyMeme when they encouraged people to use their meme generator. Big food and beverage brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have also run into trolling.

OldFriendsSeniorDogSanctuary
Via Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

With the election season just starting to turn up the heat, I imagine there will be more people that want to get away from seeing everyone’s opinions and start engaging more with their closest friends. Marketers will need better and engaging content to reach their audiences who are looking for a more personalized and intimate social experience. Despite all the vitriol online, don’t despair. There are still a few places on the internet that are pure.