Engage your audience by being interactive

Goosebumps "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.

It didn’t matter that the vampire bit me on page 78 because I had my fingers dug into two different places where I’d made the pivotal decisions to “jump out of the car and run” and “follow the mummy into the dungeon.”  All I had to do was flip back to my pinky and this time “wait in the car” for a new adventure to start.

The “Choose Your Own Adventure” style books had their run in the 1980’s and 1990’s becoming one of the most popular children’s series, not because of a deep storyline but because they were just plain fun.  Didn’t you love being in control of your character’s destiny?

The internet is the perfect tool for captivating your audience with interactive features.   Lucky for us less experienced with programming, YouTube makes this incredibly simple to do with the annotations feature.  Almost one year ago Seth Odell posted a vlog called “Fire Up Your Fan Base With Online Trivia” where he easily created an interactive trivia video game by using YouTube annotations.  Seth pointed out the importance of connecting positive emotions with your brand in the eyes (hearts?) of your audience.   “Sometimes what we don’t stop to do is just have a little fun.” he said.

So I did it.  A year ago I created the first Saint Michael’s YouTube Holiday Contest.  It was done in one day with a flip cam and window’s movie maker.  Not exactly the highest quality, but at the time I was an Admission Counselor in the middle of reading season and had only produced a handful of equally low quality videos.

This year, I am excited to share with you the second Saint Michael’s YouTube Holiday Contest.

With an HD Panasonic and iMovie, the help of 9 SMC staff members, and 10x the length to work on this task… this was still a relatively simple video project and if the results are like last year’s, the audience will love it.

Here was my process:

Step 1: Determine the incentive.
(Let’s be honest… as fun as this will wind up being, we need to lure in our prospective students with swag.)

Step 2: Come up with 10 simple questions about Saint Michael’s College that any high school student who has done some research will probably know.
(Creating the “wrong answers” is easier than it sounds.)

Step 3: Find 10 staff members to read those questions on camera and film them.  Have them tell us why they “Like St. Mike’s”
(I chose to use mostly Admission staff members in order to introduce our applicants to the Counselor who manages their territory.  The “Like St. Mike’s” piece integrates this project with our new Admission tag line and materials.  I also want to point out that we did not use cue cards.)

Step 4: Create 20 second text screens with answer choices and combine those screens with previous footage.
(These text screens allow you to use branded fonts/colors and will give your viewers plenty of time to make their answer choice.  This will also look cleaner in comparison to using the YouTube Annotation text notes.

Step 5:  Think creatively about the “wrong answer” video.
(Should it be funny or serious?  One version or multiples?  It can be very simple, but the user experience will be better if you give viewers the opportunity to answer the same question again directly from the video.)

Step 6: Upload all videos to YouTube.
(To prevent the videos from showing up in the “suggestions” column, set all of the videos to unlisted – except the intro.)

Step 7: Use YouTube annotations to link the answers to the next video and the correct “wrong answer” video.
(This is more time consuming than you think.  I suggest putting all of the links in a word document so you can easily copy and paste.  If you are unfamiliar with annotations, here is an article to help you get started.)

Step 8: Set the launch and end date.
(I learned very quickly last year that this contest works best spread out over a one month period with winners drawn at random at the end.  I personally like the month of December because you can get your prospective students in the holiday spirit!)

While you will not get bitten by a vampire, you might get a question or two wrong.  That is okay!  Any high school student who makes it to the last video is encouraged to head over to Carrie Pratt’s blog; she is one of SMC’s Admission Counselor’s.  She has a blog post about the contest and students “enter” the prize drawing by leaving their name and email address in the comments section.  See how we have driven the student to another place where they can connect with our Admission staff and find helpful information?

As web specialists, we can not underestimate the power of interactivity.  It is fun, it is engaging, and it creates warm fuzzies inside of our audience.  As marketers, we want those warm fuzzies to be associated with our brand, not the one down the street.  And as higher ed professionals, we face the challenges of differentiating our institution (brand) and building meaningful relationships with our prospective students (customers).

Interactive video is one of the ways we can powerfully and meaningfully build connections, share information, and engage our audience.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

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About Mallory Wood

Mallory Wood is a Vermont-based higher ed marketing professional with a passion for social media, web video, and event production. View all posts by Mallory Wood

3 responses to “Engage your audience by being interactive

  • Nick DeNardis

    Great idea! I love that you posted completely about the execution. How many people have made it all the way through? I will be honest and say I didn’t :-/ 10 questions is a lot.

    Also, one comment. For a first time annotation clicker the answers almost don’t look clickable.

    ps. Get out of the car!

  • Mallory Wood

    I’ll make sure I update at the end of the month with numbers regarding how many viewers make it through to the last video.

    I agree, 10 videos is a lot. Our decision to go with 10 was based on the staff and questions we wanted featured. AND…

    We also discovered last year that lots of people (current students, higher ed professionals, SMC staff, etc) started the contest so the numbers on the first few videos were high. However, the numbers on the last video were a strong indication of how many high school students took part. Even though 10 questions is long for you or me, they’re motivated to get through all the questions to win the swag.

    Thanks for reading, playing, and commenting.

  • Follow up: Engage your audience by being interactive « Marketing with Mallory

    […] up: Engage your audience by being interactive By Mallory Wood Last month I wrote a blog post about engaging your audience with an interactive video quiz.  I promised to follow up with […]

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