Should You Have An Interactive Website, And What Does It Mean?
Interactivity is better described as the social aspect of a website. It gives your visitors an opportunity to engage with each other and gives you a chance to join in. This can be through a forum, a chat, a poll or even a simple FAQ page but either way it centres on communication, talking and listening. It sounds pretty simple, but this is what marketers have been doing for years… but now with the web in the mix, this process is on steroids.
There’s also something very social about it if you look at some of the most successful websites on the web, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc. What do they have in common? They are social spots for millions of users that talk and share and talk and share. It’s like a beehive of social interaction and these users aren’t just the workers, they’re the golden honey that marketers are after. Getting them on your side and essentially convincing them that your content is worth talking about is what web marketing is all about… but in order to do this, you need to get involved and you need to get interactive. Come out from behind your website and engage with your users on a social level.
Whether you want to promote your website, research your market, categorise your consumers or just get more views, it’s important to get involved but here’s the catch… Despite the importance of interactivity, it isn’t necessary to have it as part of your website. Rather than an online forum, have a link to your company’s Facebook page. Yes, interactivity is crucial, but the social hubs of the internet already provide an opportunity to cultivate ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ rather than you having to manufacture a social space on your own web page. Think of it this way, is it easier to network at a big event or plan that party yourself… from scratch? Let the social networking sites be your source for social networking and use your website as a central core linking all these interactive elements together. You can avoid adding an interactive element to your website if you so wish, as long as you utilize social media as a way of engaging your viewers.
It is important though to assess the nature of your website in terms of who your viewers are, why they use your site, what possible reasons they could have for wanting interactivity and how best to satisfy their needs. You may know your website better than anybody, but you need to look at it from their perspective and ask yourself how/why they would want to interact on it or via it. In some cases it will be much simpler to have the interactive element right there on your website, for example shopping sites and product review websites.
Take a quick look at the website for Innocent Smoothies. In typical of their style, their website is all about interactivity. They have newsletters, blogs, games and also a website for kids which to be honest, makes me feel 10 yrs old again. They are an example of a company who, because of their playful nature, can really push that interactive element… but even so, they still have a huge network of social media working to the same purpose. Their website is a central hub but the company still retains strong and diverse social media outlets. These work to drive people to their website but also act as seperate, interactive elements to Innocent’s online web presence.
All in all, your web presence should always be interactive as you should always be engaging with customers through social media and linking these networks with your core website. This should be a priority. Be careful though, before joining the social media bandwagon it’s important to develop a clear and well-researched plan to ensure that you aren’t left with an empty social page, a weak social presence and confused visitors. Think about that party metaphor again. Even if you have an invitation to the party, you still have to put in the effort, do your research and plan your approach before trying to network your way through the masses. You don’t want to end up in the corner looking lost and chewing on a cocktail stick… trust me.