Content Marketing and the Psychology of Interaction

Kindergarten teachers would make great content marketers. Why?

Everything we know about the psychology of interaction and what makes content marketing work are the same skills teachers use to manage and educate a room full of kiddos. Children, as you may have heard, have notoriously short attention spans, second only to web surfers who wander onto your website.

So, what do kindergarten teachers know that you don’t know about holding an audience’s attention?

A 2-way dialogue is more effective than a 1-way interaction. It’s the difference between your kindergarten teacher leading the entire class in a sing-a-long and your college professor lecturing at you for nearly 2 hours while you pretend to be learning. And we can all agree, that we remember kindergarten being waaaaaaay more fun than than our freshman bio lecture (Although, freshman year of college was pretty awesome outside of the classroom).

This is the difference between interactive content and static content. Interactive content is content your users engage with in some way. Some examples are:

Static content is flat content your customer consumes like a blog post, a traditional ebook, or a Slideshare.

The reality is we never stop being that little kid that gets excited over construction paper and glue sticks, silly songs and show-and-tell. In those early years of schooling, learning new things was fun and exciting. How do we get back to that?

After much thought and research, ContentTools has drawn the connection between kindergarten teacher wisdom and 4 components of the psychology of interaction:

Read on to learn why interactive content is the content your company should be creating in 2017.

Engagement: Being Involved Increases Learning


This is probably the most important reason why interactive content works: Engagement makes users feel empowered in the decision-making process.

It’s the difference between active learning and passive learning, and key to understanding the psychology of interaction. When you’re involved you’re more likely to remember what you’ve learned and you’ll be more interested in learning more.

These are just a few stats from a recent white paper on interactive content by the Content Marketing Institute. Of marketers surveyed:

  • 81% agree that interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content.
  • 79% agree that interactive content enhances retention of brand messaging when combined with traditional marketing tactics.
  • 79% agree that interactive content can have reusable value, resulting in repeat visitors and multiple exposures.

CMI created this helpful data visualization to go along with their white paper:

Interactive content hits that sweet spot between entertainment and information that leads to education. You can think of it as the “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” of the content marketing world.

If you’re not familiar, this popular children’s show from the 90s taught children world geography by making a game of tracking down an international spy – if you are familiar with the show, you’ll probably appreciate this Rockapella playlist on Spotify.

This leads nicely into our next topic of discussion: gamification.

Gamification: Make It Fun.

Make it fun or don’t make it at all. Seriously, dry, cumbersome to read copy will get you nowhere. Ion Interactive identified Gamification as one of their major trends of 2017 .

What is gamification?

Simple: Make a game of it.

You could almost refer to the popularity of gamification as the “Foursquare Effect.” Foursquare is an app that allows you to check-in places. The more you check-in the more types of badges – and bragging rights among your friends – you’re eligible for. By making a game of checking in, Foursquare increased their app’s user engagement.


Foursquare has seen more than 1 billion check-ins and gets as many as 9 million check-ins per day. But their moneymaker? Their location tracking software which is used by other big players in the game like Instagram. By making check-ins and leaving tips about places you’ve been a game, Foursquare was able to quickly scale up their user base and collect valuable information.

Gamification can make engaging with your business fun for an end user and help make them a customer. It creates excitement, a sense of anticipation, and gives visitors to your site a more personalized experience. Kind of like how Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books made reading like 500x more fun because you were playing a part in the outcome of the story.

Continuity: Build on What They Already Know

You had to learn your ABCs before you could learn to spell and read. But if your teacher came in on the first day of kindergarten and expected you to read The Grapes of Wrath, you’d be just as confused as you would be if on the first day of freshman lit your prof passed out copies of The Cat in the Hat. It’s important to know what your audience already knows, so you can offer the right information to increase their knowledge.

George Lowenstein, a leading professor in Behavioral Economics at Carnegie Mellon University, formulated the “Information Gap Theory of Curiosity” – here’s how to use it to grow your business.

“The Information Gap Theory of Curiosity” posits that there’s a gap between what we already know and what we want to know, and when we become aware of that gap, we take action to close it.


To build on what your audience already knows, you have to know what they already know and what they don’t already know.

If you design a recipe-based community building app, you don’t want to promote your new app by making a bunch of infographics that focus on how to boil an egg if your audience is sophisticated enough to be all about that sous vide-style egg.

Figure out what your audience knows and then build on that to create curiosity. You can also offer a variety of content designed to educate your visitors at different stages of their learning process.

For example, ContentTools has a series of ultimate guides. Our “Ultimate Guide To Interactive Maps” is great if you’re learning about interactive maps. If you’re already up on your interactive map game, then our blog post about how to actually use one to increase leads might be a better read for you.

Personalize: Shape Your Messaging for Your Audience

Often times what you know helps shape who you are. You might identify as a member of the startup community because you launched your own small business around software you designed. You know how to design software. You know how to launch a business. Someone might identify as a stay-at-home parent because they have the experience of someone who stayed at home with their children and they understand the challenges that go along with that role.

When you create content for your customer you should think about what they know and how that helps shape their persona. What does the founder of a startup need to know about your your business, your field, the problem you’re trying to solve to pique their curiosity?

Interactive content helps you market to the individual instead of the masses. Plus, you collect data around users’ responses and your sales team can use that info further down the funnel to customize their sales pitch.

For example, the Nature Conservancy has a carbon footprint calculator:


The Nature Conservancy knows that if you’re on their website you’re probably concerned about nature in some way. What you may not know is how your behavior directly affects the environment. This calculator breaks it all the way down for you. You’re then prompted to “Take Action Now” and there’s also a link that encourages you to “make a monthly contribution to offset your carbon footprint.”

If the Nature Conservancy captures the data collected from their calculator, they then have the ability to provide highly customized content to their audience to keep them engaged. Someone who drives a lot would probably appreciate tips on how to save gas, but might be vegetarian and less interested in how meat consumption affects the environment. This is how you use marketing to build customer loyalty.

Consider the key personas you want to appeal to and then create content geared toward their interests that simultaneously educates them about the solution your service or product can provide.

Choosing the Right Interactive Content for Your Company

Okay, so you know the best way to connect with your customers is interactive content, but how and what interactive content should you be using? Connect with ContentTools for a 1-on-1 chat. We’ll help you figure it out.