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Doubling User Retention With Interactive Video

A New Approach

In the digital world it seems like the competition for people’s attention is constantly on the rise. While content producers still need to create social posts that appeal to users who make decisions about whether to click or forget in the blink of an eye, interactive video allows storytellers to deliver long-form narratives while maintaining audience interest.

The College of Business recently experimented with Verse an interactive video platform that lets the viewer explore additional content and navigate through the story at their own page  to share an in-depth look at Kevin Hoyt’s journey from becoming partially paralyzed to walking across the stage to accept his diploma after graduating with his MBA. 

The interactive video piggybacked on what has now become CSU’s Most Popular Facebook Post Ever, connecting social media visitors to a SOURCE story with the embedded video and allowing our team to gain deeper insights into how people viewed the content.

The Results

We found that when users interacted with the video – clicking on “hotspot” links and choosing chapters instead of passively viewing the full 12 minute series – watch time more than doubled from just over three minutes to nearly eight minutes. On the chart below it is easy to visualize how the interactivity stems viewer drop off from a sharp decline to a smoother path through the story. Another point of note – which has been found by Verse to be the norm, regardless of video length – is that viewers watched roughly 50% of the content, which suggests that stronger engagement could be driven simply by increasing the length of the video.

Verse analytics graph

Verse analytics three days after posting: active viewers shown in green, passive viewers shown in red, combined viewers shown in blue.

Comparing this data to our analytics from SOURCE (Colorado State University’s news site), we found that more than twice as many visitors came from mobile devices versus desktops, and those mobile visitors likely contributed to higher levels of passive viewers with an average of roughly three minutes spent on the page. In comparison, desktop viewers spent nearly eight minutes with the story, suggesting they may make up a higher portion of active viewers. This has implications for what types of audiences would be best most interested in this content and where it could be most effectively deployed.

One way to imagine interactive video in context is to imagine a pyramid where the top represents the least amount of time spent with content and the bottom represents the most.

The Challenge

Since the interactive elements of Verse aren’t accessible on the Facebook timeline, or on other social media platforms themselves, viewers have to be driven to the videos by links, which reduces the number of people who will ultimately access the content. The average person will likely just want to get to the point and consume the relevant content as quickly as possible where they already are, and that option needs to be provided. However, giving people who are interested the opportunity to navigate deeper, and at their own pace, allows for more flexibility in storytelling. This may mean that Verse is better suited to being embedded on websites instead of being used to drive social media engagement, although it could compliment posts similar to the approach with Kevin’s story. Additionally, if Verse stories were posted frequently enough that users came to better understand the platform and anticipate high quality storytelling it may lead to higher CTRs.

The Opportunity for Growth

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of utilizing Verse video is reducing the need to trim impactful content for the sake of fleeting attention spans and providing additional value for users who have the highest interest levels in the content being shared. Moving forward we’re excited to develop new strategies to better share the stories of our students’ successes and connect with people interested in learning more about what it means to be a #BizRam.