Our hyper-connected digital world is defined by an overabundance of data. Everything’s measurable, trackable, and quantifiable. Want to know how many people died on screen in your favorite movie? Or how much ice cream the average American eats per year? The data’s at your fingertips.
The ready availability of data is great for marketers. It helps us optimize performance, personalize content, and prove our value to the business.
But data in a vacuum isn’t informative or useful. It’s not about the facts and figures themselves; it’s about how we shape that data into compelling stories.
As an Analytics Advocate at Google, Adam Singer has years of experience finding and revealing the meaningful narrative in datasets. His presentation at Content Marketing World 2017 was all about how to create clean, informative, compelling data visualizations.
Here’s a quick visual summary of his entire presentation, courtesy of Kingman Ink:
My favorite part is the lizard that represents your limbic brain. Visuals cut straight to that reflexive part of your brain, making a point quicker than listing facts and drawing conclusions.
Here’s how Adam suggests creating data-based visuals that speak directly to our inner lizards.
Great data visualization starts with…well…data. More than that, it starts with a meaningful and manageable data set. The data you choose to include should be tailored to both the story you want to tell and the audience that’s going to receive it. For an example, when pulling internal data, your CEO might just want to know whether marketing is contributing to revenue. By contrast, your CMO will want revenue, engagement, and sales enablement data.
Adam recommends these three steps for data analysis:
With the data in hand, you can create a visualization. Aim to create an image so simple, specific, and clean that it’s readable at a glance. In other words, the opposite of this:
Notice how your eyes flick back and forth between the legend and the chart, trying to make sense of it all. Compare that chart to this one:
There’s a mountain of data behind that visualization, but you can instantly grasp the point: vaccines eliminate diseases.
Such a stunning visual doesn’t happen by accident. It takes careful planning. Adam recommends “storyboarding” your visualizations before you even pull the data in. Nail down who you’re talking to, what questions you’re answering, and the story you’re telling before you create a single chart.
As with any kind of storytelling, the best way to visualize your data depends on your audience and your story. But there are some consistent best practices to follow. Adam recommends following these guidelines for visualizations in your internal reporting, regardless of audience or intent:
When done properly, a single chart or graph can convey paragraphs of information at a single glance. Choose your data carefully, keep your visualizations simple and purposeful, and you can create a report far more compelling than a list of stats and figures could ever be.
Speaking of beautiful data visualization, have you seen our interactive influencer marketing infographic?
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