Tap Into Data Visualization to Reinvigorate Your Content Marketing


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If you didn’t get the memo from Dr. Seuss, words and pictures work well together. Because while some people can see meaningful images in the curves and lines of letters and digits, others need a little help to visualize what you’re trying to tell them. We know this. So, why hasn’t content marketing caught on to using images more effectively?

New content marketers are usually told to include at least one image per post to allow people to find you through an image search and on social, but one image isn’t enough.

A different way of thinking about pictures

Yes, you should use at least one image, but effectively using images in content marketing is about more than a perfunctory picture. The best content marketers and bloggers blend images and content seamlessly to tell a story.

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Think of your image not as the front cover to a novel (one picture with nothing but words after it) but as a way to bring immediacy to your subject. Let your images have as much to say as the rest of your copy.

Increase your reach a thousandfold

When marketers use data visualization, they can see a notable increase in reach and engagement. For example, OkCupid uses data visualization to tell compelling stories using the data they collect 24-7. Each post on the OkCupid blog includes a visual representation of every point they want to make, and they’ve looked at some fascinating stats, like:

Is there a connection between religion and writing proficiency?

What role does race play in dating? And has it changed since 2009?

What are the comparisons, correlations, and quirky trends surrounding sex?

None of these posts would hold your attention in quite the same way without graphs and charts showing you the sheer number of Buddhists who write well, or the word cloud that correlates to what kinds of sex men and women prefer.

Your company might not revolve around sex and dating, but it does have data, and within that data is a story waiting to be told. Telling that story through walls of text is a non-starter, but when you display your data and frame it in context, it suddenly becomes compelling.

And shareable.

And publishable.

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The New York Times, Wired, Forbes – just about any publication you can think of highly values good data visualization as part of their storytelling structure. Pinterest is littered with as many graphs as infographics. And everyone loves to share a thought-provoking chart on Facebook or Twitter. Data visualization is how content marketers can get attention from people within their target demographic but outside of their immediate reach.

A content marketer’s rough guide to good data visualization

David McCandless, author of Knowledge is Beautiful, says four elements make a “good” visualization:

  1. Strong, original data

  2. A story or concept

  3. A function (what’s it good for?)

  4. Compelling visual form (what’s it look like?)

Copywriters will notice that there are many similarities between the recipe for good data visualization and the requirements for good content. You need something original to say, an angle on it, something of value to offer, and a format that’s easy to read.

However, there is a trick to converting data into an effective data visualization: You still have to correctly interpret the data to tell a true story.

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Data visualizations are compelling because they’re supposed to reflect absolute facts – hard numbers. With that assumption in place, most people will accept them at face value, which means it’s the data designer’s job to be careful to tell true stories instead of skewed stories. Bad data visualization can be misleading and undermine your credibility, so be sure to meticulously sort the good studies from the bad studies when crafting your data visualization.

Once you have good data, you’ll have to decide how to show it. To find the best way to display your data, start by asking: What story would you like to tell? What type of chart tells that story best?

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