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Data Visualization to Make Your Media Social

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As marketers, we should all pursue how to better communicate a message -- yet many of us naturally limit our opportunities by focusing only on what we know. For example, when you hear the phrase "content is king" in the context of sales and marketing, does your thought process default to content that should be written?

We're all familiar with the old adage of "a picture is worth a thousand words." In this attention (deficit) economy, what's old has become new again.

Many consider visual assets (e.g., images, diagrams, illustrations, animation, video) as secondary marketing elements. However, these are the assets people are most interested in sharing.

You may think this is obvious, but consider what Facebook had to learn, as stated by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his recent "60 Minutes" interview:

"Photos originally weren't that big of a part of the idea for Facebook, but we just found that people really liked them, so we built out this functionality."

"Liked them" couldn't be truer. With more than 100 million photos uploaded to Facebook daily, it's no wonder their latest update centers around everyone's new user profile page having greater accessibility to photos.

The Power of Data Visualization

Data visualization has the power to facilitate a wide range of insights by visually simplifying what are typically considered complex data sets.

The goal is to efficiently illuminate greater meaning from data patterns and connections, essentially developing a story from a collection of important information that might otherwise be relegated to statistical factoids with incomprehensible points of reference.

For example, how do you meaningfully process a comparison between $3 trillion vs. $30 billion? Doing the math only provides another number. But showing two circles proportionally sized next to each other (or one inside another) visually demonstrates the difference through different cognitive layers.

The best way to get a taste of what I'm referring to is by checking out David McCandless's Ted talk from this summer. As the McCandless talk suggests, a key objective is getting people to better focus on the information that matters most.

The Re-Emergence of Infographics

Although cave paintings by early man are considered the first information graphics, or infographics, the elements have remained constant: data, information, and knowledge.

Given the increasing availability of data, along with what's being learned about media most likely to be shared, we're seeing more organizations look to visualization tactics to enhance not only their social media, but overall marketing efforts.

While some suggest the use of information graphics to support social media efforts as trendy, a deeper look at type and common attributes leveraged should quickly dispel the idea of infographics as a fad:

  1. Statistical infographics: Leverage pie charts, bar graphs, tables

  2. Location/Geographical infographics: Leverage maps, icons, symbols

  3. Timeline infographics: Leverage chronology, sequencing, events

  4. Process infographics: Leverage icons, symbols, instruction

  5. Conceptual infographics: Leverage various visual attributes to depict an idea

  6. Anatomical infographics: Leverage various attributes to show inner workings

A more detailed summary of the above can be found on Andrew Ross's post on InfoGraphic Designs: Overview, Examples and Best Practices -- but the main takeaway is in understanding the importance of infographics as potentially foundational elements to a number of marketing and communications efforts

Applying Your Own Visualization Tactics

In consideration of media that quickly resonates with an audience, gets actively shared, and now increasingly indexed via social search optimization, business benefits can be realized from the use of simple infographics to more complex storytelling endeavors leveraging tactics such as video (whiteboard) scribing.

As we continue becoming accustomed to content consumed in bite-sized fashion, what flashes before our eyes has seconds to work or fail. Inevitably, part of your differentiation as a marketer will rely on growing your content beyond the written word.

Consider a few of the following resources for additional guidance and inspiration:


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