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Four Tips to Make Data Visualization Your Secret Weapon

Austin Stewart

Being a marketing and communications professional has never involved as much complexity as it does today. Data collection is at an all-time high, the COVID-19 pandemic is spiking for a third time, social justice movements are bringing inequality to the forefront, and consumers are expecting companies to take a stand. It’s a busy world, and you need a best friend to navigate it—chances are data visualization will help you do just that.

With misinformation being under a microscope, transparency and accuracy have become an essential must-have for all communications professionals. According to a Pew Research study, sources are the second most important piece of information readers look for in determining the trustworthiness of a news article. Good data visualizations have these built in and brings cited sources to the forefront to help show the content’s credibility. From there, the viewer can do their own digging to understand the topic further.

In addition to providing transparency, good data visualizations don’t make conclusions, they show connections. Data visualizations are at their best when they condense a block of copy into a single graphic. This keeps the information digestible and allows the viewer to make their own conclusions about what they’re seeing—something 74% of people are looking to do according to a Reuters report.

That said, here are four tips on how to make data visualizations your best friend:

1. Know who your audience is — who are they, where do they consume content, and what kind of content do they find useful? For example, Boomers and Gen X are more likely to get their news through broadcast or network channels, whereas Millennials and Gen Z get their news through social media.

2. Present facts, not fiction — is everything scaled properly in your visualization? Have you taken a step back to see if your conclusions are actually supported by the data? Trust and transparency are great assets in data visualizations, don’t lose them! Most importantly, draw conclusions from the data, don’t force the data to fit your own conclusions. We don’t want to be misleading or miss the bigger picture.

3. Collect your own data — is there a current topic that’s relevant to your audience? Or, do you need to understand your own audience better? Google Trends and Scholar are free resources to help you understand a topic better, while your own tailored survey can lead to insights specific to you.

4. Merchandise data in multiple formats — can you create a downloadable report and promote it through social media? Can you A/B test to figure out what’s resonating? Gating a report can help you grow an engaged audience and start dialing in messaging to find your unique voice.

The combination of transparency, flexibility and shareability on social media makes data visualization an incredibly powerful tool. With machine learning becoming more prevalent, harnessing the power of data is going to be key to getting your message heard.

Have any questions about data visualization and how it can be an asset to you or your team? Feel free to reach out here.