On average, your readers will only read 28% of the words on a page.
Can you tell your whole story in 2-3 sentences? Probably not.
The best content marketers start with research and gather great data that supports their message. That data could be customer satisfaction percentages, product ratings, testimonials, reviews, etc. They then use those facts to support their message in a way that generates conversions.
We’re told “Content is king.” and that having great online content is THE marketing miracle to driving sales. And it is. But nowadays, there’s so much clutter on the web that simply having great content isn’t enough. The sad truth is that your content can’t rule solo over your marketing kingdom anymore. But never fear – there’s a way to enhance your content and make it more engaging to your audience.
That way is data visualization.
Why Data Visualization?
Turns out, humans are designed in a way that makes data visualization a great strategy for content marketing. By conveying your message in a visually appealing way, you can make people more likely to support your cause, share your message, or buy your product.
Here are three reasons why people are so attracted to visual content, and why data visualization may work for you.
1. We love to consume data, especially data about ourselves.
Nowadays, there’s apps to track your sleep patterns, apps to keep track of your daily calorie intake, and apps to track the number of steps you take. There’s even an app that tracks how much time you spend on your apps! It’s pretty clear that we enjoy consuming data that helps us better improve and understand ourselves and the human experience. If you offer a product with some sort of emotional appeal (since emotions are what make us human) or a service that makes life easier, you might really benefit from presenting your data as an emotionally appealing, “human” visual.
2. We love to see that data represented visually.
Visual content is huge online right now. It’s increased 9,900 percent on the Internet since 2007, and for good reason. Visual data provides us with relief from today’s era of information overload.
We receive five times more information today than we did in 1986 – about 100,500 words outside of work every day. People get exhausted from consuming plain black text on a white background all the time. It makes sense that we crave color and design, because we’re programmed to. Almost half of your brain is involved in visual processing, and that half is pretty good at what it does. You can make sense of a visual in less than 1/10 of a second.
Instead of hoping that your viewers choose your content as part of their 100,500 daily word count, create a chart or graphic that appeals to their visual wiring.
3. Humans are scientifically designed to love stories.
More of our brain is engaged when we listen to stories. They cause our neurons to act as if we were actually doing the actions we hear in the story. Stories also have that human element we were talking about earlier, which makes them more entertaining and engaging.
If you do it right, you can use your data to tell the human story – and how it can be improved through the use of your product or service. In fact, the best content visuals do just that. They introduce viewers to a concept or situation (the problem you address), walk them through the main information about that concept or situation (how you’ll address it), and then provide a conclusion in the form of CTA (converting).
In summary, people are interested in learning about themselves, but they’re sick of learning through plain copy, and they’re programmed to desire visual content that tells a tale. Visualizing data is an effective strategy for giving them exactly what they want – information that is more visible and less difficult to digest.
5 Steps to Telling Your Story
Now that you understand why you need to make your data more visible, you need to understand how.
Your content design is super important, because design will be one of the first reasons that people start reading. But what’s more important than the design is the story it tells. Here are the five main steps for using data to craft your content into a visual story:
1. Understand Your Data
The first step to telling a story with data is to know the data you’re working with and understand where it came from. Being able to understand and convey your information gives you a sense of authority and credibility, both important factors for gaining your customers’ trust. Ask yourself these important questions to make sense of your information:
- Who collected it?
- Why did they collect it?
- What audience was this data gathered for?
- What is the best way to present this data?
This insight is crucial in laying the foundation for a story that is both meaningful and human.
2. Identify Your Story and Create a Good Structure for It
Now that you have the hard facts, you need to decide the story you want to tell with it. Once you know your narrative structure, you need to figure out how you’re going to lay out your information to tell your story most effectively. A well-structured visual provides clarification, reveals trends, and highlights your key findings. You should set up your data in a way that brings your story to life, but doesn’t make your viewer work too hard.
3. Guide, but Don’t Push, the User Experience
Your content should guide, not push, the user throughout your story. The facts should encourage a thorough understanding and learning of your information that allows users to create their own experiences. This kind of visual seems less advertorial and more trustworthy. Some of the best data visualizations are really insightful, yet give people the flexibility to interpret the data in the most meaningful way to them. After all, a personalized experience is a memorable one – and it’s one that people will most likely share with others.
4. Keep it Simple
There is a fine line between presenting the most effective facts that convey your message and putting your viewer under more information overload. When crafting your story, you need to focus on simplicity. Make it as easy as possible for your audience to understand your message, and make it captivating to do so. Play to their eyes with the visuals and their minds with the facts, but don’t overstimulate either.
Figure out which facts are the most important in telling your story, and transform them into tangible, organic chapters. And your product is your story’s conclusion.
5. Use Viewer Psychology to Your Advantage
You don’t have to invent a brand new data visual that the Internet has never seen before in order to gain an audience. Most times, it’s better to understand existing behaviors around data visualizations and design yours accordingly.
There are tons of research out there on consumer behavior, from eye-scanning patterns to color psychology. Understanding these trends will help you optimize your content so it’s more understandable and more accessible to the broadest range of people. By tailoring your data to your audience, so you can craft a story that relates specifically to their own.
From a nationally acclaimed journalism piece to a small brand’s dynamic video message, the following case studies illustrate how brands both big and small can create a storytelling experience through their own visual content.
Case Study 1 – New York Times, Slopestyle
The New York Times is the storytelling authority of the Internet. They bring stories to life better than anyone. NY Times recently published a news graphic about the 2014 Sochi Olympics Slopestyle event. Naturally, it is an excellent example of visual content marketing.