From the first charts and graphs published by the New York Times to the infographic boom of the early 2010’s, data visualizations have become more sophisticated and comprehensive while becoming easier to produce thanks to the availability of both big data and design software. Several well-respected and highly cited media entities like Vox have entire teams of data journalists creating visual and interactive content in various verticals, and marketers are beginning to do the same as brands begin to evolve into publishers.
This should come as no surprise. Data visualizations go beyond just simplifying mass data sets-- they also hone in on specific information to help brands, publishers, journalists, and marketers tell an in-depth, data-driven story through their content. Over the past two decades especially, there’s been a significant increase in utilizing this method of storytelling.
By improving reader data comprehension and retention, visual content is especially effective at garnering attention and even triggering the emotions that make content go viral. Further, evoking strong emotions is a key component in encouraging content engagement on social media and sparking interest in the media.
An analysis of nearly 350 content marketing campaigns based on data-driven visualizations by Fractl revealed even traditionally dull industries can leverage visual assets, and that more interesting verticals could add some creativity to their content to boost engagement. Here are the four primary data visualizations big brands and publishers alike have leveraged for engagement in niche verticals, and some takeaways for marketers trying to get into this growing trend.
Charts & Graphics
The original data visualizations are widely known as infographics, and typically are composed of charts, graphs, timelines, and other means of easily illustrating and comparing data. Based on analysis, the travel vertical in particular utilized this form of data comparisons more than any other, often with higher than average levels of engagements. There are now millions of these infographics all over the internet, so if yours is to stand out, it must offer something compelling to a receptive audience, like proprietary data.
Leveraging internal data, Kayak UK analyzed over a billion searches on its own site to compile a static chart illustrating the best time to book flights on a budget. In this case, their everyday metrics provided an interesting and valuable resource for their audience, which led to several media pickups, a data sourcing method becoming increasingly popular among brands already dealing with big data.
Maps makes great visual assets for a couple of reasons: the data is presented in an easily comprehensible format and it’s an incredibly effective way to tap into a geographically targeted audience’s emotions. It’s worth noting that analysis found Politics, Crime, & Safety and Education campaigns incorporated this asset the most (nearly four out of five campaigns), and those campaigns that did include maps saw 73% more media placements than those that did not in these two verticals.
Discover partnered with the New York Times’ T Brand Studios to illustrate the value of higher education even with rising costs of college tuition-- broken down by state. Data sourced from various government and academic databases was supplemented by an original survey, helping Discover tell a more involved story about student debt across America.
Engagement and interactives go hand in hand-- it’s thought that interactive content can help improve your site’s bounce rate by keeping visitors engaged longer. With a projected 75% increase in use within a single year, it has become a go-to asset for educating and engaging audiences across all verticals. From quizzes to flipbooks to calculators, some of the traditional industries like finance are finding success in driving site traffic with the help of onsite interactives like investment calculators for clients and prospects, while publishers in verticals inundated by content are finding ways to stand out and engage their audiences.
To elaborate on the latter, FiveThirtyEight is known for data-driven articles and projects on politics, culture, and sports especially-- all very heavily covered verticals. Their recent College Football Predictor offers an incredibly comprehensive interactive form that allows users to play out different scenarios predicting each team’s odds of winning a title, conference, and making the playoffs. Within the first day, it was already shared 1,200 times on social media. Further, it updates after every game this season for the most accurate data simulations, adding another bonus takeaway specific to the data: stay on top of the latest numbers and utilize that evolving data in your content to keep it fresh and relevant.
While static infographics are a go-to option for simplifying huge data sets and illustrating complex information, getting the point across is still possible without charts, numbers, or even text with the help of video.
Even small, incredibly niche brands can see viral success with the help of data-driven video content. Take for example this niche agency focusing a specific facet of auto insurance; their video promoting distracted driving awareness by recording and singling out the types of distracted drivers on a busy Florida highway garnered 200 media mentions. And as a final bonus data takeaway, sometimes the best and most unique data has yet to be recorded, so don’t be afraid to go collect it yourself.
Whether sourcing from open source sites or leveraging internal sources, visualizations based in data are a key asset for generating engagement. With so many resources for accessing data and creating visuals, the real challenge becomes filtering through the millions of data sets to find the story that resonates with your audience.