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Data Visualization: Storytelling to Generate Insights

Gordon Plutsky | Jun 1, 2017
Category: Tech Perspectives

Marketers have more data than ever to help them evaluate the effectiveness of their campaigns. In fact, it can feel like it is coming through a fire hose. Websites, online ads, lead generation, social, email, etc. can generate an ever growing mountain of data for an analyst. There are challenges to having all of this data. It comes from multiple platforms and formats and it can be difficult for business users to access and understand.

A solution for this problem is data visualization – the technique of turning rows and columns of data into easy to digest graphs, charts and other visuals. In most cases, marketing platforms are directly connected to data visualization tools and the data is analyzed in real time. As an added bonus, it takes the manual and repetitive work out of the equation and allows marketers to focus on finding the insights rather than spending their time on data collection from multiple platforms.

Marketers have more data than ever to help them evaluate the effectiveness of their campaigns. In fact, it can feel like it is coming through a fire hose.

Data visualization works well because of the way our brain processes information. The old cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings true as we are wired to process images and pictures quickly to drive cognition and comprehension. Additionally, data visualization also plays off another one of our innate talents – the ability to understand concepts better when presented in stories rather than a recitation of facts. As children we are told stories to foster learning (fables and fairy tales) and it becomes the way our minds work best. It is why business students are taught with case studies and formats like TED Talks work so well. Data visualizations are delivered in a series of “cards” arranged in dashboards for a linear approach to storytelling.

...data visualization also plays off another of our innate talents – the ability to understand concepts better when presented in stories rather than a recitation of facts.

Looking at visualized data versus a giant excel spreadsheet is the best way we can identify patterns and relationships in the data. The real value of marketing analytics is to find insights that help us understand the “why” behind the numbers. These learnings help optimize current programs, see emerging trends and give us the ability to learn more about our audiences. 

Here at IDG we use a business intelligence reporting platform to visualize results for our clients on the integrated content campaigns we run on their behalf. It helps us demonstrate the value of a campaign while highlighting the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are most important to the client.

With data visualization we combine data from disparate marketing platforms and bring them into one place – with real time updates. For example, having paid social media campaign results visually displayed next to Google Analytics results for the campaign landing pages helps generate the insight needed for immediate campaign optimizations. The visualization connects the dots from all the different parts of the campaign. Instead of poring through tabs in a spreadsheet, the results jump off the screen.

The visualization connects the dots from all the different parts of the campaign. Instead of poring through tabs in a spreadsheet, the results jump off the screen. 

Of course, data visualization can also be used for internal metrics such as finances, budgeting and managing your sales team. Essentially any report now being passed around in a static spreadsheet can be transformed into a visual that can be easily accessed and shared by key stakeholders in the business.

As organizations generate more and more data, visualization tools will become a critical component to find the signal within the noise.

 

Written by Gordon Plutsky 

Gordon Plutsky is the Director of Applied Intelligence for IDG Strategic Marketing Services. A marketing thought leader, Gordon has been named one of the most influential marketers to follow on Twitter (@GordonPlutsky) by Forbes; and one of the 50 Thought Leaders over 50 by Brand Quarterly Magazine. Gordon frequently writes on the topics of digital, ad tech, performance marketing, social, content and the cultural changes brought on by the new media landscape.

Connect with Gordon on LinkedIn.

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