With the convergence of big data and content marketing, much has been written about the importance of collecting, analyzing, and utilizing consumer data to deliver relevant content back to those consumers. And for good reason. If you’re going to be in a relationship with your audience, you better know what they like.
Far less has been said about how and when to include data when creating content, and what effect each statistic the author cites has on the consumer. You’ve heard of the economy of words—the writing rule that states every word in a story should hold distinct purpose, or else it doesn’t belong. The same goes for including data.
Statistics are only as useful as the overall story an author is trying to tell. Too many can feel inauthentic and overwhelming. If a coffee company expounds upon its use of fair trade coffee beans by filling a blog post full of eco-oriented statistics with no sense of delivery, the company is going to get roasted. See what I did there?
But without providing any statistics, articles can quickly turn to fluff—the reader may regard them as insubstantial, less serious.
While articles packed with data look like sand dunes—dry and looming—articles that use a few strong statistics feel as smooth as silk. How can marketers and storytellers wield data as part of a complete storytelling package to connect with audiences?
How many times have you given up reading a post because it’s so densely packed with data that you’re not sure which points to pay attention to?
When content creators source too much data in short-form articles, they admit a lack of confidence. They say, “I’m not sure which of these statistics will resonate or prove my point, so here’s all of them.”
Even citing just a few highly compelling statistics within a short article can give yourself enough ground to cover. Instead of spending time building your data deck of cards, choose your aces and show’em up front. Then spend the rest of the time providing original insight.
It’s the same process for including quotes. As my high school English teacher repeated to our class a thousand times, “Quote, then comment.”
Ms. Russell’s rule still applies. Cite data, then comment.
Avoid the buffet of data—serve only the freshest slice.
For every piece of data you cite in your story, ask yourself: “What purpose does this statistic serve?”
If you can’t answer that question, it doesn’t belong in your story—no matter how remarkable the figure.
Your data should work hard for you. To be able to put it to work most effectively, you need to understand why it’s there. This is what great data does:
“People process images approximately 600,000 times faster than text.”
This statistic is from a new Dot Com Infoway infographic that the Content Standard recently cited. I had heard that people process images faster than text. That seemed to be common knowledge. But 600,000 times faster? And they remember images better, too? I read on.
As a content marketer, I started thinking about how we can create captivating visuals in our content marketing strategy. It may not have encouraged action (yet), but it has encouraged thought—action’s necessary precursor.
“Ad blocking grew by 41 percent globally in the last 12 months. There are now 198 million active adblock users around the world.”
Even better than adding to what you already know, data can create dialogue around new findings. The recent findings from the PageFair/Adobe 2015 Ad Blocking Report have striking consequences for brands and ad providers, and media sites were quick to cover the story. Business Insider, The Next Web, Marketing Land, and just about every other media site that covers digital marketing trends gave the data their own unique angle.
The Content Standard ran a story covering how brands’ mobile content strategies will change.
Finding ways to provide original insight around a popular set of statistics helps differ your content from the competition, offering your audiences original analysis and search engines fresh material to grab on to. The day we published the article it appeared at the number two spot in Google News under the term “content strategy,” as well as appeared in the news block in Web search under the terms “content strategy” and “mobile content strategy.”
Creating compelling, data-driven content isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Getting the balance of how much data to include will take time, and of course, the amount of data you cite will depend on what the story is about.
Here are a few content marketing tactics you can start implementing sooner rather than later.
Marketers love data. It provides us with insight to make meaningful decisions that will bring about real change. But we must be discerning with how we share it—otherwise, we’re just extending the desert of data.
Want to read more about how to tell great stories using data? Subscribe to the Content Standard Newsletter.