How do you prove the value of data?

Data visualization is core to giving meaning and allowing a broader audience to understand the numbers – once you understand the data, you can create stunning campaigns.

Data visualization is core to giving meaning and allowing a broader audience to understand the numbers – once you understand the data, you can create stunning campaigns.

Social media data is one of the most talked about drivers of marketing and communications intelligence. Volume, cost and speed are key benefits of using social data, and when research methodology is designed properly, the findings should influence a communications strategy that can take brands deep into the customer journey.

This was the focal point of conversation at Brandwatch’s “Now You Know” conference, where analysts, marketers and industry leaders gathered to discuss how brands can turn social intelligence into actionable insights.

The event themes also covered new and different methods of data capture, from social and search engine to mobile and biometric data sources, to present the data in different mediums – like visuals, sounds, interactive displays, or even food and dance.


From data analysis to data presentation, there were several key takeaways from the conference that can better prepare industry professionals to answer the “how and why” data should be infused into a communications strategy.

The following are my three key takeaways:

Overlapping data can lead to better insights

At the base of measurement projects in our industry stands traditional, online and social media listening, while the next layer of analysis might also consider competitive analyses, key theme penetration, consumer behaviors and more.

However, there’s deeper layer of data that can provide even better insights. Industry leaders are now exploring how overlapping datasets can create a more compelling story. Integrating traditional findings with other datasets starts to paint a more interesting picture that can ultimately help inform decisions for communications professionals.

For instance, when a major event spikes an online conversation for a day or two but then falls flat on social, looking at search engine data may uncover that while people stopped talking about it on social after the initial spike, search engine activity continued and there was still an engaged audience. A brand could then leverage this insight to provide more information on the event and help a consumer along the buyer’s journey.

While these overlapping datasets tell a more enticing and actionable story, it can also be much more difficult to understand when combining two or more sets of data into the mix. This is where data visualization comes into play.


Bringing data to life with design

Data visualization is core to giving meaning and allowing a broader audience to understand the numbers.

Design can exploit data, reveal insights and provide a better understanding that may not have been recognized by all stakeholders. The best data presentations provide not only a visualization of data, but also an opportunity for data exploration – and the best data presentations provide both.

With design working to deliver visuals and exploration, audiences have the freedom to dive into the data to gain a better understanding at both granular and bigger picture levels.

So, how do you present data that piques the audience’s interest to learn more?

graphic design -startup-photos-large

Sometimes (okay, most of the time) you don’t have the data that you want to design around. That’s why prototyping design is key.

On day two of the conference, senior researchers from The Office for Creative Research (OCR) shared recent projects with the audience and discussed the challenges and best practices for working on data visualization projects.

The research experts emphasized how data informs the look, feel and meaning of the visualization and oftentimes prototypes need to be reworked if the dataset doesn’t meet the needs or expectations of the data you thought you’d have.

A clear understanding of your audience’s sophistication and openness to working with data and insights is the first step in producing a successful design. From there, there are a few indicators to have in place that will set the table for success:

  • A good brief
  • Familiarity with the kind of data expected
  • Providing creative liberties to push the design boundaries
  • A relationship built on trust and reasonability

Getting the team on board with data


Not all minds are tuned to ingest and make sense of data and numbers, and turning complex data into simplistic visualization is easier said than done.

When it comes to presenting data to a client or end consumer, it’s not about dumbing the data down, instead it’s about directing the communication to the audience and presenting why the findings are useful. If you can do this properly, data can truly inform communications and even business decisions.

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