Data Infographics are Dead: How to Make Your Data-driven Story Interactive

Infographics have been one of the most popular ways to embrace a visual-hungry web, but let’s face it, they’re no longer that exciting.

They still look very cool, but they’ve become common, and something everyone uses to distribute data—you’re no longer the original kid on the block when you adapt your data in a static visual setting. The next frontier for data is interactive storytelling, but it hasn’t been highly adopted yet because it’s perceived as hard and expensive to create.

Robbie Richards, the digital marketing director at Royal Jay, defines interactive storytelling as storytelling enhanced by digital tools:

Sometimes words aren’t enough to tell a complex or compelling story. Interactive storytelling uses technology to captivate the user on multiple levels, engaging as many of the senses as possible, in order to create a unique experience that stands out over traditional forms of content,” Richards wrote in a SnapApp article.

Breaking into this new medium for content isn’t as daunting as it probably seems. Here’s your guide to breaking away from the dusty infographic—step-by-step, this is how to aggregate data, shape a story, and bring it to life in an interactive environment, even if you’re a small team or on a tight budget.

This is where you find the data

You can find data in the most surprising of places, often without having to pay for anything. This is true even if your business model doesn’t automatically lend itself to data collection.

  • Within your hallowed walls. There is usually no better place to find data relevant to your audience than your sales and account management teams. They are likely sitting on a treasure trove of data about customer problems, competitor activity, success stories in the industry, and much more that you can leverage for interactive content.Example: How many customers have you collected this year? How many customers of a certain title? How many contacts explicitly stated they needed X problem solved? The possibilities are endless.
  • Within your product (for the techies). If you’re marketing for technology, you’re probably collecting data through your product already. Talk to your engineering team to see what you can uncover.Example: Companies like Google and MailChimp are good examples to emulate, but the data you collect will likely be specific to your technology and capabilities.
  • Curate and spin. Another option is to find data around the web that has already been published, and slice and dice it a different way to get a new result.Example: This HR Tech company took data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and coupled it with salary projection data to create a useful chart for its customers.
  • Pay to create it. Finally, in some cases to get the best data to help you tell your story, you’re going to have to create it. Work with third party survey companies or data entities to collect data from your market.One very important thing to note is that while there is a cost here, this route gives you complete control over your data—you shape the audience, format and responses to suit your needs.Example: This interactive tool from PwC allows the user to explore the results of a recent CEO survey.

No matter what path you choose, you really don’t want to get stuck with data that isn’t useful to you. Think about the storyline ahead of time, and what data points might get you there. Once you have your dream headline, it’ll be easier to decide which pathway is the best, and whether or not you can uncover the data under your own roof or if you need to go elsewhere.

How to shape the story

Once you have collected data, you have to shape your story—the main data point, or points, that you’re trying to highlight will likely inform not only the content you produce to distribute the data, but also how it’s displayed.

There are three things you should keep in mind when mining data.

  • Keep your business goals in mind. New products, new industry trends, or points of view you’re trying to take as a thought leader in your space should be top of mind here. You’re looking for data that will support your organization’s mission.Example: Kauffman Rossin has a US Tax Calculator that reveals personal data to support their international CPA services.
  • Look for outliers and anomalies. The best stories often come from the weird stuff—this data is often the best if your goal is shareability or distribution via other outlets.Example: Data from Scientific American showed that before a hurricane, pop-tart sales increase sevenfold.
  • Look for contradictions. Finding the contradictions in your data is not only interesting, but it probably also reveals some interesting customer pain points that can help you build a strong story.Example: This example from Simply Measured pits all of the contradictory data they found for their industry under one report, telling the story with an interesting angle.
  • Look for things that might be emotionally driven. Finally, data that people feel emotional about will encourage them to act—make them feel like they’re missing out, make them feel supportive of a cause, or many other emotional possibilities that will drive them to action.Example: United’s interactive chart drives people to want to vacation in Cuba by underlining how many people have had fun going there.

The data has been chosen, and the storyline has been shaped. The next steps are to figure out how to present it.

How to bring it to life in an interactive environment

If you’re lucky enough to be in an organization where you have access to a creative designer and developer, or even more luckily, a team of those people, this is the point at which you can pass off your story to them to bring to life.

If this team doesn’t yet exist in your organization, these are some tools that I suggest you check out:

  • Ceros. You can use this tool without any knowledge of code, and your subscription allows you access to many design elements that are licensed and ready to use. This is a great tool for building entirely interactive webpages.
  • FusionCharts. If you’re looking to build one or two interactive charts to put into your content, this is a great tool. They can be embedded on any website or blog.
  • Datawrapper. This is the tool of choice for editorial newsrooms around the world. It’s not the best solution for small marketing teams, but if you’re looking to take your data up a notch, it’s used by publications like Fortune, Bloomberg and more.

It is possible to build and create interactive data as easily as it would be to create an infographic—you just need the right data, storyline and tools.

Your interactive data is likely to draw more attention than static data would. The next step in your interactive data journey is to making make sure you’re distributing it properly. Check out some tips on how you can shake up your media mix to reach new audiences.


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