Once B2B companies start creating social profiles and interacting with customers and prospects online, they start accumulating data. It is easy to aggregate data into spreadsheets to present to your team or to your boss, but for many people data can be more easily understood and remembered if it is presented visually. And I don’t mean just creating pie charts and colored graphs using excel data, but transforming the data into a visual story. Depending on the size of your B2B company and your staff resources, this may be something to consider only for a yearly report, but it is worth thinking about.
1. Determine the Story You Want to Tell
Before you even start looking at your data, you need to plan the story. Presenting data over time is one way to make it compelling and doing it visually allows you to present much more data than if you just showed the raw data. The story could be made up of multiple storylines that go in different directions. This can also be like your theory, where you predict what the data shows.
2. What is the Context of the Story
The context of the story relates to your goals. If you were driving leads on a website using social media, what are ways to make that a compelling story besides just the number. What kinds of leads close and become sales. Are there different things that resonate (close sales) with existing customers versus new customers? How does all this data fit into your overall business strategy and metrics?
3. Decide What Data to Include
Once you know what story you are trying to tell, you can determine what data is the best way to show it. You may get to this stage and realize you don’t have the data you need, or you haven’t been collecting it for a long enough time period. It means that you may need to delay the creation of this visual report until you have the data. If you are not trying to drive leads, you need to look at engagement numbers. If all you can track are number of followers and fans, you should not continue with trying to visualize your data. There is no story to tell in those numbers.
4. Understand Your Audience and Their Needs
Just like with marketing campaigns, you need to know your audience for your data visualizations. Even though you plan to walk through the graphics with your boss, or the board, people who are used to getting piles of spreadsheets might want to see the data. Have the data available, but the idea is to create a compelling story that shows your successes and nobody asks for the data backup.
5. Work with Designer to Wireframe and Design
If you have made it this far in the process, it is now time to turn this over to a designer. If you can clearly communicate your story and you have the right data, a good designer can work through this to create a great visualization of your data. There are tools available to produce infographics on your own, but they pale in comparison to what a designer can do. Their first step is to sketch or wireframe where everything goes. This is a basic layout, but not a design. After getting some feedback, they convert that into a design, which has the graphical elements in place.
Once presented with a design of your data visualization, review it against your original requirements to see if it tells your story. As you develop these graphics, sometimes you see connections between data that you would not have seen otherwise. Make any changes to the visual that are needed before finalizing the project. One simple thing to suggest is to include company branding or colors in the graphic, whether it will be shared outside the company or not.
Don’t just email the visual report to your team, but schedule a presentation, or two. If you need to present it to your boss or the board, do that first, but gather your team together and present it to them to show them the details of their work. It is great to share in successes, but it can also be a time to plan for ways to improve.
Have you thought about sharing B2B social media data in a visual manner, and are there any additions to the above process for your company or clients?