Data Visualization: the Way of the Future, or Just a Trend?

datavizWith so much data being created in today’s world, it can be a tremendous task to organize and understand it.

Despite being considered “boring” by many people, data has its place in the business world. Research from Statista found that the top three leading benefits for using big data in business were greater insights into the customer experience that could be worked into new strategies, the ability to analyze consumer feedbackto determine what products customers want, and better understanding customers’ opinions on current products and services.

Data visualizations are especially useful on the web, because they both catch the reader’s eye and allow the reader to more quickly consume important information.

In 2012 Column Five Media and business intelligence company DOMO worked together on an infographic that illustrates the rate at which data is created in one minute online. For example, every minute Google receives over two million search queries, the mobile web receives 217 new users, and Instagram users share 3,600 new photos. The numbers have only grown over the past few years, which raises the question: How can this data be understood and be made actionable?

At its core, data visualization better allows end users to “see” and digest data, which results in a greater understanding of the numbers. It is a broad term that applies to any attempt at helping audiences understand data by putting it in a visual model. With data visualizations, people can more readily spot trends and patterns within data, which helps them communicate their thoughts and ideas faster. In business, this enhanced speed of thought can be good news for the bottomline.

The upside of data visualization is that it makes data more easily accessible to more people. The downside is that these visualizations can become complicated or confusing. Creators of data visualizations could also potentially embellish or misrepresent data with their visual interpretations, whether intentionally or not. It is therefore important that content creators strictly adhere to codes of ethics (such as that created by the Society of Professional Journalists) and remain mindful of their audience.

Researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology examined what makes data visualizations memorable for the average viewer. They found faces and “human-centric scenes” are generally easy for people to remember while images of landscapes are not. The research also showed that certain things in particular made a visualization more memorable, for example colorful or dense visualizations. Surprisingly, the researchers found that unusual chart types such as tree diagrams are more memorable than more common place one like bar graphs and pie charts.

The researchers from Harvard and MIT also raised an excellent point in their findings: being memorable isn’t the most important part of a visualization. Rather visualizations need to be easy to understand, context appropriate, and accurate.

Today’s data visualizations are certainly more sophisticated than ever before in the past, but the most important point remains the same: a data visualization needs to factually represent and summarize the data while allowing the viewer to make conclusions based on that data.

About the Author

Nick Rojas is a journalist and business consultant based in Los Angeles, CA. and Chicago, IL. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas.

5 Tips for Better Twitter Advertising

Accessible Twitter website icon

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advertising on Twitter can be effective for increasing the size of your audience and also for sending traffic to your website. Besides knowing what your goal is, these tips will help you advertise better on Twitter…

1. Goal Impacts Type of Campaign

Deciding on your goal for your Twitter advertising will help you choose the right type of campaign. The promoted account campaign (followers campaign) is best for increasing your followers and building audience for the long term. If your goal is to boost traffic to your website (or to particular pages on your website), then take a look at the promoted tweets campaign. And if you’re trying to get people to install or engage with your mobile app, there’s a campaign for that too.

2. Targeting Usernames vs Interest Categories

For smaller organizations that are looking for niche audiences, use username targeting to find followers similar to the ones you enter. Interest category targeting works better for larger organizations or broader audiences.

3. Good Messaging

Just like any other good messaging, Twitter ads should have use plain and understandable text and have a clear call to action. Adding pictures can also increase clicks on your ads. Try adding 3-5 different tweets to test your message and images.

4. Competitive Budget

Advertising on Twitter can be cost effective, but make sure your bids are within the suggested range or you may see a drastic decrease in the impressions of your ads.

5. Test to Optimize

Just like any advertising, testing will help you optimize the ads to get the best results for your budget and goals. Test different messages, images and calls to action. Test for a certain length of time, and then copy your campaign to make changes and save past tests and data.

Twitter advertising can be a very cost-effective way to increase the reach of your social media marketing.

Book Review: The Visual Organization by Phil Simon

We are inundated and surrounded by Big Data. So much so, that it is very difficult to wrap your mind around how to use all the information that pelts us from all directions every day. Understanding how to use Big Data is becoming imperative for organizations and data visualization is the method to turn data into understandable information. In Phil Simon’s latest book, The Visual Organization, he uses easy-to-understand explanations and real-world examples from a variety of organizations to help you visualize (pun intended) how your organization could use data visualization. Starting with an example of how a data visualization company made it big, Phil shows how the rapid innovation and quickly changing industry of d.v. has opportunities for big disruptions in every field. Organizations of every kind and size would find this book a helpful primer and resource on the way to becoming a visual organization.

Why & How to Use Data Visualization

Divided into four sections, The Visual Organization is a pleasant and interesting read straight-through, but also allows more experienced individuals to skip to the most important sections. You will get an understanding of what data visualization (d.v.) is, why you should care, why some level of d.v. is vital for every organization and how higher levels of d.v. can improve your business strategy by better informing key decisions. One size does not fit every organization, especially for tools. Phil discusses a variety of data visualization tools from large enterprise vendors, open source tools and design firms.

What is a Visual Organization?

Key to becoming a visual organization is understanding what one actually looks like, beyond just concepts and tools to making d.v. an integral part of how the company operates. Phil uses real organizations in his case studies, which include large companies, small companies, non-profits  and show many different ways to leverage d.v. to improve how the organizations operate.

Become a Visual Organization

Becoming a visual organization goes beyond just purchasing some d.v. tools, and Phil discusses steps, strategies, tips and insights to help you put d.v. into practice with a 4 level framework. Understanding what a visual organization would do when making business decisions is key to properly implement data visualization and Phil will help you navigate mistakes, myths and challenges in a real world execution.

Data Visualization Tools

As more data visualization tools come to market, the ability to analyze the wealth of information organizations collect will not only become easier, it will be vital to staying competitive. The easier it becomes to get good information from so much data, the more companies will start to leverage data visualization.  Get ahead of the curve by reading Phil’s book to understand the how, what, and why of using data visualization for your organization.

Buy Now: 

(links to the book on Amazon are affiliate links — feel free to use them, or not)

Use Device Analytics to Engage Your Users

shutterstock_188406302 copySome 47 percent of companies plan to increase their investments in business and Web analytics this year, according to an Econsultancy survey. Meanwhile, demand for analytics skills will drive spending on big data services up 30 percent to $14 billion, International Data Corporation reports.

Companies are investing in analytics because it brings measurable results. Paperchase reported that applying analytics generated a 23 percent boost in online sales, notes Internet Retailing. Many companies are focusing their analytics efforts on tracking standard marketing and sales data such as keyword popularity, demographic information, and ad performance. But when tracking these variables, don’t overlook the value of cross-tracking user engagement across different devices, browsers, and social media.

What Devices Is Your Market Using?

Marketland’s latest summary of data collected by comScore and Chitika shows the importance of tracking device usage. Android holds a commanding lead of 52.3 percent in U.S. device market share, followed by iPhone at 41.4 percent. However, iPhone generates the most mobile Web traffic from smartphone ad impressions, claiming a 53 percent market share to Android’s 44.5.

Such differences point to some important underlying demographics, notes Bikini Marketing. American males prefer Androids over iPhones 31 percent to 24 percent, while females are evenly split. Users 55 and over prefer iPhones, while younger age groups use Androids. Consumers earning more than $75,000 are more likely to use iPhones. All of this translates into iPhone users outspending Android users, accounting for 57 percent of mobile commerce to Android’s 43 percent. Depending on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to, device preference might be an important item to track.

What Browsers Are Your Buyers Using?

Browser preference is another item to keep an eye on. Computerworld reported in May 2014 that while Microsoft Internet Explorer dominates the desktop browser market, Google’s Chrome browser is growing fastest among mobile browsers. If you’re a marketing consultant selling a product or service geared towards mobile users, such as T-Mobile network coverage, you might consider prioritizing how Google Chrome audiences respond. On the other hand, if you’ve got a niche product aimed at office desktop users, such as an enterprise office suite package, tracking the IE segment of your market might prove relevant.

Where Are Your Social Followers Hanging out?

Meanwhile, as the battle of the browsers unfolds, Facebook has unleashed App Links, which enables deep linking from one mobile application to another without opening a website, bypassing browsers entirely. This underscores the potential importance of knowing which social media platforms your target market is using. Pew research published at the end of 2013 showed women were four times more likely than men to use Pinterest, a trend retailers such as Target and Nordstrom are using to their advantage. Meanwhile teenagers are migrating from Facebook to Instagram, Piper Jaffray’s semi-annual study shows, even as Facebook usage among adults 65 and older has grown 10 percent over the past year, Marketing Charts notes.

Internet Marketing Strategy Articles for the Week of May 12, 2014

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Tips for Effective Lead Generation

marketoWhile we may have marketing to increase awareness or stay top-of-mind, the gold at the end of the rainbow is generating quality leads. Content marketing and communicating with customers via social channels are great ways to connect, but how do you leverage your efforts to generate leads? Marketo, which provides a marketing automation platform, recently asked several marketers (including me), about lead generation best practices:

There are a lot of philosophies and opinions on lead generation. To help you cut through the noise, we spoke to four leading marketing experts and got some of their best insights. Here’s what they had to say about the dos and don’ts of effective lead generation. — Dos and Don’ts of Effective Lead Generation

Some of my thoughts:

Leveraging your network to drive lead generation can be a very tempting way to try to get referrals. While it certainly makes sense to use this resource, it’s vital to respect your network.

Spamming with marketing and sales offers is the surest way to lose valuable human connections, and increase the deafness to your message when you really need it. Stick to an 80/20 rule for any marketing you do online, but especially to your networks. Eighty percent of your content should be of value to the audience, and only 20% (or less!) should be direct marketing or advertising.

Providing regular, valuable content to your network will increase their awareness of your services and improve your reputation as an expert.

Read more –Dos and Don’ts of Effective Lead Generation

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Internet Marketing Strategy Articles for the Week of April 28, 2014

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Understanding Facebook Boosted Post Metrics

Cardboard rocket

Cardboard rocket (Photo credit: Matt Biddulph)

 

As you may be aware, Facebook is making it more difficult for companies and organizations to engage directly with their intended audiences.  To counter this (and to make revenue), Facebook offers the ability to boost an individual post so that it shows up in the news feed of your intended audience.  These boosted posts can be fairly low-cost, with a minimum boost of $5 per day.  So how well do these boosted posts perform and what sort of metrics does Facebook provide? To find out, I boosted a post on Lady Paragon’s Facebook page (a site I run with my sister for Women in STEM careers).

Facebook Post Pre-Boost

Here’s what the post looked like before I boosted it:

LP-beforeboost

The metrics we see are:

  • 1 person liked it (red circle)
  • There was 1 share (green rectangle)
  • 976 people saw the post (blue rectangle)

I boosted this post for 1 day at a budget of $5 and targeted fans & friends of fans of Lady Paragon’s Facebook page.

Facebook Boosted Post Metrics

Here are the metrics after the boost:

ladyparagons-FBafter

The metrics provided are:

  • 4 people liked it (red circle) — 1 was from before, which Facebook properly reports in the red circle in the How people engaged with your post section.
  • 1 share (green rectangle) — this was from before the boost
  • 3102 saw the post (blue rectangle) — Facebook reports that 2079 were from the boost in the Paid Reach box.  You can also see the percentage of paid to organic in the box with the 3102 — blue was organic, green was paid
  • 4 link clicks (purple circle)
  • Engagement of 7 — this is the number of link clicks added to the number of post likes

Facebook Post Insights

When you look at the post in the page Insights, you see the following metrics (more recent data):

FBboostedpostinsights

The orange bar shows the number of people who viewed the post, divided into lighter orange for organic, darker for paid.  3.1K is pretty close to the 3102 mentioned above.  218 is the number of post clicks and 116 is the number of likes, comments and shares. This is very interesting. Either the boosted metrics didn’t include some of the stats, boosting the post helped increase the organic reach and engagement, or the post received an unusually high number of engaged traffic from some of the people who saw it (remember that when someone likes a post, their network sees that they liked it, at least for a short time period).

Hypothesis: Boosting a Post Improves It’s Organic Reach & Engagement Too

I boosted another post on the same page (same budget $5) and got the following results:

  • 1331 Paid Reach
  • 5 Engagements – 3 link clicks, 2 post likes

FBboostedpostinsights2

According to the post insights, the post  got 15 post clicks and 4 likes, comments and shares.  Not nearly as high, so there probably is a difference in the influence of the people who engaged with each post.

If we look at the Google Analytics traffic to the actual post on the website (April 2-April 22), the April 2nd post (Jessica Kirkpatrick) had 338 pageviews (20 from Facebook), while the April 9th post (Kate Synder), had 93 pageviews (77 from Facebook).

Conclusion: Unclear, More Results Needed

The results do tend to show that a boosted post receives more organic engagement, especially if there are people with good influence that do engage with the post.  Using good targeting to reach the right audience to improve engagement on a boosted post may provide the most beneficial of results.  More testing is needed — I’ll continue to monitor my efforts.

What have you found with Facebook boosted posts?

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How Typography Affects Your Internet Marketing

English: Example of Tahoma typeface

English: Example of Tahoma typeface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suvir Mirchandani, a teenager from Pittsburgh, recently came up with a way to save the government a lot of money. No, it doesn’t involve massive cuts to social programs or reductions in military spending. Rather, he wants to cut printing costs by changing the font the government uses for its publications. By switching the typeface for all publications to Garamond, Mirchandani estimates the federal and local governments could save millions of dollars each year. The reason: Garamond is a thin, light typeface that doesn’t require much ink.

Although his initial estimate of a $234-million-per-year savings is definitely off, Mirchandani’s proposal brings up some interesting points about typography. While switching to Garamond would save in printing costs, typography experts pointed out this typeface is much harder to read than others. Older customers, who are more likely to read print copies, would probably have a harder time making out Garamond than Times New Roman or Arial. This means that while the government would save money, the publications could lose readability.

Readability is an important consideration for all publications, whether they’re in print or online. While you may not think about typography when you’re optimizing your website, it can make a big difference in how readers view and understand your information. The right typography can really make your content pop, while the wrong kind can turn readers off. Paying more attention to typography during search engine optimization can really help you drive more traffic and boost sales.

Overview of Typesetting

Typographers use specific terminology to describe text styles. It’s helpful to know these terms when you’re discussing typography with your web design team:

  • Typeface: Text styles like Times New Roman, Tahoma and Arial are commonly called fonts, but the correct name is actually typeface.
  • Font: Font includes a certain typeface, plus the weight, width and size of the text. 9 point Arial bold is an example of a font.
  • Serif: A serif typeface has extra decoration around the letters. Times New Roman, Garamond and Palatino are a few examples.
  • Sans-Serif: A sans-serif font is without extra lines or frills at the ends of letters.
  • Line Length: This is the length of a line of text from margin to margin.
  • Leading: Leading is the amount of space between separate lines of text.
  • Kerning: This is the blank space between each individual character.
  • Tracking: This is the average letter spacing over a large group of letters or characters.

Readability vs. Aesthetics

The most obvious way typography affects your site is in terms of readability. Numerous studies have found that certain fonts are easier to read, though there isn’t a clear consensus on whether serif or sans-serif typeface is better. Many believe that serif typeface is easier to read in print and sans-serif is easier on-screen. If you have a book close by, pull it out. What kind of typeface is used? The best-selling Harry Potter book series used Garamond, a serif typeface, as do many popular novels.

On the Internet, some people advise to only use sans-serif. Others say serif is better for headings, while sans-serif is better for body copy. The reason for this is headings need some extra pizzazz. Here’s an example of a serif heading with a sans-serif body, as seen on the Starbucks website.

coffee-typography

Jezebel does the opposite, though, by using serif copy with sans-serif headings.

jezebel-typography

This logo from Warren CAT uses a sans-serif font, but also incorporates a stylized ‘W’ to make it stand out.

warrencat-typography

As mentioned above, several studies have suggested that particular typefaces are better for general readability. However, the most legible typeface is not always what readers prefer. According to a study done at Witchita State University, Verdana, Arial and Comic Sans were the most often preferred typefaces. However, Times New Roman and Arial were read the most quickly, and Arial and Courier were the easiest to read. Ironically, Comic Sans, one of the preferred fonts, was actually least legible.

The study also determined size mattered. Verdana, Arial and Comic Sans were preferred at 10, 12 and 14 points, respectively. Also, Tahoma was the most legible font at 10-point, Courier at 12-point and Arial at 14-point. Ultimately, having a readable font is important as it makes it easier for you to convey information. According to a study done by Microsoft and MIT, reading more legible typography can improve mood and cognitive function.

Font Personality

Readability isn’t the only consideration when selecting a font. Otherwise, participants in the Witchita State study would have always selected the most readable fonts as their favorites. The font you choose can add a certain style and personality to your site. It may even make readers more likely to take you seriously.

According to an experiment done by Errol Morris in the New York Times, certain typefaces may carry more authority. In the experiment, participants were given an excerpt in one of six fonts — Baskerville, Helvetica, Comic Sans, Computer Modern, Georgia and Trebuchet. They were then asked if they agreed with the excerpt, and to what degree. The typeface used made a big difference in users’ responses. People were most likely to agree with the argument when it was presented in Baskerville. They were most likely to disagree when it was in Comic Sans or Helvetica. It’s also worth noting that reputable news websites, like the New York Times, often use an elegant serif typeface.

While there is no clear answer on which typeface is best for your website, using the right one really can make a difference in how readers perceive and remember information.

What kinds of typography do you think are most effective online?

About the Author

alilawrenceAli Lawrence is a content specialist for a web design company and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her articles have been published by Hot in Social Media, Yahoo! Small Business, and Business2Community.

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