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How to Curate Data Into Great Content

curate data content

Data doesn’t have to be boring. With a little thought, it can be turned into something that is intrinsically engaging, inspires conversation, and works hard for your brand.

From one-off stats to extensive studies, consider why data that at first seems dry or irrelevant might be interesting to your target audience if you give it a new lease on life. Carefully researched and credible data gives a blog post clout. Whether it’s data from another company (yes, really) or already in the public domain, data curation can mean content creation – brand new content that drives your key performance indicators and delivers real results.

Data is everywhere – primed and waiting – it’s just up to you to select the right bit for your business. Do this, and you’re halfway there. The hard part is approaching it in a way that is both analytical and creative so it tells a great story.

Think it sounds difficult? You’re not wrong. But, to prove it can be done, we’ve found some great examples of data curation done right. Take a look, heed the tips, and then try it for yourself.

Curate your own data

Did you know that buying pet medication online can do your pet more harm than good? No? SiteJabber shared the most common pet medication scams when it analyzed reviews from its site. Using SiteJabber’s discovery, Catey Hill from Dow Jones & Co.’s Market Watch wrote a post, which expanded the exposure of its data results to Market Watch’s more than 16 million monthly visitors.

This is just one example of how another blog or content distributor can highlight interesting takeaways gleaned from data that your brand collected, and can positively impact your content marketing campaign. But how is it done? It’s marrying analysis and creativity. Once you’ve investigated the data, take advantage of any unique or counterintuitive findings. These are perfect headlines because they challenge what people in your target industry think they already know.

Even if your findings aren’t particularly surprising, present them with unique insight. Perhaps you can compare your data with another metric for an interesting comparison. For example, Tyler Vigen’s site, Spurious Correlations, creates something fun with data such as the year-by-year correlation between the number of people who drowned falling into a swimming pool and the number of films in which Nicolas Cage appeared. Obviously, correlation isn’t causation, but it can be amusing, if a little tongue-in-cheek. Vigen isn’t trying to sell his readers anything with this site, but he certainly does a great job of using content marketing to promote his own personal brand.

Avoid this pitfall: If you curate reviews, be aware that reviewers most often leave negative comments and complaints so your curation is likely to reflect this.

Use others’ data

What if you haven’t got thousands of reviews to trawl through like SiteJabber did? Is it possible to leverage others’ data to create content of your own? Yes, but the tricky part is giving the data just enough attention so that your own aims aren’t swallowed in the process.

UK-based agency Liberty Marketing did just this with its TrolliesOfMoney interactive infographic. When supermarket giant Tesco revealed it overestimated 2014 profits by a staggering £263 million, the online marketing agency jumped straight to Tesco’s data and interpreted it in real terms.

Klontz TrolliesOfMoney Image 1 (1)

The compelling infographic shows how much bread, milk, wine, and um, boxers someone could have purchased with the total lost profits. It also monitors your time on the site and updates in real time how much of each product you could have purchased during your time on site if you spent £263 million over six months. Add a few miscellaneous stats and facts about the featured products (did you know that you could fill 7.8 Olympic swimming pools with all that wine?) and you’ve got original, fun, and shareable content that costs little to produce.

Why did Liberty Marketing go to such lengths to create this interactive infographic? It wanted to demonstrate its ability to prospective clients interested in doing something similar as well as getting their name out there, and building links. Even though the link to Liberty’s site is subtle to say the least, it wasn’t lost among the gentle ridicule – the infographic got picked up by London-based marketing media outlet, The Drum, which has 10 million unique visitors.

Data in public domain

This example of a brand effectively using public-domain data is Firestone’s recent visualization of America’s Car Giants. The tire manufacturer used an extremely diverse range of almost 40 sources (seriously, you can check them out for yourself) readily available online to tell a compelling story.

Klontz American Cars Image 2

Firestone embraced the power of the story and introduced its findings in a way that makes them relevant to a wider audience. Great stories are not only interesting, they make people care by helping them to contextualize “boring data” and connect it with the world around them. There’s actually science behind this. According to Buffer, when we see information, our brain processes it as language, but when we see a story, our brain activates it from the part that “feels.”

Not only did Firestone tell a story, it told it visually, and that alone gives it lots of traction from a content marketing perspective. Visualizations are engaging and accessible, while being fun to share and easily digestible, and each of these things is particularly important now that we’re subject to information overload. A great bit of link bait if ever we saw it.

Your brand can do it

Stay vigilant. If you can’t afford to commission your own data, keep an eye out for data you can use, especially on topics that your target audience might find interesting.

Be prepared to act quickly and avoid “analysis paralysis.” If the data is time sensitive, be flexible enough to prioritize it in order to get it out while it’s still relevant.

Take advantage of your in-house skills. Don’t think you have to have a statistician to capitalize on data. Often, high school math is sufficient.

Remember, there’s no such thing as boring data, and that you have access to a lot more data than you might think. Creating great content from curated data comes down to how you package it. Spend a little time considering why a piece of data might be relevant to your audience, and you could be surprised by what you can create.

Want to improve your use of data and tell better stories to connect with your audience? Check out the 2014 CMWorld sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal and make plans today to attend Content Marketing World 2015.

Cover image by Benjamin Miller, Free Stock, via