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Data Storytelling: How Analysis Can Frame Your Content Marketing

I have a long history with storytelling. I spent seven years as a sports writer, which may seem like a far cry from marketing for a social analytics company, but it’s not.

Sports writing, at its core, is using data as the framework for a story. It may be a little different from the keyword analysis or influencer identification we talk about on the Simply Measured blog, but most stories in sports are built on trended performance metrics, projections, and percentages…Sound familiar?

As the editor of the Simply Measured blog, I work with our team to tell stories about data. There’s a good chance that this isn’t your brand strategy. You have a different story to tell. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tell stories with data.

In a constantly evolving ecosystem, social marketers need to have a well-defined, but flexible, brand story. On top of that, we have product, message, and marketplace stories to tell on a regular basis. Data can help you form and maintain that brand story, and integrate sophisticated stories and themes across your entire editorial calendar. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways data can help inform your content marketing process.

Hone the Core Concepts of Your Brand Story

Do you have an underlying story for your brand? A consistent message that weaves its way into everything you do? You should, and you should check back in on it regularly. Your message needs to fit the market, which is constantly changing, and doing so faster than it ever has before. This is where data can help.

Look at the components of your content that resonate. Keep in mind social marketers: I’m not just talking about social content. Your website, your blog, press coverage…there are a lot of places where you can find core concepts that resonate with your target audience. Use these concepts across your social channels, but also work with your entire marketing org to create a uniform understanding of your brand story.

Organic Search

Identify the branded keywords and product themes that are driving traffic to your site through organic search. Is your message aligned with these search terms? You may be missing out on some huge opportunities if not.

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By using Google Analytics, you can dive into the organic search terms driving traffic to your site. It’s important to look at the variations of your branded concepts being searched for. You might find out that you’re talking about your product in a way that doesn’t resonate with potential customers searching for products. If you’re calling your new organic candy bar an “environmentally friendly snack” but people are looking for “environmentally safe snacks” then you might be missing a very subtle – but important – branding opportunity.

Social Keywords

I can’t tell you how crucial this is to pay attention to. Your social audience has opted into your brand messaging, and that’s a critical component to keep in mind. Focusing on the topics, keywords, and actual content of the conversations they’re having with your brand and other brands can shape your entire content strategy. Social data is so readily available that there are several ways to understand your audience’s interests.

  • Account Analysis: Identify the top keywords that your audience is using when engaging with your brand profiles. Which parts of your message/product/company are they most excited about?
  • Audience Analysis: What is your audience passionate about? Take a look at their profiles, bios, and demographic data to cater your brand story to their interests.
  • Competitive Analysis: How are your competitors talking about their brands, and more importantly: what are users saying about them? This can help you cast a wider net, but also understand components of your story that you might be missing.

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Understanding the ways your audience engages with you, with each other, and with your competitors can be a great way to shift your understanding and reframe your brand story.

Develop Themes

Your content marketing strategy (and social marketing strategy in general) needs to move with the market. This means that on top of your brand story, you need to develop content themes based on trends, topics, and goals of your company. This is another place data can help you develop your story. Look at the themes resonating across your different networks. Take the example below:

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In the selected sample, two of Redbull’s top five performing posts have been about surfing, even though they’re also firing off photos, videos and posts about other action sports each day. This is a great opportunity – one that Redbull noticed and took advantage of – to create a strategic theme and brand story around surfing.

Developing these brand stories can be as basic as noticing a trend, or as complete as identifying a need among your audience and developing a solution to build a story around.

As a marketer, it’s your job to recognize these potential themes and capitalize on them. Understanding what your audience is interested in is key to being a good storyteller, and solid data is key to that understanding.

Know Your Readers

On top of understanding the conversations specific to your brand, it’s important to understand your audience as a whole. Develop stories based on what your audience is interested and invested in. There are a number of ways you can look for these interests. One of them is to look at the areas of their influence on Klout:

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These topics demonstrate your audience’s interests, and what they’re more likely to respond to. Your stories and themes should cater to these interests.

You can also look at the top keywords used in your audience’s bios on Twitter:

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This tells you what their personal stories are, and how you can develop your own based on those personal narratives.

Stay Flexible

As you’re telling your own brand story, it’s important to understand the other stories your audience is interested in, and how you can work those themes into your own narrative. For example, on Instagram, you can see the related tags being used with your own branded hashtag.

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 This allows you to be flexible with your own iterations of your brand story.

Be Original

Don’t assume that telling stories based on data means you can only tell stories that are already being circulated. For one thing, if you’re getting in-depth data, you’re getting better data than most. That means your foundation is stronger, that you’re telling fuller, more engaging stories. And it’s your own intuition and creativity that count here anywayThis would be a boring world if all we did was pick the top internet trends and just-scrape-the-surface percentages to develop all our stories.

Data is also an irreplaceable tool for validating and testing your original ideas, ensuring your story isn’t the same story being told by your competitors. Analyze their accounts, their content, and their audience. Is your story truly original? Is someone else already telling it?

Data can be a key component when telling your story, but it’s important to understand the context. Because in the completely botched words of Uncle Ben from Spiderman:

With big data comes big responsibility.


To analyze your own audience, competition, and industry, check out a free trial of Simply Measured’s full capabilities, giving you the ability to look at all of your social networks in context with your website, as well as earned activities like hashtag performance, and your competitors’ owned channels.

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Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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