How to make data visualisation for social media

by Etienne Soubes-Goldman

One of the most important things to consider when designing a visulisation is how your target audience will view it. One medium through which people are increasingly viewing visulisations is through social media.

If it is your intention to publish your visulisation on social media, there are a few things you should consider:

1. Complexity

As data analysts, we love to dive super deep into the data and find loads of awesome insights. Often when it comes to building a visualisation we are desperate to cram in as many of those insights as possible. However, visualisation with lots of components and detail won’t necessarily do well on social media because if people can’t immediately see the key message they might scroll right past.

So instead of throwing loads onto your visualisation, try to think about what they key message is. How would you describe it in one sentence? Then ask yourself, what do I need to tell that story. Sometimes this can mean getting rid of everything but one graph! Just having one graph and a clear title should not be seen as a bad thing if it is effective in getting the message across.

2. Colour

If you are releasing visulisations on behalf of an organisation or you are trying to build yourself a personal brand, you want the people who follow you the recognise your work. By using a consistent colour scheme and style, people who respect your work will develop a search image for it without even realising, meaning they are more likely to notice it next time.

3. Make your titles jump

Social media trains people to have short attention spans. That means you have to hook them with the first sentence. There is a reason click-bait works so well. Your title has to either wet the users appetite to find out more by actually looking at your visualisation or give them a strong message which they will then evidence by glancing down at the main content.

The formatting of titles helps here too. In all the noise of text someone will see whilst scrolling, your title needs to pop. Use big, bold text with good contrast to the colours surrounding it. Much of this is normal best practice, but is even more important when making visualisation for social media.

4. Be responsible

Because it is so easy for your content to be widely shared on social media by people who may not necessarily know how to interpret it properly, you have a huge responsibility. Well formatted visulisations look authoritative, meaning if your numbers are wrong or you draw a false conclusions, it could have unintended consequences. So check your numbers and think about whether someone could use your visulisation in a way you had not intended.

5. Credit / Source

Whenever you make a visualisation you ought to say where the data has come from, but this is particularly important when you are sharing it very publicly. If you don’t the owner of the data could cause you a headache sometime in the future. Furthermore, it gives your work an authority and allows the consumers to go investigate the topic further if they wish to.

Crediting anyone who inspired the style or message of the visualisation is equally important. It helps give them exposure and shows that you are a collaborative analyst.

In the spirit of this message, I will leave with a link to the article that inspired me to write this blog:

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