Social media infographics? Fight data fudge!

Data fudge is everywhere. But it seems particularly rampant in infographics shared on social media.

Okay, I love really good charts and graphs – and I often nerd out about elegant infographics like ones I grew up with in National Geographic, or those shared regularly in FastCoDesign.  But no matter how pretty the picture, what about the data shared in the random infographics I regularly see in my social streams?

Case in point. This week, Jim Dougherty shared this  Infographic, questioning the infographic’s data and particularly this statistic: “90% of all organizations use content in their marketing”. Hmm. Really?

Fight the fudge!

So I decided to do some digging. And before I knew it, I’d created an infographic of my own…

How to spot data abuse in infographics -FUDGE
Here’s some advice based on only one data point: one awfully skewed statistic in a recent Demand Metric infographic.


4 thoughts on “Social media infographics? Fight data fudge!”

  1. Thanks Dennis – I think you’re spot on in your analysis of infographics in general, but I take a more nuanced position on its relevance to the greater good. 
    Nearly every statistic online is wrong. Some people are massaging data (as you point out in this piece), sometimes people are making broad-based assumptions that don’t show correlation, but mostly people just don’t have a representative sample set to draw a broad conclusion from. So, you can sharpshoot nearly every data-based infographic that’s out there if you choose to. It’s a pretty fruitless pursuit, though: infographics are hugely popular (otherwise I wouldn’t bother with them).
    I think it’s important that you mention Ann Handley and Joe Pulizzi,too. Because while I agree that they are both extraordinary subject matter experts I think they are self-aware enough to know their data isn’t absolute. Their expertise comes from understanding trends and best practices and being able to communicate these tactics to businesses that want to market themselves better. And that’s my aspiration as well.
    So, if you get bogged down by the specific data that goes into the 90% – you may miss the bigger picture which is that content marketing is widespread, that large chunks of budget are being spent on it and the different ways that people are creating content. That should be the takeaway from a piece like that.
    I agree with your point on data to a point, but 90% of something nebulous is no different than 110% of something nebulous or 0%. It’s incumbent on the reader to judge the reliability of the data to their situation and respond appropriately.
    My two cents. Cheers!

    1. @leaderswest Ah, but how do I KNOW that’s your 2 cents Jim? :)Well, whatever it’s worth (after the cross-border exchange rate, taxes, and standard consultant’s “fudge-factor”) thank you for it.
      But I have to disagree with you somewhere between 1% and 99%. Yes, every infographic is designed to simplify a concept, and of course, every simplification of data is always an oversimplification. Data itself is ALWAYS an oversimplification of reality; that’s why it works.
      But that’s not to say we stop trying to be MORE accurate. In this case, the point (that content marketing is a growing trend) is legitimate, but the data was clearly fudged. Intentionally? Probably not. But at the very least, they could have linked it to the original, if only to show that they’d read it, and to help us more easily judge for ourselves.

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