If you’re in digital marketing, you’re probably bombarded by numbers every single day, and not just your own. Numbers are the backbone of organizations and corporations – they tell us what’s working and what isn’t. Where to invest and where to pullback. They provide justification for our most important initiatives and proof of our success.
While you likely won’t be posting your internal revenue strategy on social media, chances are your colleagues and constituents often present you with numbers relative to your cause or business they do want you to share with the public.
But the problem is, most of the time, numbers are just boring – and the bigger they are, the more dull and intangible they become. Close your eyes and try to picture a million of something. Two million? Five hundred million? A billion?
Can’t do it, huh? They all probably look the same to you – just large and hence, not very interesting. However, you can use the five tricks below to translate large numbers and statistics into compelling social media fodder.
1. Make a comparison to drive home a point
Original statistic: Only 4.5 billion people have access to a clean, working toilet.
How they made it better: The point is a simple one – that way too many people don’t have access to a basic human need – safe and private sanitation services to do your business and maintain your dignity.
However, this point becomes stronger when you add in another fact – that 6 billion people have access to a mobile phone. The contrast between the luxury of a cell phone and the very basic human need of a toilet make this comparison so powerful that you don’t even need to use numbers to make your point.
More people have a mobile phone than a toilet! Bet you can’t find an app for flushing your poos away! #ThankYouToilet
— WaterAid UK (@WaterAidUK) November 19, 2013
2. Translate big numbers into time
Original statistic: More than 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year.
How they made it better: It’s not quite a million, but 350,000 is still a difficult number to grasp. Instead, simple math can give you a much more powerful statistic that will resonate with your readers much faster: just divide by the minutes in a day.
3. Use “more or less likely” logic
Original statistic: 64 million girls are forced into child marriage
How we made it better: Instead of focusing on the 64 million number, I looked at some of the country data and was astounded by the percentage of girls who become child brides in some places. In Niger, 75% of girls are married by their 18th birthdays – 36% of them are married by the time they’re 15.
I compared these facts to literacy rates in the CIA World Factbook and found that only 15% of girls can read and write by the time they’re 15. I checked the data on a few other countries with high child marriage rates, and was able to draw the simple yet powerful conclusion that it some countries, a girl is more likely to be forced into marriage than learn to read.
4. Use population data as a point of comparison
Original statistic: 1 billion people are hungry around the world.
How they made it better: Using populations of various cities, states and countries as points of comparison is one of the simplest solutions to making a large number digestible because, as long as you’re in the millions, you can find a number to match with a quick and painless google search.
In this case, Global Citizen makes the point that 1 billion is more than the populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union combined. While 1 billion is a difficult number to fathom, and therefore empathize with, picturing the entirety of North America and Europe chronically hungry is simply devastating.
1BN people worldwide are hungry. That’s more than the population of America Canada & the European Union combined. http://t.co/xeNpctnZ89
— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) November 18, 2013
5. Hit them where it always hurts – their wallets
Original statistic: It would cost $30 billion a year to end global hunger.
How we made it better: Whether it’s billions of people or billions of dollars, billions is still more than the human mind can imagine. But instead of highlighting the magnitude of this dollar amount, we minimized it by putting it into perspective – U.S. consumers spend nearly half of that on Super Bowl goodies. The point is clear – if we could go without our Super Bowl parties, which encompass about 4 hours of our entire year, global hunger would be gone for good.
You don’t even need to start with a large dollar amount to make a compelling comparison. For example, CARE can feed a child for just 31 cents. If a cup of coffee costs approximately $1.50, and we multiply that times 30, we can say that if you donated your entire coffee expenses for the month, you could feed 145 children.