Watch Your Figures: How to Use Numbers to Tell a Story

In an age of 140-character limits and fierce competition for social feed mindshare, crafting short and powerful stories is a necessary skill. Using data is one strategy that can help express complex ideas quickly while still packing a punch.

Incorporating numbers can be an effective storytelling approach because it allows people to include a lot of information in a short space—like a statistic, chart, or infographic. Additionally, numbers can help make more abstract ideas real and lend authority to content. As Bing Gordon of KPCB recently advised people pitching startup ideas to VCs: “Make the numbers tell your story.”
One reason many people shy away from using data in social storytelling is that numbers can confuse an audience. Data should never be befuddling—it should make content more understandable. You may be wondering, “How you can use numbers to make your content more valuable?” Luckily, several strategies already exist:

1. Use comparisons to provide context
It’s likely that you will know more about the subject you’re talking about than your audience. It’s important to remember this when using numbers so that you can speak in understandable terms. Try to provide helpful comparisons that your audience can relate to easily. When conveying the size of the moon, it’s not helpful to say, “The moon has a circumference of 10,921 kilometers.” Instead, saying “the moon is roughly ¼ the size of the Earth” provides better context.