Kyle’s note: Data is a powerful way to share insights, support ideas and discover unexpected trends. Many people avoid using data because it seems difficult to work with and collect. This post by Ritika Puri gives you a wealth of different sources for data that are easy to access and understand.
Data is a particularly powerful tool for content marketing. Statistics can support statements that you make, charts and graphs can be used as visual content and engage your audience. Almost all of the most popular infograpahics rely on data and statistics to convey their message. As you read through this post, take note of any resources that might be useful for your own content.
This is a great post for anyone who is looking to improve their content with infographics, data and statistics. Over to Ritika:
One of the biggest challenges that we face in business is that our perspectives are often limited to our direct experiences. That’s where data comes in—to introduce us to patterns that our eyes can’t see. It’s one of our best ways to step outside of our comfort zones and to challenge our assumptions.
The problem with most data that we come across on the Internet, however, is that it’s biased. Far too often, self-serving marketers publish PR studies under the guise of credible research. With underrepresented samples, zero validity testing, and minimal reliability, these metrics make their way to the public and circulate the web as cold, hard, facts.
Don’t let bad data trump an otherwise awesome marketing campaign. (CLICK TO TWEET)
Choose your data sources carefully, pay attention to the terms/conditions of the information that you’re retrieving, and examine the methodologies used to create what you pulled. he following data sources will steer you in the right direction whether you’re examining:
- A market for a new business venture
- Researching helpful data-based content
- Creating an infographic
1 – The U.S. Census
If you’re looking for demographic data, the U.S. Census is a great place to start. For years, marketing research firms have leveraged these data sets to answer questions about store locations, growth in population patterns, employment, commute times, education, and more. If you’re looking to tell a story about a particular consumer segment or geography, the U.S. Census is a great place to start. Using a tool like ArcGIS, you can even overlay Census data on a map—exactly like the ones you see via The New York Times.
2 – ArcGIS Open Data
If you’re looking for data pertaining to schools, park services, local businesses, and streets, check out this collection of datasets from municipal governments throughout the U.S. If you’re looking to find an optimal location for a brick-and-mortar storefront or learn about a particular metropolitan area, this resource will help you find what you need. Create a cool infographic, or figure out where to locate your next business.
3 – Pew Center
For years, the Pew Center—a thinktank—has been conducting and publishing surveys related to politics, health, income, social values, social media, and online consumer behavior. Consult these reports and datasets when you’re looking to pinpoint macro-level trends—surrounding changes in the digital divide, for instance. This information will give you a macro-level look into sociological trends for U.S. consumer behavior. Use this data in your blog posts, investor reports, whitepapers, and infographics.
If you need some benchmarks for a presentation or are looking to analyze trends in the ad industry, check out this compilation of research tools from Google. This information can help you figure out how consumers are behaving online and where to spend your branding dollars. This could be key information for entrepreneurs who are brainstorming marketing campaign ideas (targeting mobile or YouTube uses, for instance). You can even use Google’s tools to create your own infographics for a presentation.
5 – Factual
With data from more than 65 million places worldwide, Factual “enriches mobile location signals.” Basically, what you get is a really, really big data set that provides information about places. You can use this data to supplement your product development, research, or ad campaigns. While Factual’s data is a paid product, potential users can request a free API key. You can use this data to do research on locations that might be related to your business.
6 – Data.gov
If you’re looking for U.S. government data, start here. The platform is home to hundreds of thousands of datasets in a variety of formats. You can browse topics related to consumer, health, business, climate, manufacturing and even agriculture. Businesses can use this data source for general industry research.
7 – ICPSR
The Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) houses political and social research data from more than 760 universities, government agencies, and other institutions. There are more than 8,000 research studies in the database—but make sure to double check the licensing terms to make sure that the datasets are available for commercial use. To access ICPSR’s data, you’ll need to be a member of one of the participating institutions. Contact your college’s alumni office to confirm whether you’re eligible.
8 – Programmable Web
Looking for an API? Look no further than this directory of APIs for almost every use case. From travel to social media, sports, gambling, food, finances, and music, you can find the API that you need by browsing this site. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to check each listing with the API provider. For one, the API listing on Programmable Web might be outdated. Secondly, you’ll likely only have limited accessibility with a free license. If you want advanced capabilities, you may need to request paid access. This resource will help entrepreneurs find APIs that could save them time in accomplishing business initiatives faster.
If you’re looking for data related to content, The New York Times has an API with access to articles dating back from 1851. You can retrieve information related to books, campaign finance, community comments, geography, and even event listings. This data is especially useful for content-based research.
If you’re looking for data related to worldwide population trends, start your search with Google’s Public Data Explorer. You can browse through world development indicators and economic data from sources like Eurostat, Destatis, the Central Statistics Office of Ireland, and The World Bank. This resource is helpful for anyone seeking country-level data.
11 – Webscraper.io
Webscraper.io isn’t a dataset, per se. Rather, it’s a web scraper tool that you can use to crawl websites and create your own datasets. Using a free Chrome extension, you can scrape data to be exported via CSV. Use this resource before collecting any data manually.
12 – LendingClub
Loan marketplace LendingClub maintains a collection of public datasets. You can browse through declined loan applications and in-progress loan applications to learn what types of loans people are requesting and why. This data could be helpful for general industry research or even content marketing.
13 – Yahoo! Webscope
Yahoo Labs maintains a library of “scientifically useful” datasets for non-commercial use. You can research information related to languages, social media behavior, computing systems, and images. All datasets have been reviewed to conform to Yahoo!’s data protection standards, including strict controls on privacy. Use this data for your own learning, but don’t use it commercially.
The cloud storage provider that we know and love hosts a number of public datasets that anyone can access for free. Examples of popular public data sets include a collection of moderate-resolution satellite imagery, NASA NEX, web crawl data, and a detailed map of human genetic variation. If you’re using any of these datasets, make sure to check each individual source’s terms and conditions.
15 – Reddit Datasets
If you’re looking for an eclectic collection of research, check out Reddit’s community nominated collection of data. You can short datasets based on what’s new, hot, rising, or controversial. Examples include alcoholic drinks in Australia, water data for Texas, and open web crawls. Use this resource to monitor and discover datasets that might be related to your business.
This project contains information related to top stories, cohorts, submissions, active users, word count, and karma. You can use this data to learn what type of content is popular in the worldwide startup community. Entrepreneurs can use this resource to determine PR opportunities and to analyze types of content that have been popular.
This resource provides an open library of datasets related to more than 300 social networks. Anyone can download or update data. Keep in mind that this resource is a little bit challenging/old school to navigate, so you’ll need to be patient. There’s a reference table to help. Use this data to learn how your audiences might be using social media.
18 – Quandl
This platform offers free data related to a variety of topics ranging from bitcoin adoption to commodities, markets, currencies, gasoline and metals. While many datasets are available for free, the company monetizes by providing paid access to niche sources. This resource is helpful for entrepreneurs who are interested in particular types of industries.
19 – Datahub
Powered by the Open Knowledge Foundation, this resource is a hub for data sources from all over the world. From open archaeology to medicine usage data, you’ll be able to find a random collection of information. Keep in mind, however, that the site is challenging to browse and that many of the dataset descriptions are obscure. Limit your search to a very specific set of information.
If you’re looking for data related to your exact business, look no further than your customer databases. Ask your engineering or data science counterparts to help you retrieve the information you need for certain business challenges. No matter where you’re sourcing your data, context will be critical. Make sure to double check the methodologies and usage rights for every resource that you consider using. Have fun, explore, and let inspiration strike.