Make your data pop with these 3 awesome free chart tools

A well-drawn chart with interesting data can be an extremely powerful way to tell a good story. And you don’t have to be a statistician or a graphic designer to put one together. There are plenty of terrific, and often free, tools out there that will take your ugly tables of data copied and pasted straight from Excel and turn them into beautiful charts.

We’ve found 3 that, once you’ve tried them, you’ll want to keep using again and again. Charts are a great way to tell stories. They are also going to get shared on social media much faster than a simple link to a densely written blog. So get that data you’ve been sitting on and start making some eye-catching charts that will get your blog going viral!

Datawrapper

For simple and quick charts

We’ve started with this wonderful site because it’s probably the simplest and easiest to get started with, even if you’re an absolute beginner.

Developed by ABZV, a journalism training organisation affiliated to the German Association of Newspaper Publishers, this completely free open-source tool aims to keep things simple and quick.

The process is split up into 4 steps.

  1. Paste in your raw data (or upload a .csv file if you’d prefer)
  2. Check your data in a table and describe what it’s about
  3. Chose the chart type you want and design how it’ll look
  4. Start sharing!

There are 9 different chart types you can chose from, or you can opt for a simple table. What’s so great about Datawrapper is how quickly you can create and start sharing something. While your options are a little limited, there’s not a huge amount of tweaking necessary and there are fewer distractions so you have to focus on telling a simple story clearly and concisely. And that’s really what a good chart is all about.

There are a couple of nice little tricks you can use on Datawrapper. You can chose to highlight a specific piece of information on the chart at the click of a button. This is great if you’re telling a story about a particular brand or a particular demographic and you want to draw people’s attention to that. You can also pick the exact colours you want for each piece of data.

Datawrapper also allows you to include a link to the source of your data (this is designed for journalists after all). This is a nice touch and, of course, a nice thing to do!

CartoDB

For seriously detailed maps

If you’re ready for something a little more advanced take a look at this comprehensive map-making tool.

CartoDB lets you input all sorts of data so you can create arresting maps that tell a global story. Start by trying country codes (such as US or GB for the States and Britain – get a full list here) and chose between a chloropleth or category map depending on whether you have quantitative or qualitative data.

There’s some very clever stuff going on here. Chose between several types of scale: from simple equal intervals to Jenks optimisation (if your data isn’t very evenly spaced out or you have a few outliers. You can also chose the colours and layout that suits you and if you’re really feeling keen you can adjust the CSS of the map itself.

It’s also possible to input other types of Georeference data such as latitude and longitude or even IP addresses. If you’ve got some data like this, try creating a bubble-map like the ones you may have seen epidemiologists use when tracking a virus across the world.

A nice touch on these maps is the ability to let readers to click on a country and see a pop-up label with data about it. Export your map and embed it as an iframe or share the link.

CartoDB isn’t free forever but there’s some pretty serious stuff under the hood that you can get your hands dirty with straight away on the free trial.

Piktochart

For stylish infographics

We talked about Piktochart recently as a great tool for making Infographics. Well it does a pretty good job at charts too!

If you want to make something a little more stylised and fit it into a beautiful infographic this is the one for you.

Piktochart’s chart building features are really simple to use, unlike a lot of tools out there. You can paste in data to the table in the app or upload a Google Doc. Click on the settings button for each chart to see what you can change about the look and feel of your chart. Generally their charts look great already, with bright colours, soft edges and interactive design.

It’s really easy to share a Piktochart infographic. Embed it as an iframe like we have or tweet it straight away with the social sharing buttons!

There you go. 3 fantastic tools for you to start playing with today. Enjoy!

Travelling over Easter? Here are 3 Terrific Twitter Traffic handles you should follow

Whether you’re going by train, plane or automobile, public holidays can quickly turn into a nightmare when your travel plans go wrong. Twitter has become a fantastic way for travellers to get up-to-the-minute information and advice when no-one around knows what’s going on.

Some brands and organisations in particular have developed truly stellar strategies for providing the most helpful possible service on Twitter. Whether it’s that extra human touch or a well-oiled system of getting the right information to the people who need it, these heroes of the highways are making travel easier. The days of craning your neck to see what the jam is all about or running around airport terminals looking for someone in uniform are over!

Here’s a handful of the best handles out there to help you have a stress-free bank-holiday trip! (Sorry to those of you outside the UK – it’s mostly British ones this time!)

Train

First Great Western - @FGW

The guys @FGW have not had an easy year so far. 2013/14 was the wettest winter in British recorded history, affecting trains all over the country. But the South West was perhaps the worst hit with some track even getting washed into the sea.

Dealing with problems which you haven’t caused yourself is often a thankless task but @FGW have a dedicated round-the-clock team who worked diligently to get stranded travellers where they needed to be.

You always know who you’re talking to at @FGW because they tend to put the individual’s name at the end of each tweet. This is a nice little human touch but it also serves a practical purpose. It allows customers to see who it is behind the keyboard at all times. This is important when dealing with train updates over time because you have an idea of what the person you’re tweeting already knows about your situation.

Automobile

Motorway Cameras @MotorwayCameras

If you’re one of those people who just can’t handle not knowing what’s going on up ahead when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you will be truly delighted by this ingenious account. No more getting out of your car and walking around in a general grump at the impotence of your situation, when there’s a blockage on the motorways @MotorwayCameras shares images from… you guessed it… motorway cameras.

Knowing that you’re stuck because a lorry has broken down in the middle lane may not help you get anywhere but it does at least remove the mystery of why everything just stopped suddenly.

The guys @MotorwayCameras don’t just tweet pictures, they’re also on hand with answers to questions and plenty of sympathetic banter to get you through the pain of being stuck behind a mile of metal!

Plane

Royal Dutch Airlines @KLM

Always worth a mention when talking about customer service on Twitter is KLM. Their ingenious idea to keep their estimated response time updated on their homepage image is a blessing for people wanting to know when they might hear back about their issue.

KLM Twitter

It also let’s customers know whether it’s worth asking in the first place if they are in a rush and that in turn must save considerable time for the social media team who don’t have to answer so many questions when people no longer need an answer.

Cool under pressure and ready with useful information, the team @KLM are a great example in a difficult job.


If you are going away, have a great and (travel-stress-free!) break. And if you’re using Twitter to get help during a crisis, remember to be nice to the social media managers working hard around the clock!

The Advanced Guide to Timing Tweets

Over 500 million tweets are going out every day. In such a crowded space it’s more important than ever to pick the best times to send your tweets. Thinking carefully about your tweeting strategy can have a big impact on who sees them and how far they reach.

Preparing for important days and events throughout the year should be your first step. Twitter recently released their own #OwnTheMoment planner to help you do just that.  Check it out, it’s fantastically helpful! But there are several more advanced strategies you can employ everyday to maximise your impact.

Find your followers at the right time

As addictive as Twitter can be, your followers are not online all the time! When they are active might depend on the type of people you have following you. A following of predominantly young people will probably tend to tweet more at the weekends. A B2B audience will be more active during the working week.

Take a look at the community activity of these two groups. Can you guess who they are?

Advanced Guide to Timing Tweets

The blue line represents a community of tweeters under the age of 25. The red line is the followers of @Peerindex!

Picking the right time to tweet will get your content seen by a whole lot more people so plan your schedule carefully.

Experiment with different types of tweets

shapes and sizesTweets come in all different forms. The tone and content of each one depends on its intended effect. If you’re getting it right, you won’t solely be pushing sales messaging or only ever tweeting funny pictures from Buzzfeed. You’ll want to have a targeted and interesting mixture to really engage with people.

Experimenting with the timing of different types of tweets will tell you what sort of content is popular at particular times.

Try to categorise the different styles of tweets you tend to send out. These might be:

  • Sharing relevant news stories
  • Marketing your product or services
  • Sharing some interesting research you’ve done
  • Asking questions to stimulate conversation
  • Making people laugh with something funny you’ve found (or made)

Once you have segmented your tweets, see what happens when you send them out at different times of day. Make sure you pick the metric that you are most interested in.

PiQ’s reporting functionality includes a Tweet Performance page where you can see the best performing tweets from the past two weeks. Sort your tweets by the reach, RTs or clicks and see which days are getting you the best results.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 14.30.29

You can also see the same report for your competitors’ tweets so you can discover what they’re getting right that you’ve been unaware of.

Look at target communities to gain followers

It’s all very well knowing when your followers are active but sometimes it’s not them you’re interested in reaching. This could be when:

  • You’re just started out and don’t have many followers yet!
  • You want to reach an audience you don’t usually target.
  • You want to reach a specific segment of your audience.
  • Your community of followers isn’t ‘healthy’. That is, they’re not the right kind of followers for your brand.

In this case you want to look at a target audience of the kind of people you’re interested in reaching as well as your followers. PiQ, the PeerIndex social media platform is build around communities for this exact reason.

PiQ lets you look at target audiences around a specific topic or demographic so you can see who they are, what they talk about and when they are active.

baby ferrariFor example, a sports car manufacturer may have a large following on Twitter, but what if those followers are all teenagers (or younger!)? That’s useful in the long term, they’re nurturing fans who will aspire to own one of their cars in the future.

But if they wanted to tweet about a test-drive marketing event are these the people they want to target? Probably not. That’s when driving engagement and attracting new followers from a different target audience (one who can afford to buy the car in the first place!) becomes key to their strategy.

Make a strategic timetable

Planning your tweets around your followers’ or a target audience’s activity is great. But you should also consider your own activity.

On any given day, you’ll probably have one or two tweets that you consider the most important. These will be the ones that have a call-to-action, getting people to visit your site, download your content or, even better, buy something!

With this in mind, it’s key to consider how the rest of your activity during the day is going to affect your engagement on Twitter.

You want your call-to-action tweet to be prominent when the largest number of people are looking at your timeline.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 14.36.41

PiQ lets you see the engagement rate of your Twitter activity over time and that of your competitors so you can understand when the best time is to post your most important tweets.

Friendly Twitter types will often go to your timeline when they see you’ve followed them or if you’ve shared some of their content. When they check you out, make sure there’s something juicy like a punchy blog post or a nifty piece of research that they can share.
If you’d like to find out more about how PiQ can help your brand engage with target audiences and plan your tweeting strategy accordingly. Try it free today!