How You Can Do Clever Communications That Are Data-Driven

There's so much information out there on how magical insights from data can take your communications (comms) to the next level. And if you're feeling confused, bewildered or lost by it all, don't worry — you are not alone. This article simply explains what data won't help you do clever comms, what data will help, and how you can do clever comms that are data-driven.

Communicators fulfil their organisation’s mission by communicating strategically(1) and data is the foundation today’s communication strategies are built on. In 2017, IDC (International Data Corporation) predicted the world’s data will increase tenfold within the next seven years. Meanwhile, the amount of data being analysed will increase to 50 times the current level and analysis will be in real-time to allow evidence-based decision making (2). Data analysis can lead to clever comms based on accurate and meaningful information — facts and figures rather than opinions — that are usually more effective in achieving desired outcomes.

Data-driven communication is part of a process that uses data analysis and modelling in sending messages to target audiences in the digital media world (3). Edelman, the world’s largest comms marketing firm, have a global team of analysts and data scientists doing research and analytics to help their clients act with certainty (4).

But if your organisation isn’t in the Fortune 100 and can’t afford to hire an agency like Edelman, that doesn’t mean you can’t gain knowledge from data. Coming up, there is an example of data you can’t use to do clever comms and also a few simple tactics you can use to make your comms truly data-driven.

Data that won’t help you do clever comms

Secondary research data like the Yellow Social Media Report, a yearly study on how Australian consumers use social networking sites, is very good at revealing general trends in the population such as: Facebook is the most popular social media platform for 18–65+ year olds; 68% of social media users read online product reviews and blogs before shopping and more women read them than men; and nearly half of these people live in New South Wales and Victoria (5).

Image: Yellow Social Media Report 2018

But this data doesn’t tell us the “full story”. It may sound like great news for companies with favourable reviews for their products… all they need to do is advertise their top reviews to females on Facebook and the 68% of people who are interested in their products will read them. However, reaching a target audience (6) on social media isn’t that simple. For example, the size of this audience on Facebook is 5,000,000 people and delivering an ad to all of them will definitely break the bank.

Clever comms that are data-driven

Web analytics data from platforms like Google Analytics, that analyses data stored by Google over time, is fantastic for discovering what type of information visitors to your website are most interested in. You can determine this by comparing the bounce rate of your most popular landing page — usually the home page — against previous time periods and the industry benchmark (7). According to guru of strategic communication on the internet Professor Michael Kent, if the home page has a high bounce rate or is not linking visitors to other pages, the page is probably failing (8). The home page should communicate the goal of the website by giving people a nudge towards a certain action the organisation wants them to take (9).

A very effective home page design can be seen at Airbnb. The first thing visitors lay their eyes on is an elegant banner that doesn’t swamp them with too much info and provides just enough details for them to start booking a place to stay (9). It’s important to regularly test the effectiveness of your home page banner in Google Analytics by comparing the performance of the page with previous weeks or months. Constantly achieving a low bounce rate with a high number of other pages visited through the home page usually means your website comms are clever and data-driven.

Image: Airbnb

Customer and newsletter subscriber list data gives you the opportunity to do some of the best audience targeting available. These groups of people have some common characteristics, so it’s very likely that other people like them could also benefit from your products (10). That’s why Facebook Ads and Google Ads encourage communicators to upload their own audience lists and then create clone audiences — new groups of potential fans, followers, and customers who share key characteristics with your existing customers and fans (11).

Image: Facebook

Facebook Ads Custom Audience feature allows you to reach the people who matter to you by uploading a text file that contains info like people’s contact details such as their email address, phone number, first name, and last name, and demographic characteristics such as their post code, date of birth, and gender. Facebook then matches the contents of your file with people’s profiles on their platform and your custom audience is established.

Facebook Ads Lookalike Audience feature is a sophisticated audience matchmaker for marketers (11). You can tell Facebook what you like in a customer, and Facebook will create a new audience segment filled with prospects that meet your criteria. In my own testing, I was able to create a lookalike audience of 170,000 people living in Australia that closely matched a custom audience of only 1,600 customers. Smaller lookalike audiences will most closely match your custom audience, while large lookalike audiences will increase your potential reach but decrease the level of similarity with your custom audience. Constantly improving your cost per click with lookalike audiences most certainly means your social comms are clever and data-driven.


  1. Hallahan, K., Holtzhausen, D., van Ruler, B., Verčič, D., & Sriramesh, K. (2007). Defining Strategic Communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 1(1), 3–35.
  2. Reinsel, D., Gantz, J., & Rydning, J. (2017). Data Age 2025: The Evolution of Data to Life-Critical. In IDC White Paper (Issue April).
  3. Mulhern, F. (2009). Integrated marketing communications: From media channels to digital connectivity. Journal of Marketing Communications, 7266(918777626).
  4. Edelman, R. (2018, June 10). Edelman. Act With Certainty. Edelman.
  5. Yellow. (2018). Social Media Report 2018. Yellow.
  6. Porta, M. (2010, June). How to Define Your Target Market. Inc.Com.
  7. Patel, N. (n.d.). How to Increase Conversions by Analyzing Bounce Rate Analytics. Neil Patel. Retrieved March 4, 2021, from
  8. Kent, M. L., Carr, B. J., Husted, R. A., & Pop, R. A. (2011). Learning web analytics: A tool for strategic communication. Public Relations Review, 37(5), 536–543.
  9. Babich, N. (2017, November 23). UX Mythbusting: Is The Homepage Really The Most Important Part of Your Website? Adobe Blog.
  10. Porta, M. (2010, June). How to Define Your Target Market. Inc.Com.
  11. Newberry, C. (2018, September 5). How to Use Facebook Custom Audiences: A Step-by-Step Guide. Hootsuite.

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