Marketing Mythbusters: Infographics
Unless your internet has been unplugged for the last two years, you have undoubtedly seen an infographic. These visual representations of everything from what’s in different espresso-based beverages to how many people on Facebook like both Sex and the City and UFC are all around us, telling branded stories, and helping some brands make it big.
Infographics predate the Internet, of course. Anyone who has read a science textbook can tell you they are ubiquitous, but the newest wave of Infographics (or data as entertainment, as their intent is just that) seek to engage users, rather than simply educate, and are built and distributed with the express intent of being shared.
An infographic is a visual representation of data with the express purpose of telling a story.
While you can use data to tell just about any story, the types of stories your data tells might not be all that compelling to an end user.
So what goes into a great Infographic?
Best in Class
The best examples of infographics may vary widely in their subject matter, but they are all the same in these ways:
Visually exciting and well laid out: Successful infographics focus on the story, and use simple iconography to convey this. (Think: “How Your Tax Dollars are Spent” using a cut up one dollar bill in proportional amounts to the tax spend on defence, health care, etc.)
Short, convincing sentences: The best infographic copy is short and persuasive as if it cost extra for each extra word.
Adding depth to subjects the reader has some knowledge of: We all understand we need to drink eight glasses of water a day. We all understand the size of a quarter. We might not know that each year, we shampoo our heads with more 1000 glasses of water and that the amount of computing power an the Apollo mission could fit on a chip the size of a quarter. Make your point as meaningful to the reader as possible with easily-to-grasp examples.
Sharable, quotable to the point you have to share: There’s a reason you’ve heard the old wives’ tale about the seven years it takes for gum to exit your system, it’s a weird fact that people like to pull out and mention to make themselves sound smart although it’s 100 per cent medically inaccurate.
The thing to remember is that the weird and wonderful become transferrable because we can’t resist the idea of “something we missed.” All good infographics tantalize by revealing details we’re not aware of.
One Major Caveat
Infographics are not interactive. If interactivity, animation, or video is required, you should consider building and uploading a presentation instead. A new site, Prezi, can help you make really interactive presentations which are visually striking.
What to Avoid
Unrelated factoids cobbled together: With every piece of data on your infographic, you should ask yourself, “Why is this here?” If you can’t answer, or you can’t connect that piece of information to anything else in your narrative, remove it.
Too wordy: With the benefit of images and iconography, you shouldn’t need as many words. If an idea is too inscrutable for less than a paragraph, you need to re-work your idea.
Chart junk: Two charts next to each other tell a story, 16 becomes a whole procedure on the part of the reader to process what is being said. Your job is not to defend your graduate thesis. Your job is to inform and entertain.
There is another side to chart junk: Malformed charts (find out when to use which type of graph here.) which are inappropriate to convey the data story are also to be avoided.
Horror Vacui: Cramming all of the available space with information is for newspaper personals. A well balanced, logical, clean flow will win the day with end users. Edit your story!
The Cost of War: Rube Goldbergian in its approach. If it’s this complicated to tell the story, write a blog post and illustrate key areas.
All My Children Plot Points: Because people who tune into soaps ALSO enjoy six point font and endless connections.
Eurozone Solar System: An inscrutable premise, poor visual execution (6 point font, white on a black background, just for a start.) An interesting story lost.
5 Rules for Creating Successful Infographics: This gem’s main success came from being named “Terrible Infographic of the Day” by Forbes. It’s too cutesy, too jargony, and contravenes its own advice.
Building Your Infographic
If you don’t have a graphic designer on staff, you can visit a site like visual.ly or infogr.am to help make your ideas come to life. You should very seriously consider engaging an expert to make sure your infographic adheres to the guidelines of this article.
Make sure you back up the claims made in your infographic with mice type at the bottom of your image. This is important for credibility.
Also make sure to include your company as the originator of the information, and make sure your website and social media
Sharing Your Infographic
Start at home first. Post your infographic to your own blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest feeds. Next, send it out to your e-mail mailing list. You can syndicate your work by posting it to sites like Buzzfeed or Reddit. You can also add your infographic to press release, or send it out with blogger outreach to cast your net even wider. If your ideas are interesting, your content and design are exceptional, you will get traction.
Wherever you post your infographic, share the link with a trackable source, like a bit.ly shortlink. You can also add Google Campaign tags to the link to see how much traffic it is driving back to your blog.
Don’t let the rules stop you from creating an infographic for your company. Once you’ve built your first one, and tested its reach, you will quickly learn what resonates with your audience, and you can build successful infographics going forward.