Infographics existed long before the Internet did, but it wasn’t until 2012 that they became insanely popular. Thanks to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other visual platforms, they’re one of the preferred content formats for digital marketers looking to hit a viral home run and get their name known—sometimes overnight. Take, for example, the case of the design agency Infographic World. When Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, they spent a grueling 24 hours creating an awesome infographic that became an instant success. The infographic not only received hundreds of thousands of shares and millions of page views, it was featured on Mashable as the number one story for weeks. Traffic to their site became so overwhelming that their website developer warned their server was close to crashing. Now that’s viral! Of course, you might retort, anything having to do with the death of the iconic founder of Apple was bound to go viral. Not so. Compare the impact of the above infographic created by a little-known agency with this text-based timeline featured on The Telegraph, which is virtually a household name. The difference in social shares is huge. In short: Infographics work. They’re a potent visual communication tool that—if leveraged correctly—can do wonders for your digital marketing campaigns. So, what exactly do you have to do to create an effective infographic that will go viral? Here are a few pointers that can get you started, which are also illustrated in the piece below by the infographic software company Visme:
1. Sift through the data
Finding the right information is where it all begins. Whether you’re comparing two charts, taking raw data from an Excel sheet or PDF file, or sifting through a ton of information from multiple sources, you will only be able to go as far as your raw data will allow. This is why you should make the effort to access solid information from trustworthy sources to support your story. Besides being credible, your data should be compelling and controversial to ensure that it will elicit a response from readers.
2. Define your purpose and audience
Once you’ve decided on a general topic and verified that the information you need exists, you can determine your purpose and audience. Do you aim to educate your audience? To lead readers to a specific action? To create brand awareness? Or to drive traffic to your site? Knowing who you’re talking to, what they care about, and the kind of language they use is critical to defining the structure of your narrative and knowing how to communicate your call to action.
3. Find a compelling story
You might have access to all the data in the world, but if you can’t find a compelling and provocative story to tell, your infographic will most likely fail to engage your audience. To ensure that you steer clear of a boring infographic, think of what your audience already knows about the topic so that you can add to their knowledge and even challenge their assumptions. Grab their attention by doing the following:
- Enlighten them with new information
- Provide a solution or useful advice
- Appeal to their emotions
- Surprise them with an extraordinary finding
- Make them laugh
Infographics are unique in their ability to reveal trends and patterns hidden under the surface. Take advantage of this by framing your story in such a way that these revelations are not only crystal clear to the reader, but are uncovered piece by piece so as to build up to a climactic point—as any good story would.
4. Define the structure
In a study of more than 16,000 infographics, it was found that a majority of the most-shared data visualizations were simple, brief and easy to understand. While we have become accustomed to thinking of infographics as dozens of graphs, charts, and stats put together on one page, their popularity on social media has led to their evolution into simpler formats, such as flow charts, single-charts and list-text infographics. These are more popular than more complex data visualizations, such as timelines and infographics with mixed charts. In general, you can organize your information in one of five ways:
Whichever format you choose, just make sure it is clear, accurate and accessible. To ensure that your data dictates the structure of your graphic—and not the visual design—think about the information you have and how it can be represented in a way that aids comprehension and reveals patterns. If readers have to make an extra effort to understand the data and what it means, then your infographic is not doing its job of making complex information simple.
5. Choose a visual approach
There are basically two ways of visualizing data. One is to present the numbers as attractively as possible by artfully combining colors, fonts, graphs and charts in an easy-to-understand and appealing structure. And the other is to use an overarching theme or metaphor to present the data in a compelling manner that is not explicitly numerical or in the format of a data visualization. The choice is up to you.
6. Build a wireframe
At this point, the designer should create a wireframe, which is a barebones mockup of what your infographic’s structure will look like. By stripping away the colors, fonts and graphics, the designer can focus on the underlying structure and flow and make sure it will make sense to any reader.
7. Refine, test and proofread
Now comes the part where you evaluate your design–either with the client or in-house–and decide whether any changes need to be made. Once you have iterated until the design is clean and the infographic communicates a message clearly and effectively, you can proofread for any errors that might have gone unnoticed. This is critical since any error may be costly for both you and your client.
8. Determine a social sharing strategy
After putting in several hours of designing your own original infographic, you now have to make sure all the hard work doesn’t go to waste. Remember the step in which you defined the goals for your infographic? This is the part where you achieve those goals. First, create a call to action at the beginning or at the end of your infographic. Next, make it shareable by including prominent share buttons on the page hosting the infographic and provide a code viewers can use to embed the infographic on their pages with and provide a link back to your site. Then, create a drip campaign on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media platforms by sharing a specific fact from your infographic, one at a time. Also, remember the best time to share on each social platform. On Twitter, for example, it has been statistically proven that tweets posted around 5 pm get the most retweets. In all, this process should take several days, even weeks, to complete. If you want to accelerate the infographic creation process, though, there are also free infographic creation software options available online, such as Visme, which can save time by providing professionally designed templates with a wide variety of styles and layouts. Have you ever created an infographic? After this post do you feel bold enough to try?