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The explosion of infographics has been nothing short of phenomenal. And although pinpointing the exact inflection point is challenging, it’s fair to say that it was some combination of people’s preference for consuming visual information and the rapidly advancing capability of the Web to deliver this kind of rich media.
Our audiences are becoming increasingly time-poor and attention-starved; consequently, any strategy that more clearly delivers marketing messages, quicker and with a higher rate of retention arguably should be monopolizing your digital marketing strategy sessions. This is precisely the opportunity of upping your game in data visualization in general and infographics specifically.
The opportunity in this space is substantial for savvy marketers. Infographics have successfully proven that they can deliver more compelling and engaging messages to consumers, while enhancing the retention and virality of those messages.
As is the case with most big opportunities in marketing, effective communication tactics rarely go unexploited for long. A quick glance at Google Trends confirms the meteoric rise of search interest in infographics, while highlighting the challenge and opportunity of a trend that seems to have hit a sustaining peak of search interest.
In the current environment the challenge is getting above the noise; however, for a professional marketer, that’s simply the name of the game. More importantly, the opportunity is secretly embedded in the sustained nature of the demand for infographics–meaning you should be investing in infographics as a long-term marketing strategy.
If you’re convinced of the importance of infographic marketing as an intriguing tactic, here’s how I recommend leading the discussion about infographics in your next marketing meeting.
What Story are We Trying to Tell?
Any business, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, have a variety of complex concepts that are often essential for consumers to understand before they’re willing to buy a product or service. There are benefits to appreciate, trust and credibility to instill, security and risk to understand, and competitive advantages to highlight; yet, in the fleeting moments that are now the compressed attention span of our consumers, these points are often lost.
Infographics can fill a vital gap in your sales process by delivering these complex concepts–with complete clarity–in the blink of an eye. The key is starting with the story you want to tell and then craft it into a flowing visualization.
To understand this better, I often think about the difference between reading a traditional book, heavy with text and without illustration, versus reading a comic book or graphic novel. The richness of the illustrations make the story so much faster to consume and ultimately easier to retain.
I witnessed this first hand as one of my sons struggled, and consequently hated to, read early in his elementary years. In a quest to improve his reading and relieve his anxiety over the task I introduced him to graphic novels. In a matter of weeks he was devouring these books faster than I could replenish them.
He was quickly reading hundreds of pages a week and retaining every detail of these stories.
You should be trying to achieve the same impact with your infographic marketing strategy. Create visual stories that drive your consumers to greedily consume your most complex concepts, leaving them wanting more.
[Improve your infographic marketing: Download 7 Steps to Effective Infographic Design]
Target the Audience and Their Preferences
Part of making any story interesting is ensuring that it hits the audience square at home. You have to appeal to experiences and interests that are familiar to them, but in a more interesting way. Of course, that means you need to step into their world and understand what resonates.
Some of my favorite ways to quickly dip into their experience and grab the marketing research I need to effectively communicate are as follows:
- Google Search – This is always my first stop. I’ve found that it’s critically important to understand what your content will compete with and similarly what your consumer is already conditioned to see.
- Google Blogsearch – Blog search serves a dual role. First, it gives you another perspective over a general search, typically from the point of view of a more sophisticated audience. Second, this becomes the seeds and leads for promoting your infographic.
- Technorati – This is a treasure trove, often forgotten, for researching popular blogs by topic and category. Like Google Blogsearch, it can fill you with buzzing topic ideas and offer a list of promotional venues.
- Reddit – There is probably no richer environment for content research than relevant sub-reddits. The infographics are no exception to this rule. Simply find out what the community (sub-reddit) is all abuzz about and turn it into an infographic and you have a guaranteed hit on Reddit and in other social channels.
- Twitter Search – Twitter is a great channel for monitoring the ebbs and flows of news and trends, as driven by key influencers in various niches. To do this in an efficient way: organize your influencers into Twitter Lists by topic and then tune in periodically to pluck out creative concepts for new infographics that will hit home with these influencers–leading to big traffic pushes.
- Google+ Communities – Google+ is a great channel that hasn’t quite found its voice and place in the social ecosystem yet, but I am finding some real utility in monitoring Google+’s newest feature–communities.
After cruising through a few of these streams you will quickly acclimate to the norm for these communities, helping to guide your visualizations to resonate with your target audience.
Content First, Then Design
With a strong bead on the audience, it’s time to craft the content and weave the story around familiar concepts and questions that will attract eyeballs.
Keep persuasion on the top of your list of objectives as you begin to create this content. Thoroughly research your infographic concept to reveal the very nature of why things are the way they are and highlight critical elements that define the concept.
The best way to captivate and engage your audience is to surprise them with why things work the way they do. Follow that with how they can use this information to their personal advantage and–”Voila!”…you have engagement.
Be sure that you have your content well researched and firmly developed before you jump into design. To get the best results from your infographic the content has to drive the design or it will simply become a pretty picture.
Prominent designer Jeffrey Zeldman says it best:
Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.
— Jeffrey Zeldman (@zeldman) May 5, 2008
I’ll admit this is super hard to do. Infographics, by their very nature, are design projects and fun ones at that so it’s going to be very hard to keep at bay the tendency to jump into the visuals prematurely.
Trust me, the longer you avoid design the better for your infographic. This process will ensure that the message and the objective of that message take the lead in the design, not the art.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Once you’ve created your infographic, you’ve only just begun the process of making this marketing strategy work for your business. In fact, it’s critical that you devote three times as much time promoting your infographic over the time you took to actually design and create the infographic.
The secret to this process is creating a disciplined infographic marketing system. Here’s a summary of my general approach:
- Give your infographic a good, relevant home. Hopefully it is surrounded by other relevant content and the host page is optimized for sharing: killer headline, keyword rich introduction, the infographic itself, easy to cut and paste HTML embed code, and multiple social sharing options.
- Share each new infographic into dedicated infographic sharing and inspiration websites. Some of my favorites are: visual.ly, loveinfographics.com, easel.ly, infogr.am/beta/, cooldailyinfographics.com, infographicfile.com, reddit.com/r/infographics.
- Use a good old fashion press release to announce your infographic. Present it like any other research report–it’s just more visually appealing.
- Leverage image sharing sites like Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram to attract more visually oriented audiences and communities.
- Social media drip campaigns are way underestimated for gaining traction and building sustained traffic to any kind of content. Simply build an editorial calendar that regularly posts and re-posts your infographic or teaser snippets of it to your Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, and Google+ communities.
- Don’t underestimate the power of paid media. Google AdWords and Facebook Ads can instantly ramp up your Web traffic. If your infographic supports the selling of a product or service or you’re effectively capturing prospects or emails the ROI might just support a little paid traffic to boost its visibility.
- Blogger outreach is hard, I won’t lie. It’s kind of like sales, but it is super powerful and rewarding. Done in a good way you are building connections and relationships that return value far beyond the featuring one infographic. That really is the secret here. Try to be a little human about requesting your infographic be considered for their blog.
There’s little question that infographics are becoming a strong and sustainable part of digital marketing. Your challenge is only determining how you can make it a part of your company’s online marketing and Web traffic strategy.
Hopefully, I’ve given you a good starting point to initiate a discussion about infographics in your next creative marketing meeting.