How to Create an Infographic That Boosts Social Shares and Leads

social media how toAre you considering infographics for your marketing?

Can you effectively communicate visually?

Infographics are powerful ways to get attention.

In this article, you’ll discover how to craft infographics that are widely shared.

Why Infographics?

Modern humans have been around for about 200,000 years and for almost all of that time (97%, to be precise), we’ve survived by reading just the visual imagery around us.

We didn’t start using alphabets until about 5500 years ago.

The fact is, our evolving brains continue to interpret images faster than text. What that means for brands is visual storytelling is essential to delivering highly effective messages.

Because of that, infographics, a hybrid of images and text, have become a great fit for social media marketing. They combine charts, diagrams, pictures and stylized text into a visually pleasing package.

infographic by visual.ly

Visual.ly shows why brands should use infographics.

Examples of companies using infographics include Pepsi, Kraft, Pritikin, Coupon Chief, Marvel, and Venere.com.

Infographics get noticed, invite engagement, are highly flexible and are popular on social networks. They also tend to function as linkbait for industry blogs, something that is appreciated by our SEO colleagues.

If you want that attention on your marketing message, you’ll have to do more than share a picture surrounded by text. Here are seven steps to creating your first infographic.

#1: Plan Your Story Around Your Objectives

As a social media marketer, when you create an infographic, you aren’t just making a picture out of random data and a pretty font. You’re crafting a tool you can use to achieve a particular objective, and that takes planning.

Picking a topic for your infographic is the easy part; you probably already know what subject you want to tackle. What you may not have fleshed out are your objectives, or the why of your topic.

What are you trying to do with your infographic? Do you want to establish yourself as an information source? Bring new customers to your website? Capture email addresses? Get more followers on social networks? Earn mentions in blogs? Boost your search rankings?

All of those objectives are tempting, but stay focused! Prioritize your objectives and don’t include anything that doesn’t help you reach the most important ones.

topic story objective image

Like all marketing messages, infographics start out with a good plan (and a good story).

Next, craft a story around your topic that engages viewers and helps you meet your objectives. Remember, the data you share is only as interesting as your story.

As your story takes shape, write introductory copy that gives context to your image, story and objectives. This copy helps you stay true to your plan and objectives. It also plays an important role when you share the infographic or publish it on a different site.

Let’s suppose you’re working for a health care company and you want to plan an infographic on the topic of common everyday injuries. Your story could be about how frequently these injuries occur and how expensive they can be to treat, with the objective of getting people to review your company’s coverage and share the infographic with their social networks.

Knowing your objectives will help you craft a stronger infographic.

#2: Gather Your Data

Infographics originated as data visualization tools. Numbers are still the foundation of most of them. Numbers serve to validate your points and persuade your viewers. (But it’s not unheard of to find excellent qualitative infographics.)

If you know the topic you want to tackle, but you don’t have your data yet, there are a few places you can start your search.

Google offers Public Data, and Google Trends is a good way to gauge public interest for any search term.

Don’t forget your local census department. In the United States, Census.gov has mountains of data you can sift through.

Need help finding friendly numbers? In addition to your favorite industry sources, you can try Many Eyes, an IBM project that allows you to search and visualize publicly available data sets.

many eyes website screenshot

IBM’s Many Eyes site offers a searchable database of publicly available data sets along with built-in visualization tools.

You’ll want to share data of value to your audience.

#3: Sketch Your Idea

It may be tempting at this point to start picking out great colors and charts, but effective infographics always start with good, old-fashioned, back-of-the-envelope planning.

For many people, pen and paper are still the tools of choice for sketching or wireframing, but you could also use Google Slides, Gliffy and Creatly. Both Gliffy and Creatly have free trial versions, and Creatly also has a library of the “people silhouettes” that have become a staple in many infographics.

infographic rough wireframe

Sketch or wireframe your infographic first. You can refine your data points and design elements later.

As you begin wireframing, think about the first item or element you want viewers to see and how many more items it will take to tell your story. Create a hierarchy of elements that leads your reader through your infographic narrative, making your strongest argument first of course.

As you refine your wireframe, make your story as succinct and interesting as possible. “The best infographics are ones where you grasp the essence in 10 seconds, and could spend 30 minutes being delighted by the cleverness of the detail,” advises Avinash Kaushik, author of the book Web Analytics 2.0 and the data analysis/presentation blog Occam’s Razor.

And don’t forget the all-important branding for the bottom of your infographic. In some cases, that branding may be the only way for viewers to find their way back to you. Include a call to action such as “To learn more about [TOPIC], visit xyz.com.”

#4: Find Your Inspiration

Whether you have an infographic design in mind or not, it’s a good idea to look at what’s already out there (even if it’s just to ensure your idea is different enough to capture attention).

Pinterest is always a great source for design inspiration, but also look at Daily Infographic and Visual.ly.

infographic gallery on visual.ly

Visuai.ly has a gallery of infographics for you to browse.

At Daily Infographic, you can find data-filled illustrations and get a feel for what appeals not only to you, but also to others. If you see several images that have been shared a lot, take note of any common design elements.

Visual.ly maintains a great free library of eye-catching infographics and may act as a springboard for your own ideas. You can also use Visual.ly to create your infographic (for a fee) when you’re ready.

Wherever you look for inspiration, remember it’s good to mix things up. Include text quotes and short facts to add interest between charts or images.

If you’d like help selecting colors that complement a specific image, take a look at Pictaculous, a free tool that suggests color palettes.

pictaculous color palettes

Pictaculous can suggest color palettes that compliment a favorite image (in this case Van Gogh’s Starry Night)

I advise avoiding a white background for your infographic if at all possible. The white may work fine on your site, but when other sites republish your image it may not stand out without some color holding it together.

#5: Build Your Infographic

If you have access to professional design talent, this would be a great time to buy them lunch. If it’s just you, then buy yourself lunch and take a look at the tools below.

Even if you have no idea how to start, there are powerful cloud-based browser apps that let you create infographics using drag and drop.

Venngage, Easy WebContent Presenter, Infogr.am and Piktochart all offer customizable templates, image galleries and tools for creating charts.

infographic design apps

Browser-based infographic design apps include (clockwise from upper left): Venngage, Easy WebContent Presenter, Infogr.am and Piktochart.

These apps typically allow you to design your infographic for free, but downloading the image may incur a small fee.

Venngage and Infogr.am, for example, ask you to upgrade for approximately $20 a month. Piktochart appends their branding in free mode, while Easy WebContent Presenter is currently in beta and truly free right now.

I suggest using the tools in free mode to design a quick, simple infographic, then continuing the process through to the download option. At that point you can determine the costs and benefits of upgrading. In most cases, $20 for a month of infographics is a good investment.

You may find that the design tool you chose presents you with an obstacle; for example, the inability to create the one perfect chart that you need. If that’s the case, you can create the chart outside of the design app (e.g., in PowerPoint) and then carefully paste it into your infographic as an external image.

Need some advice picking dimensions that make it easier to get shared and republished? No problem! Visual.ly has an infographic for that (of course).

example of smush.it results

Visual.ly shares helpful tips about infographic dimensions.

You’ll want to be sure your infographic is flawless on mobile devices as well. PlaceIt resizes and reorients an image to make it appear as a screenshot on a smartphone, tablet or desktop.

example of place it image

PlaceIt will resize and reorient an image to make it appear as a screenshot on a mobile or desktop device.

Even when you’re satisfied with your infographic, you’re not quite done! Viewers and search engines are happier when images load quickly, and infographics can take up a lot of disk space.

A good designer will have tips for making a fast-loading image, but you can also try Smush.it. This aptly named free app from Yahoo! searches for useless bytes and creates a lighter version of your infographic without any loss of quality.

example of smush.it results

Smush.it makes your infographic load faster without sacrificing image quality.

#6: Create Your Infographic’s Social Preview

Your finished infographic looks great and you’re ready to publish and share it on all of your favorite social networks. But wait!

Are you sure the image looks good in a news feed? When people share images on sites like Facebook or Twitter, those platforms don’t always display the image properly.

The Twitter desktop news feed, for example, resizes an infographic to approximately 500 pixels wide and then attempts to discern the most interesting 250 pixels of height to display. You will very likely disagree with its selection.

To avoid this problem, choose the most engaging section of your infographic and create a new, smaller image that is 250 pixels high and 500 pixels wide.

oreo infographic image selection

Choose a small portion of your infographic to use as a sharing image on social networks.

Share this smaller image across all of your social channels along with a link back to your site where the full infographic is displayed (including all of its text, additional share buttons and other calls to action).

Not only does sharing the smaller image solve the issue of random cropping, but it encourages more click-throughs to your website.

Of course, all networks and third-party apps have different dimensions they crop to, but Twitter’s 250 x 500 compromise should work well in most instances.

#7: Share Your Infographic

As you look for ways to share your infographic, consider reaching out to bloggers who regularly write about your topic. Blogger partnerships can be good opportunities for both of you.

From the blogger’s perspective, your infographic is an opportunity to deliver relevant, visually appealing content without spending a lot of time crafting an article from scratch.

You, of course, would like your infographic to be seen by as many people as possible (with appropriate links back).

The standard rules of blogger outreach apply: be polite, do your homework and make their decision as easy as possible. Popular bloggers get a lot of pitches, so make it obvious that your request is more than a form letter.

“Cookie-cutter pitches won’t work. Show the blogger the respect of some research and a personalized message,” advises social media blogger Heidi Cohen. “Put yourself in their position—how is publishing your infographic going to help them?”

“If you do your blogger outreach correctly, you can get links from some really high-authority domains,” adds Ian Cleary of Razor Social. “The text that accompanies the infographic is important because it adds value and can help the search engines. For the bigger sites, I offer to do a guest post so I can control the article.”

infographiclove.com screenshot

Submit your infographic to directories like this one.

Finally, to keep your infographic active for as long as possible, submit it to searchable directories like Visual.ly, Infographic love, Infographics Archive and Pinterest, of course.

Conclusion

Your audience’s news feeds are a barrage of information, much of it text. Family and friend updates, news and marketing messages compete for attention. An infographic makes your message stand out.

Our brains are wired to process imagery more quickly than text. Take advantage of that and create infographics that tell a provocative story your readers can’t resist.

What do you think? Have you used infographics in your marketing? Have you come across any other good tools to help create effective infographics? Please share with us in the comments!

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About the Author, Jeff Ente

Jeff Ente is the founder of Who’s Blogging What, a weekly newsletter for online marketing professionals. Get a free subscription to learn about important new marketing channels as they emerge. Other posts by »




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  • https://engagor.com/ Cameron Joye

    Really like this article! Thank you for taking the time to compile all of this helpful information.

  • http://www.whosbloggingwhat.com/ Jeff Ente

    You’re welcome, Cameron. Hope that they give you an additional way to get your marketing messages out there.

  • http://entrebond.com Blake Schreckhise

    I have just recently been thinking about getting into the ol’ infographic arena. This is well timed!

  • Susan Griffing Christensen

    This is just the kind of nuts and bolts info I’ve been looking for on infographics. Thank you for posting.

  • http://www.whosbloggingwhat.com/ Jeff Ente

    Blake/Susan- Happy to be here to help. Give it a try and see if it reaches an audience that you haven’t otherwise been able to tap. Good luck!

  • http://www.blogginglove.com/ Ravi Chahar

    Infographics are the matter stuff to concentrate on. Now a days there are many viewers of infografics than readers. I was just about to start them.
    Thanks for the post

  • http://www.whosbloggingwhat.com/ Jeff Ente

    Ravi – Some people like to just read, others like to view images, some like to do both. Our job is to communicate with people in the way that they are most comfortable.

  • http://workerbeemarketing.com/ Michaela Mitchell

    So glad for this article. My summer plan is to make one, maybe 2. This couldn’t have come at a better time!

  • http://www.blogginglove.com/ Ravi Chahar

    Jeff,
    It’s a matter of choice of users. There are many who just don’t want to spend much time at one blog so for them infographic is a better way to engage with.

  • http://beta21.circussocial.com Avtar Ram Singh

    Needs to be said here that data is the most important in an infographic. Too often I come across an infographic that just looks like a blog post that’s been re-hashed as an infographic and doesn’t really add any value.

  • http://www.whosbloggingwhat.com/ Jeff Ente

    Thanks for making that point Avtar. I mostly agree with you. In #2 above (Gather Your Data) I link to a graphic that Copyblogger produced on constructing a blog post. It has almost no supporting data so I don’t think it technically qualifies as an infographic.

    But I like it anyway and enjoyed going through it. So if it works, perhaps people can stretch the definition of infographics. That’s just my 2c but I agree with you that data driven infographics are best.

  • Tali Himmel Rothstein

    Great to-the-point article, Thank you. I’d like to add that we also use http://www.slideshare.net/ as an infographics publication platform.

  • BigcomDevloper

    Nice One Jeff, It is now time to do some impressive marketing regarding infographic. Its a great way to conway our massage in one image.

  • http://www.liam-merlyn.co.uk/ ConduciveMammal

    Hey Jeff,
    Love the article, it’s fantastic!
    I was wondering, for an experienced designer of infographics, what would the average production time be to create one of these?

  • http://www.wellpaidwritersclub.com Pooja

    Hey Jeff,

    Great list! Thank you!

    I agree — as more and more blogs get online and the average Internet surfer’s attention span reduces (as less as 8 seconds), attractive visual content such as an infographic becomes even more important.

    And thank you for mentioning us also! (EWC Presenter, now called Visme — http://www.visme.co)

    Pooja

  • http://www.marketingtechblog.com Douglas Karr

    I love that your first step is planning your story. We’ve developed hundreds of infographics that have skyrocketed our clients’ visibility and what they have all in common is a central story. Not just puking a bunch of rubbish stats to support a sale… they truly tell a complex story visually that’s both appreciated and shared.







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