Wednesday, 13 November 2019

What is an infographic and how is it made?

Take some compelling info, add eye-catching graphics and voila: You have yourself an infographic. Simple, right?

I know – nothing in content marketing is really that easy. With more graphics than copy, infographics may seem like the picture books of content marketing. However, I’m sure you’re not surprised to find that it takes a lot to get there. Like other content marketing assets, there’s a significant amount of planning, research and creativity that goes into creating infographics.
Ready to get down to the nitty-gritty? Let’s talk all things infographics:

Getting acquainted: What is an infographic?

Infographics are visual representations of data and complex concepts that can be used in virtually any industry to cover pretty much any topic. Venngage information designer Midori Nediger put it this way: “Infographics are the perfect way to make dry, dense content engaging and digestible.”
These shareable graphics give data a visual facelift, using imagery, charts, icons and illustrations to present information in a way viewers can absorb in a matter of seconds. A good infographic will stand out from long-form copy as a more creative and engaging way to provide a topic overview, explain a process, display research findings, compare and contrast ideas, build brand awareness and more.
Heavy on design and light on copy, infographics are among the most powerful visual components of content marketing.

Where do infographics hang out in the marketing funnel?

Marketers can create infographics for a variety of reasons, using them to grab audience attention, educate viewers and drive engagement via multiple platforms. They can be especially useful for lead generation through building brand awareness and generating links back to the main website.
“A well-designed infographic with unique insights or interesting data can even potentially go viral,” according to Nediger. “People love to share stats and facts, and infographics are built around these irresistible bits of information. An infographic, shared in the right place at the right time, can translate into a ton of site traffic.”
An infographic, shared in the right place at the right time, can translate into a ton of site traffic.
An infographic, shared in the right place at the right time, can translate into a ton of site traffic.
You can also use infographics to repurpose old blog articles and white papers, especially those that had particularly high levels of engagement. Evergreen articles with step-by-step guides or listed information are especially easy to turn into infographics, using each step or subheading to guide the infographic elements. You can then embed the finished graphics within their accompanying blog posts so they can live as visual elements surrounded by optimized copy.
If you have customer survey data, research findings or company statistics, an infographic can also be an effective complement to the formal reports.
When done well, infographics can play a role in brand discovery, consideration, conversions and retention. Yep, that’s literally all the stages of the buyer’s journey. We weren’t kidding when we said these things were powerful.

Why create an infographic?

Infographics earned their cred in content marketing because our brains can process visuals much faster than words. There are also statistics that make it hard to argue against infographics, including:
  • Users like or share infographics three times more than other types of content.
  • Eye-tracking studies prove that people tend to ignore generic stock images.
  • 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
Plus, with attention spans growing shorter by the day, Nediger praised infographics for being “the perfect way to connect with fickle audiences.”
While these graphics perform like images, the copy allows them to tell a more complete story. You can easily share infographics with your audience, and you’re likely to see traction across multiple channels with their wow-factor visuals and easily digestible copy. As highly linkable and shareable pieces of marketing content, infographics can also serve as convincing sales tools.

What kinds of infographics are there?

Before you can create an infographic, you’ll need to weigh your options. There are several different types of infographics to add to your repertoire, including:

The various sizes

Size and length will depend on the goal and content of your infographic. For instance, if you want to display a 10-step process, you can expect to have a short intro and then 10 brief sections of copy. When presenting survey results, consider how many data points are compelling and relevant enough to shape your narrative.
Note: In our experience with a myriad of clients, the top-performing infographics tend to have about 11 data points.
If you plan to lean on a content marketing agency to create infographics, the size often determines the price of the graphic. At Brafton, for instance, we distinguish silver, gold, platinum, platinum plus and interactive infographics by the number of included data points and level of design work necessary to fulfill the scope of the project.

The flowchart infographic

This style of infographic starts with a single point and then branches off into different sections. Designers will often link the sections of the chart together with lines, dots, arrows or other simple elements. Similar to the flowchart quizzes in teen magazines, this type of infographic is great for engagement because viewers interact with the sequence of information.

The timeline infographic

If you want to demonstrate the evolution of a particular person, topic, product or solution, this is the infographic for you. Timeline infographics tell stories in a logical, chronological order – but are presented in a more visually appealing way than the textbooks of your past.

The comparison infographic

When it makes sense to highlight similarities or differences between concepts, companies or products, comparison infographics are the best way to present the information. You can use them to prove your brand is the superior option, or take an unbiased look at two different paths. For instance, a daring political science degree program may publish a Hillary vs.Trump comparison infographic, or take a more neutral route and use the visual content to compare degree concentrations and potential career paths for graduates.

The data visualization infographic

Data infographics include charts, graphs and other illustrations to add visual interest to statistics and units of information. This is the kind of infographic that works for relaying survey results, promoting company stats and presenting complex research results.

The list infographic

With an educational purpose, this style lets the words do more of the talking than other types of infographics. They’re the evergreen blog posts of infographics, following a more standard structure of several subheadings and corresponding blurbs of body copy. Colors, fonts and icons enhance the copy to make it an enticing graphic despite the absence of data visualizations.

The process infographic

Step-by-step guides and how-to content fall under this infographic style. Graphics, icons and imagery complement the sequential order of the copy. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself guide for creating small space storage or an overview of how to use a product, process infographics should provide clear directions. Unlike Ikea assembly instructions, these are meant to be easy-to-follow directions for all viewers.

The geographic infographic

When there are maps involved, there’s a good chance the infographic is a geographic one. This style is used to visualize locations, present geographical data and display trends across regions.

The interactive infographic

This souped-up infographic adds a layer of interactivity to traditional design features. It allows users to reveal information through actions like clicking on buttons, zooming in on specific areas and selecting from dropdown menus. While interactive infographics are more time-consuming projects and require more advanced design skills, the result is a bold and creative reprieve from the crowd of static graphics.

How are infographics made?

You know what they are and you’re convinced that it’s time to create infographics for your brand – but that’s where you hit a roadblock. No worries, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the steps involved in the infographic-creation process:

1. Ideation

Behind every good infographic is a solid idea. Think about the data, concepts, processes or trends that are relevant to both your brand and your audience. Our team often finds infographic topic inspiration in industry data, top trends, future predictions, how-to guides, practical solutions and brand identifiers.
We’re talking about topics like:
  • 10 golden rules for content marketers.
  • How to speak marketing.
  • Connoisseur-approved wine and cheese pairings.
  • The anatomy of professional websites.
  • The wedding planner’s timeline.
  • The do’s and don’ts of buying a new home.
You can also find ideas in your own content calendar. Build off your blog and social content with focused infographics.
Pro tip: Think visual from the beginning. Ideas that require lengthy copy to do them justice may work better for a blog post or white paper rather than an infographic.

2. Research

Once you have ideas on deck, you can dive into the research and data collection. Hard-hitting facts and statistics are infographics’ best friends, so look for reputable reports, surveys and studies for relevant information that will work well in a visual format. Sort through internal data to find information that lends itself to visual representation, such as customer survey results, sales report statistics and insights from company leaders.
Pro tip: A hodgepodge of loosely connected statistics won’t resonate in an infographic, so keep that in mind as you collect your facts. Start thinking about a narrative to string together the data points during the research stage for a smoother writing process.

3. Copywriting

With research in hand, it’s time to start crafting the narrative that ties all the information together in a concise, organized and compelling manner. You’re essentially creating an outline to guide the design, which is why the best infographic copy is short and to the point. The more concise it is, the easier it will be for the designer to support the copy with graphics.
The introduction will be the most text-heavy of the infographic elements, setting the context for the data points to follow. Use punchy subheadings to catch the eye as well as break up the text into digestible sections. While maintaining brand voice is important, infographics generally allow for more flexibility and creativity in writing than more formal content, such as white papers.
The best way to win over your designer’s heart is to write with visuals in mind. Think of themes that will lend themselves to graphics. For instance, titling your piece “A sea of health IT benefits” and filtering in under-the-sea vocabulary where it fits points to an obvious design concept. On the other hand, “8 health IT benefits” doesn’t offer any immediate design inspiration.
Pro tip: Aim for an introduction of about two to three sentences, and then short yet complete sentences of roughly 15 words each throughout the piece.

4. Design

When it’s finally time to design an infographic, the No. 1 priority is to present the information in ways that enhance the message the graphic intends to communicate. How you choose to position the infographic elements largely influences how readers view and interpret the finished piece.
Basic design elements such as lines, borders and shapes are key to separating sections of copy for easier interpretation. It also helps to develop a text hierarchy. Try not to exceed three different fonts to keep the graphic easy on the eyes. Most designers will differentiate headings, subheadings and body copy with typography variations.
Color is also an effective tool for grouping information. One tried-and-true method is selecting one color that contrasts with the rest of the palette, using it to underscore the most important information. Feel free to use colors that aren’t in your brand guidelines, but try to create a consistent graphic style so viewers will recognize all your infographic content as your own.
Designers have an extensive toolbox of infographic elements they can use to bring the content to life. The elements you choose for your infographic will be largely dependent on the style and content. Some of the most effective include:
  • Instructional diagrams.
  • Flowcharts.
  • Character images.
  • Hand-drawn illustrations.
  • Lists.
  • Charts.
  • Graphs.
  • Maps.
  • Timelines.
  • Quotations.
  • Statistical insights.
Another important note is giving credit where credit is due. You don’t have to clutter the design with references, but be sure to include a section at the bottom of the infographic that lists the resources where you found the data included in the copy.
Content marketers have two options to complete this stage of the process: template or designer. There are plenty of free infographic templates available online – like these from Venngage. You can simply pop your information into the template, personalize colors and fonts and export the piece. Alternatively, you can hire a designer to create entirely original content. Many content marketing agencies – Brafton included – have in-house design teams that work with strategy and editorial teams to create infographics. Your budget may determine which option is right for you, but keep in mind that quality and results can be worth the investment.
Pro tip: Work with negative space and grouping tactics to give the infographic elements room to breathe and effectively deliver their message.

5. Distribution

Once the infographic is complete, you’re ready to share it with the world.
Infographics are extremely versatile assets because you can easily share them across multiple channels and platforms. You can post them within blog content for maximum SEO value, send them out via email, share them on social media and even hand out or display printed versions at industry events. You can leverage all of the above for any infographic as long as you tweak the format to suit the platform.
Landing pages or blog posts are the best places to feature full infographics on the web. When sharing infographics on social media, you’ll need to consider size restrictions on imagery. Infographics can be fairly long images, which means they’ll grab the wrong kind of attention if you try to paste the entire graphic into a Twitter or Instagram post. Instead, create thumbnail images that highlight specific portions of the graphic and include a link that takes users to a landing page to see the full infographic.
You may want to do the same thing when sending infographics to your email list, grabbing viewers’ attention and then sending them to your site to see the entire graphic. Make room for the increase in click-throughs that will be coming your way!
If it’s relevant for your content, consider reaching out to influencers or publications that might be willing to share your infographic with their audiences. You’ll also want to include embed codes wherever you post your infographics so viewers have the option to share them with their own networks.
Keep in mind that only sharing an infographic once is a disgrace to all of your hard work. You can reuse the graphics to further leverage the content and enhance ROI. For starters, slice infographics into several thumbnails so you can keep sharing them with fresh imagery. As long as you repurpose the surrounding copy to support the highlighted section, you’ll keep grabbing viewers’ attention. You can also pull out specific data points to embed in other pieces of content as well as inspire future blog or social post ideas.
Pro tip: Google won’t pick up on the keywords in images, so make sure you post your infographic with optimized landing page, blog and social copy. That way, your infographics have a better chance of appearing in search results.

What does an exemplary infographic look like?

We’re big fans of infographics at Brafton, as is apparent from how many we post on our own blog.
Remember when I said earlier that you can repurpose long-form blog content with an infographic on the same topic? I said that because we do it at Brafton all the time. Here’s an example: We amped up my original “7 steps to click-worthy blog title ideas” post with an infographic that essentially summarizes the article through a visual representation of the steps.

It’s for those who don’t want to scroll through the entire post, but still want the benefit of knowing how to write click-worthy blog titles. (No offense taken – I get it.)
We followed the same tactic to express our thoughts on link building and SEO marketing plans – and will likely keep doing it with other blog posts in the foreseeable future.
The other infographics we create inside the walls of Brafton are for our clients. Here are some examples:

Debunking hybrid cloud myths

This infographic follows the list style, and utilizes cloud illustrations to quickly convey the message.

Mortgage decisions

This is also an informational, list-based infographic, but it follows a vertical progression rather than the horizontal style of the EzeCastle example above.

Customer Experience Maturity Model

The design still takes the cake and draws viewers in even though this infographic has more copy than most. Take note of the CTA at the bottom, easily distinguished by the change in background color.

The job search

This data visualization infographic gets into the numbers in a super aesthetically pleasing way.

How does one measure infographic success?

You’ve shared your infographic with your audience – and hopefully you did so multiple times on several platforms. How do you know if it was worth all the effort? To measure infographic ROI, consider key-performance indicators such as:
  • Page views.
  • Average time spent on the page.
  • Backlinks.
  • Engagement.
  • Social interaction (mentions, shares, likes, comments, etc.).
  • Direct leads.
You can use tools like Google Analytics to track website traffic and reference social media reports offered by the platforms to measure engagement and interaction.
When you partner with a content marketing agency like Brafton, savvy strategists can do all the investigating for you. They’ll help you determine which KPIs are the most relevant to measure for your goals, and then keep track of them throughout distribution. You’ll see reports of the results, along with support for how to interpret the numbers. Once you know how well your infographics are performing, you can work with the marketing experts to determine how you can boost those results with future infographics.

Are you ready?

Go forth, young grasshopper, and see what you can do for your brand with infographics. We’re here if you need any help along the way.


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