It’s one thing to create infographics. It’s another to design infographics that get attention, that people spread, and that get your message out. Instead of making more infographics, the goal should be to create popular infographics. That can be more challenging than it sounds. Just like it’s not so easy to gain a huge list of social media followers or to create that magical video that goes viral, knowing how to develop an infographic that’s actually popular may be a bit elusive.
Yet it is not impossible to design popular infographics that truly contribute to your company’s goals rather than drifting into the expanse of the internet, never to be heard from again. You don’t have complete control over what content people will connect with, yet certain strategies could help you design infographics that are more likely to be noticed and shared.
What Are the Elements of an Effective Infographic?
Image via Flickr by CBC Radio 3
Infographics that become popular tend to share key components. These include:
Sure, infographics should look good and be easy to read, but that’s not their main purpose. The point is to break down valuable information in a way that is simple for readers to digest. They get to the core of the topic and give you a quick overview of the main points.
Because of the purpose, you need to make sure you’re providing information that’s worth reading. The best infographics will include info that’s relevant, timely, helpful, and/or valuable in some other way. Keep in mind that valuable information doesn’t always need to be complex or educational; it just needs to have value to your audience, whether that value is interest, entertainment, or helpful tips.
Keep in mind when using data in your infographic that you need to use quality sources and provide proper citation. This will make your infographic more reputable and help you avoid accusations of spreading misinformation or relying on untrustworthy sources.
Better yet, your infographic can prove more effective if you perform your own research. Many companies use their staff, hire professionals, or partner with research organizations to carry out surveys, analysis, or other forms of research within their industry. Rather than spreading ideas that people can find elsewhere, you’ll become the source to turn to for that specific information.
Showing and Telling
An infographic shouldn’t be full of written text with some extraneous graphics added for visual interest alone. The point is to use the graphics to illustrate the information. This form of content should visually enhance the information and direct the eye from one image to the next.
Just like the word “infographic” combines “information” with “graphics,” a good infographic will fuse images with text to create a new form of presenting data. You need both components of high-quality design and stellar writing to ensure that your infographic has the most impact.
If you’re ever in doubt, remind yourself of what makes an infographic different. With too many words and some images around the edges, you probably just have a poster. Content that’s heavy on the graphics might be more like an illustration. You need to find that sweet spot of text that works within the graphics and graphics that illustrate what the text is saying.
Beyond the information you’ll present and your ability to combine text and graphics, strategic steps could boost the chances of popularity. An analysis of the top-shared infographics found patterns that popped out. These include using an average of 400 words and sizing the infographic at approximately 3,683 pixels tall by 804 pixels wide. Also, popular ones have specific color schemes that often included blue, which is associated with trust and responsibility.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you always have to create infographics that follow the same formula but, it might be worth playing around with these common features to see your results.
Having this form of content spread isn’t always about the infographic itself. It also comes down to your promotional efforts. Sometimes that kid in high school wins all the votes just by putting himself out there more.
Just like you’ll get your blog post in front of the eyes of more people if you share it on social media, you’ll give your infographic a better chance at success if you promote it. Share it, ask your followers to share it, and ask relevant influencers to feature it.
Also, don’t put roadblocks in the way of people sharing it. Make it so someone can resize it without losing the original visual quality.
Develop an Interesting Idea
An infographic is about more than sharing some information decorated by graphics. It’s all about the idea it’s based on. This is the key piece in the process of developing this form of content. There should be research and ideation that goes into developing an idea that will fit your brand and its goals.
Rather than just striving for an infographic that will be popular with a broad audience, you should consider your own industry and audience, and create an idea that fits them. Try to find a unique angle instead of sharing the same information as everyone else in your industry.
To come up with an idea, figure out what your audience would be looking for at each stage of the buyer journey or marketing funnel. Develop an angle based on that. When you have a topic, create a cohesive story around it. Keep the infographic simple and focused, making sure that the entire infographic sticks to the topic.
Infographics tend to perform better in certain industries than others — the top-performing industries are health, entertainment, and business, while the bottom-performing industries are food, computers and electronics, and politics. If your brand is in an industry that’s less popular for this type of content, does that mean you should avoid it? It could if your audience consistently responds better to other types of content than to infographics.
But it’s worth trying different tactics before giving up on this format. Think outside the box. Rather than presenting information about its products, a software company could create an infographic showing the impact its cloud solutions have on agriculture to address global hunger. This idea provides a unique angle and helps show the audience what the product can actually accomplish in the real world.
Another method is to put a spin on your industry to link it to a different industry. For example, the food industry is at the bottom while health is at the top when discussing the popularity of infographics. A food company could talk about the health of its food to see if it could gain interest by linking its own industry to a more popular one.
It’s possible to create connections between an array of industries, even ones that seem completely unrelated. It might not seem like beauty could be connected to the computer and technology industry, yet people have used makeup to fool facial recognition software from recognizing them.
Think differently and do some research to find unique angles in your industry. Bring it to life for your audience.
Tips to Create Popular Infographics
Following certain tried-and-true tactics might help you get similar results to the infographics that used them before you. Now that you have a better idea of what helps infographics work overall, let’s focus on specific tips to try.
People tend to like infographics laid out in a vertical manner, such as this example from the USDA.
Image via Flickr by USDAgov
This style is easy to read and similar in design to other vertical forms of media that people are accustomed to reading, such as web pages and books. In other words, it’s natural to read in a vertical manner.
Nonetheless, some infographics look like long unrolled scrolls that go on and on. Cut it off at a decent length to avoid overload for your reader. Avoid infographics that are more than 8,000 pixels long.
Make It Visually Appealing
Your infographic should be easy to read without becoming too busy or overwhelming. It should clearly show the topic in a headline at the top and stick to the topic within the content.
Also, it can help to work with color. Choose a specific color scheme and consider using the most popular colors of blue, red, and green. Here is an example from the CDC that uses a specific color scheme that relies on blue, gray, and light green.
Image via Flickr by CDC Global Health
Also, rely on white space (which doesn’t actually have to be white but simply references plain background space without text or graphics). Make sure your infographic has enough white space to help the eye comfortably focus on the information you’re trying to convey within the content.
A good designer should be able to play with the text size, font, and other elements to create the most visual appeal possible.
Direct the Flow
A vertical design can help direct the reader since we’re used to reading in a vertical manner, but you can take additional steps to direct the viewer’s eye through your content.
Some infographics are a jumbled mess of images, similar to an idea map that’s not meant to go public. The reader doesn’t know where to begin or if there’s any order to the information. Don’t follow this method. Instead, give a clear path for the reader to follow. You can achieve this partially with the text itself. The infographic should create flow by having content that stays on topic and tells a cohesive message or story. One point should transition to the next.
Nonetheless, the design should do most of the work in directing the flow. The example below gives a simple and straightforward method by starting you at the top and using arrows to tell you where to read next.
Image via Flickr by UBC Learning Commons
You can look to additional methods of achieving the goal of guiding your reader. For example, try lines, graphs, and charts. Here is another example:
Image via Flickr by UnitedSoybeanBoard
The headline at the top of your infographic is key. It guides the viewer on what the content will be about and determines whether or not they will keep reading. Try to keep the headline short and sweet at 70 characters or less while capturing interest and explaining the topic. Also, people tend to respond most to headlines that include numbers.
Encourage People to Share It
The last thing you want is to spend precious resources creating an amazing infographic only to have no one share it. As mentioned above, it’s important for you to promote it and make it easy to share.
People don’t want to go to a lot of trouble but they’re likely to spread something if it’s easy to do so. Ease the process by putting source information in the URL and adding social sharing buttons. Include your company logo in the infographic to ensure that it’s always associated with your brand. You could also choose to create infographics that fit the restrictions or purposes of specific social media platforms. Finally, make sure it resizes well.
Hire professional writers and designers to create your soon to be popular infographics. This step can ensure that you have a high-quality piece of content that will fit best practices in writing and design to stand apart from the unprofessional ones.
You may also want to hire professionals to help with research and creative direction for your content. Depending on your company structure and needs, consider relying on an agency and its team to develop your infographics for you.
It’s worth spending time and resources on strategies for creating infographics. After all, the goal is to use your infographic to further your marketing goals and provide results. It can’t do that unless you get it out there. Remember to create an interesting story with a unique angle and to design and develop your popular infographics in ways that give it the best chance at success possible.