The infographic: A viable marketing tool, or meaningless nonsense?

The infographic: A viable marketing tool, or meaningless nonsense? Joel spearheads the EMEA marketing efforts for Brandwatch, one of the world’s leading social media analytics platforms. With a background in journalism and the video games industry, Joel is responsible for Brandwatch’s global PR and social strategy, as well as overseeing events, demand generation and other marketing initiatives in the EMEA region. In his role at Brandwatch, he helps show clients and prospects how they can use the power of online conversation to enhance business operations of both brands and agencies. In all, he probably spends too much of his time measuring things.

I first wondered about the future of the infographic over three years ago. Every time I logged onto my preferred social network, I was inundated with facts and figures presented to me in an image based format. It’s fair to say that in its infancy, the infographic was an exciting new way for marketers to capture an audience hungry for visual content. Three years ago it seemed as though brands were transforming any words or facts they could into pictures. Anything could go viral, even if it had no additional meaning, just as long as it looked pretty or used eye-catching colours.

However if an infographic is to stand out in today’s world, a brand needs to put special effort into its creation and specifically how it is shared. For example, the type of person you are trying to target will be more likely to use one social network than another. It is up to you to investigate the best social channel on which to share your infographic.

Marketers have a tendency to move from one shiny new content tactic or strategy to the next. With new ways of sharing a brand’s messaging and content being developed all the time, like the live video streaming service Periscope, the infographic might now seem a little old hat.  

However, reaching a saturation point does not have to mean the end. For example, the extraordinary rise of Instagram proves that the thirst for information in visual format is still there. It just emphasises the need for a filter on quality, which in turn makes the context and messaging even more important.

Nowadays an infographic must have two things; meaning and most importantly an audience who cares. If you don’t have these two ingredients to begin with, transforming the message into an infographic won’t change a thing and certainly won’t engage an audience.

So what can you do to ensure your infographic is spot on in 2016?

  • Useful insights. Make sure you have something interesting to say and ensure your story is something that is better delivered in pictures than words. Turning data into images will always make it more digestible, which is of course the most compelling reason to create an infographic.
  • Learn when to say no. The most exciting part of content marketing today is the sheer choice of medium we have at our fingertips to convey our messaging. But just because something exists does not mean you should use it. For example, the creation of a video might benefit your campaign so much more than an infographic.  
  • Structure. Think about how to build your story so that it is compelling enough to keep readers’ interest all the way through to the conclusion.
  • Use an image hierarchy. This will guide your audience through the information in the right order. Use size, weight and colour but limit yourself. Make sure readers can immediately understand what you mean without making it hard work.
  • Simplicity is key. Don’t baffle your customers with complex diagrams and irrelevant images. Keep things as simple as you possibly can.

You will also need to track the response to your infographic’s success in order to generate content in the future that is just as, or more, successful in achieving your marketing goals. This can be a challenge at times so it is generally best practice to embed the image into your website. With thoughtful tagging and an introductory paragraph, you can overcome the poor SEO quality caused when words are embedded into the image. Allowing others to embed it (with all the link credentials included) could also do wonders for your link equity.

One of the advantages of the infographic, and the reason you so often see them, is how shareable they are on social media channels. But there are ways to help your creation stand out from the rest and successfully engage your target audience. Using a hashtag for your campaign can help track it and can make it more visible. Look at retweets, shares and also numbers of impressions (the sum of the followers of the people who have shared it) to see whether you have been successful in achieving your marketing goals or whether you need to take a different approach.

The best way to achieve success with the infographic is through a carefully considered design and thorough analysis of how it performs once shared. You wouldn’t be blamed for suggesting the infographic is dead. Not least because much of what is produced could be considered meaningless and tiresome. However, as with most things in life, quality is more important than quantity. If you bear this in mind, there is still plenty of space for the infographic within the marketing mix.

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