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Getting to grips with infographics

Written by Josh Russell on Thursday, 03 July 2014. Posted in Content, Sales & Marketing

The increasing use of infographics is self-evident but why are they such effective tools for boosting the profile of your brand?

Getting to grips with infographics

 Infographics – in which data, statistics and information are visualised – have become an increasingly common sight in the last five years, particularly in content marketing circles. Some recent research from the Content Marketing Institute demonstrated that the proportion of content marketers using infographics has leapt to 51% compared to just 38% last year. Evidently there is a huge appeal to infographics but what is it that makes them such a great technique for drawing in consumers?

In part the public’s appetite for infographics might be a reaction to our information-saturated age. With the vast proliferation of content available to consumers, it’s important to be able to summarise data trends in the most immediate and palatable way possible. “Instead of just having tonnes and tonnes of words on a page, you can make something visual very easily,” explains Aran Jackson, creative director of JBH, the content marketing agency. “It’s about consolidating a lot of information down into a small visual.”

There are two main reasons why an enterprise might make use of an infographic. “There’s one which is the company communication, which says that they’re doing a report or they’re doing findings on their finances for the year,” Jackson says. “Then you’ve got the viral, content side of things: you’re chatting about things that people find interesting.”

It is the latter of these which lends itself so well to an enterprise’s content marketing strategy. “For me, as a marketer, infographics work well because you don’t have to read an awful lot of information to get a flavour of the company or their product or whatever it is that they’re trying to get over to you,” explains Jane Hunt, the company’s director of strategy. This means like other examples of content marketing, they can be useful to engage consumers in a dialogue without forcing a sales message down their throat.

The key is identifying things that a company’s consumer base may be interested in and presenting information that will be useful or provide insight to them, even if it doesn’t connect directly to the enterprise’s service or products. “Companies can almost talk about something that’s only tangential to their company,” says Jackson. An example he provides is if a company identifies a high proportion of parents in its consumer base, a useful way to engage them might be to serve an infographic on saving money or making food last longer.

Whilst visually presenting this information can prove to be an enticing piece of native content on one’s own site, it’s important to remember that, more than any piece of written content, visualised information like an infographic can prove to be highly viral. “Journalists, bloggers or other companies find them easy to share,” says Andy Blason, JBH’s digital director. “They are just bite-sized pieces of information that are thought-provoking and engaging. That’s why they get shared so much.”

This is one reason that companies tend to avoid explicit branding on their infographics – the more heavily a company brands a piece of their content, the more likely the consumer is to view them as an ad in disguise. Whilst some soft branding telling the end consumer who put the infographic together is okay, the more explicit this becomes, the bigger a turnoff this is likely to be. “There’s no need to really brand them,” Hunt comments. “They can be about the content and the design can reflect that, rather than having to strip that down to be within strict brand guidelines.”

Infographics have definitely become a well-established part of the content marketing toolkit but this doesn’t mean that they have stopped evolving as a medium. There is increasing demand in the content marketing space for interactive infographics, which allows users to interact with the data in front of them. “Interactive infographics have a more enhanced level of engagement for the user, with the ability to code them and use certain scripts and web languages to make them punch even harder,” says Blason.

There are several key benefits to making infographics interactive. Not only does the ability to directly interact with the content naturally increase the user’s engagement but it allows both the maker and the sites that embed them to summarise a great deal information than they could with a still graphic. “Rather than going to lots and lots of different websites and reading reams and reams of articles, these infographics allow you to consolidate a lot of information onto one screen,” says Jackson.

Additionally, once you take infographics away from simply being a static image and toward a coded and interactive piece of content, it also has huge ramifications for social sharing. “It means that the user can share across their own social networks or across Twitter,” says Blason. “We can even apply hashtags to certain pages, which means again the content’s getting out further and further.” 

But before an enterprise goes overboard with the infographics, the JBH team are quick to stress that relying only on one kind of content will never help you cover all bases. “Mix it up so people don’t get used to you only producing certain types of content,” Blason recommends. “The more you engage and surprise the reader, the user or the listener, the more that they will buy into your brand.”

Whatever kind of content you use, it needs to be led by the purpose you are trying to fulfil. “Different types of content achieve different types of objectives: that’s really important,” Hunt comments. “It’s the objective that really needs to be considered first, not the format of the content.” She refers to a client of theirs that wanted to boost its search marketing efforts for specific keywords, which lent itself well to an interactive infographic. “The more specific you can be with the objective, the better the content and the better the outcome.” 

Credits:

  1.  Customer Magnetism – What is an infographic?

  2. Content Marketing Association – B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends

  3. Google Trends – Web Search interest: infographic 

About the Author

Josh Russell

Josh Russell

As editor, Russell is the man in charge of properly apostrophising our publication and ensuring Oxford commas are mercilessly excised. Our digital doyen, he’s also a Photoshop Pro, a dab hand with InDesign and the man to go to if you need a four-hour soliloquy about the UK's best silicon startups.

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