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Jan 18, 2013

Five Steps to Infographic Heaven

Data visualisation is now one of the most popular ways of presenting complex information and with good reason. Infographics, and other forms of visualisation, allow people to digest information without having to wade through pages and pages of text.

But not every infographic is a good one; the web is chock full of visualisations which have failed to capture interest, representing a huge amount of wasted time and money. Here are five steps you must take to help ensure your infographic doesn't end up on the scrap heap.


Five Steps to Infographic Heaven

1 – Your data must be interesting and reliable

The interesting part should go without saying, and if you're an expert within a particular niche you'll have a good understanding of just what will appeal to others working in the sector. However, you need to balance your desire to excite with the need for accuracy. The web is full of misleading or incorrect statistics, scooping these up and putting them in an infographic means it is more likely to be ignored. Stick to reputable, primary sources and, if possible, try and cross-reference your facts. Wikipedia is fine as a starting point, but don't take everything on there as gospel. If you can't provide a trustworthy citation, it shouldn't go in. If you've got access to original data, that's even better.

2 – Don't expect it to go viral just because it's good

It's true that people do share good infographics, but sometimes that's not enough. Obviously if you have a million Facebook fans and a million Twitter followers, you're not going to need any help distributing your content, but most people will. Towards the start of the project, identify people who are influential in the area your infographic will cover and get in touch with them to see what kind of things they'd like to see in your visualisation. Include as many of these ideas as you possibly can and then when it's finished, get in touch with the same people to show them your handy work. These influencers will not only be expecting your infographic to land in their inboxes, they'll also be more motivated to share it because made some input to it. The end result will be far more shares than if you just go at it alone.

3 – Avoid making a glorified advert

For many companies, the dream infographic is one that gets thousands of shares and is plastered with all kinds of branding. In the real world these two things are usually mutually exclusive. Put yourself in the shoes of a blogger – what motivation do they have to share what is essentially an advert for your company? They might be interested in the data you have visualised, but they are unlikely to want to help you make a sale. They want to provide their readers with interesting content, not sales pitches. 

You need to be realistic about the level of branding you can get away with on an infographic. Make it subtle and certainly don't include anything approaching a hard sell. This will get you more shares, more links and all the benefits those two things bring.

4 – Words still matter

Don't fall into the trap of thinking words don't matter when it comes to infographics – they're a crucial part of the mix. Clearly you're not going to have long passages of text, but this makes it even more important that you get things absolutely spot on. As with any kind of short form copy there's no room for waste. Every single word should serve a purpose. There's also no room for sloppiness. Even something as simple as a misplaced apostrophe will stand out like a sore thumb, damaging the overall credibility of your infographic. "If they got something that simple wrong," a reader will think to himself, "I wonder how reliable their information is." Accuracy is vital.

5 – Be prepared to back up your infographic with unique content

If someone turns round to you and says "hey, love the infographic but can you provide some unique content to run alongside it?" and you can't reply "yes" pretty quickly, the chances are you're going to miss out on a potential link. Make sure your in-house writers are ready to respond to such requests as and when they happen. 

Alternatively, stockpile some unique content before you start distributing the infographic and then you'll have it ready to send if required. You might also want to save some juicy stats for a unique guest post if a particularly strong website has demonstrated an interest in the infographic, that way they get even more value out of your good work and you will get even more shares.

Written by Will Stevens a journalist and member of the Webfusion Infographics and blog team. Image source 

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