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Information graphics or infographics for short are hot to trot online for a number of reasons. Firstly, they illicit the ‘wow factor’ response, (especially if they are vector based and well designed), and secondly and perhaps most importantly they tell us something in an intuitive, and easy to process way.
The very nature of the format, also makes them easy to share on blogs, wiki’s, social networks and tumblelogs, without the associated hangups of traditional content duplication and syndication. You can expect a well thought out, unique infographic to appear all over the web, often with the magical attribution link back to your site.
Things to consider
In 9 out of 10 cases where I’ve seen this work before as a marketing strategy, the data you choose to showcase should apply as closely to your niche as possible.
In simple terms, if your site concentrates on say Facebook or social media, base the information you illustrate be something related to Facebook or social media.. common sense, as any links that you obtain are more likely to be from other websites closely relating to your own, and its widely recognised that relevant links win over any old link because they help to defuse the old Google bombs.
As infographics are often positioned to be shared offsite, its also imperative that you take the steps to improve your brand exposure directly in the graphic itself. Web addresses, logos and sometimes the graphic creator need to be included to help people recognise the originator. This help increase the chances that you’ll get the credit when your graphic gets shared. Making things bigger than the average bloggers viewport, also forces the link to some degree, as it means a simple copy paste is out of the question. To truly get the impact from the piece, they are going to have to link. Giving the link code for both Vbulletin forums, and HTML may also help to encourage linking from the less technically savvy.
So what works?
If you can move quickly, and ride a meme, that is awesome sauce. The web moves at hyperspeed though, so we are talking about dropping tools and getting a graphic created in as short a time as possible, and unlike creating blog content, that’s not going to be easy.You may have to sacrifice quality, or depth in the graphic for it to remain timely.
If you can predict an event, or meme that is going to be hot, prior to it happening – for example, something like the World Cup, then that is going to get you well ahead of the game. Smart marketers were creating their World Cup content 6 months prior to the event, and you can apply this thinking to your own marketing. I’m guessing you all seen this. Yes. Interactivity + Infographic + Meme = mega traffic. This one piece of content received 19,000 retweets, 218,000 Facebook likes and 15,000 links. Say no more.
If you decide to create something more timeless, then you can afford to take the time to polish the graphic in question, so find yourself a decent graphic designer with particular skillz in visualising concepts. A good brief also does wonders for your results as well, although generally speaking its your responsibility to think about what would suit your audience, and what data they would find interesting.
Collecting data sources
As I’ve been thinking about this article, I’ve started to naturally collect little morsals of data in my bookmarks, that could easily be turned into future pieces of linkbait, or an infographic. You’ll often come across these in more mainstream newspaper publications as journalists receive press releases from people quoting facts and figures all the time.
I’d encourage you to become a magpie for these sorts of sites and information as you find them, as not only will it help you to come up with an infographic idea, but it will also help in your blog writing too. Quoting good data is a great way to build your authority online AND become a resource that people return to.
Don’t forget that your own data is also invaluable, and if you collect sales data, customer information or anything on your own site, often this makes a good data set because its unique to your business, relevant to your niche, and interesting to your customers.
Direct marketing statistics
Google’s internet stats.
Google compile industry facts and figures from a wide variety of third party sources. The topics cover lots of different industries, and look at micro and macro economics, technology, media trends, consumer behaviour and media consumption over time. The sources that Google quote are often great places to look in their own right.
I’ve noticed Wolfram Alpha used in a couple of instances creatively for linkbait and infographic purposes. Suppose you want to see the nutritional difference of two products. Or compare multiple websites in the same niche. Wolfram provides the sort of data needed to do all that. MakeUseOf have a nice little post to get your brain ticking over on what to try on it.
Traffic & Usage
Google Adplanner – this list of the web’s top 100 is begging to be infographic’d. If again, you want to analyse some other sites which are running adsense, plain old Adplanner on its own gives you some nice data. Alexa, Compete, Comscore (incidently Comscore press releases are a must subscribe, as they often contain gems of info), and any of the websites found here are great for monitoring competitors traffic. For mobile metrics Taptu’s mobile touch reports provide valuable insight.
Mercer produce a quality of living, and cost of living report every year, which is pretty interesting stuff for both environmental bloggers, and those involve in real estate. You might have missed the boat this year, but an infographic depicting the areas which have the highest quality or cost of living in a particular area would be interesting, and easier to consume, than a long text based report.
Business Insider have their own regular infographic in their “chart of the day” series. Problem is though, that they suffer from the quality problems in the implementation I mentioned earlier. They do however provide inspiration on what data works and what doesn’t – and its a trivial matter to plug their URL’s into tweetmeme or other social measurement tool to find the details. Standards and Poor’s additional financial information and indices to find top companies that might be worth examining in an infographic.
Interested in the decline of the newspaper Industry, the failings of paywalls, and other data that turns Rupert into a quivering mess? Course you are. Newspaper online metrics measures the traffic to it’s member sites. Hitwise also make regular reports on the same topic. Again, a press release you should be subscribed to. Akamai provide really interesting data on news consumption across the web in real time. The Guardian release all of their reporting data for free.
Nielson provide tons of information on consumer behaviour trends, and marketing insight, and are often used as official sources on research. Google for example often quote Nielson in their statistics quotes mentioned earlier.
Obviously, all of these are just a small snapshot of data that could be used to provide the data backbone behind an infographic piece, but hopefully you get the idea. If you see good data references, hold onto them for a rainy day, as you never know when they might be useful.
Probably the best tool for creating an infographic is a graphic designer, and one that has good vector illustration skills. Some of the best infographics I’ve seen have been the result of creative thinking, combined with great graphic design. However, there are a number of sites that may be of use alongside those skills to quickly create the basis of what you want to achieve, which can later be brought into something like Photoshop and perfected.
IBM Many eyes lets you upload a dataset, or use an existing dataset and then create a variety of graphs from that info. They currently support word trees and clouds, histographs and charts, bubblecharts and more. Primitive in the results you get, but may also give a bit of inspiration for how to showcase the data you have. Some of the more interesting visualisations showcased also animate.
Gephi – Gephi is an interactive visualization and exploration platform for all kinds of networks and complex systems, dynamic and hierarchical graphs.
Free mind – for mind mapping, this open source tool is second to none. It is suitable for some parts of infographics.
Antaeus – free for non commercial use, uses the basis of scatter graphs for creation of matrix’s.
Juice Kit – JuiceKit is a Software Development Kit (SDK) for building Information Experience applications, available as an Open Source application from t’Githubs.
GGobi – GGobi is an open source visualization program for exploring high-dimensional data. It provides highly dynamic and interactive graphics such as tours, as well as familiar graphics such as the scatterplot, barchart and parallel coordinates plots.
Visalix – Visalix is a visual interface designed to facilitate man-machine cooperation on complex data analysis tasks.
Tableau – Awesome sauce, and free!
ProtoVis – from Stanford University, this tool is completely free and offers custom views of data and visualisations.
Hohli – allows you to create charts on the fly, in the browser and all of them are embeddable. Love a good Venn diagram now and then.
ReadWriteWeb also have a great collection of visualisation tools, as do WebDesignerDepot. Alot of these are pre-built tools though, and are really only useful for inspiration purposes.
Some of these SEO Infographics are particularly impressive, and all created this year show how popular this is becoming as a tool in the marketers toolkit.
Flowtown’s 2010 Social Networking Map.
Value of SEO verses PPC
Reddit verse Digg
How Infographics Pwned Digg.
Secrets of Social Media Conversion
Landing Page Rehab
Infographics are clearly here to stay. Hopefully the combination of the tools here, and some of the examples will inspire you to create your own – feel free to drop a comment if you’ve come across any that you feel are particularly interesting.