Infographics are enjoying an astonishing resurgence as a content marketing tool. They have a history that goes back far longer than any other means of communicating information, and their modern expressions are now ubiquitous across websites and social media feeds of different organisations, across all sectors. We explain the reason for this resurgence, and why you should be producing them too.
The year is 1732 and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is chewing at his quill. He’s pondering how he might promote his fledgling printing business. He decides that a clever way might be to produce a complementary, annual leaflet entitled ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack’ showcasing the company’s capability and range of services. It is hotly disputed, but many believe that ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack’ marked the birth of content marketing as we have come to understand it.
Scientist, inventor, author, printer, Founding Father of the United States of America and the creator of content marketing. Benjamin Franklin is not a man to read about if you’re worrying you might be an underachiever.
Whether he was the first, or just one of the first, the concept of content marketing spread like wildfire, and following Franklin’s success, other organisations followed suit. A landmark was reached some 172 years later, when in 1904 the Jell-O company gambled on distributing free copies of their ‘Jell-O Recipe Book’. The gamble paid off. By 1906 an extra $1m in sales had been recorded. Not small potatoes, and this was over a century ago.
The argument as to whether content marketing was worth the effort was put to bed in 2012 when American chocolatiers Kraft made the bold move to focus their entire marketing department around content. They were to later reveal that this shift in activity led to a four-fold increase in marketing ROI over what the company had achieved previously with targeted advertising.
In recent years, the most effective type of content, is a topic that has fuelled passionate debate. The bloggers versus the e-mailers. The web copy loyalists versus the video enthusiasts. Battle lines were drawn, and harsh words traded. Amidst the discord, another form of content was quietly rising to prominence; the infographic.
How and why the infographic came to power
If we’re being super pedantic, we could claim the infographic is quite old, like about 32,000 years old. Cave markings from 30,000 BC could easily merit the name, depicting animals and resources to be foraged in surrounding areas. As visual representations of data, they most definitely fall into the category of ‘infographics’.
Putting pedantry to one side, how and why the infographic became such a prize weapon in the content marketeer’s arsenal is the focus here.
It’s a human thing
To begin understanding how the infographic has come to enjoy such prevalent success, we need to look at how human beings process and retain information. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Then you consider that images are processed 60,000x faster by the grey matter than ordinary text. Right from the get-go, that spongy mass in your skull is responding better to pictures than words. This is all before we get into what we actually remember. The generally accepted figure of 20% is attributed to information we remember having read. This figure jumps to anywhere between 30-40% when it is presented as a visual. If you want your customers to recollect key messages, the infographic stands as a compelling accompaniment to anything purely written.
Then there’s human behaviour to factor in. It’s not that people don’t read blogs and whitepapers and the such, it’s just that they’re 30x more likely to engage with an infographic. People, it seems, regardless of age or intellect, just prefer looking at colours and pictures.
Results, results, results
How all this translates to results on a spreadsheet can be demonstrated with any number of examples. Take, for example, Customer Engagement Automation Platform providers, Kissmetrics. Between 2010 and 2012, a campaign of infographic based content resulted in over 2,500,000 site visitors. They also received over 40,000 retweets, a similar number of backlinks, and over 20,000 likes on Facebook.
More broadly, research has shown that publishers who feature infographics grow traffic to their website 12% faster than those that don’t. 45% more web users will click on a link if it features an infographic. Also, people following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than those who follow information with no illustrations at all.
The effect of social media has also been profound on the uptake of, and reliance on infographics. They are liked and shared on the various platforms 3x more than any other form of content. Infographics, you see, have great potential to go ‘viral’. And because they can be designed to be fully branded with your company logo and colourway, this means a lot of people seeing your brand in dazzling, memorable technicolour.
Time to get visual
The point of this piece has been to show that if you’re not firing infographics into the digital stratosphere, then you need to be. If for no other reason than your competitors almost certainly are doing already. Indeed, infographics were the B2B content marketing tactic with the biggest increase in use from 2015-2016, up from 50% to 58%. In just the last year, demand for them has increased by a staggering 800%.
To be succinct, organisations are getting trigger happy with their infographics. And it’s paying off.
Building the perfect infographic
Certain content types can be attempted by the DIYer with some success. Blogs and case studies, for example, can be created competently enough by most business people without the budget to outsource content marketing. Infographics do not fall into this category. Unless you have access to a graphic design tool you are confident using, and have the time to build one, they are very much best left to the professionals.
Having said that, there are certain things to look out for when receiving an infographic from a provider to ensure it has maximum impact.
Logo and contact info – Shared across social media, your infographic is likely to be seen by a lot of people. If the information contained within resonates with a user, they’re going to want to see who’s behind it. Make sure your company logo is clearly visible along with details such as website and email address.
Colourways – It’s not always appropriate to have an infographic displayed in the company colours, but often it is. Colours are an important part of any brand. Think of it this way; what company comes to mind with the colours red and yellow? Admit it, you thought of McDonald’s first. Ideally, you want to get to a position where people think of your company by just seeing a combination of colours. Infographics are a great way of making that happen. Make sure you provide your content partners with colourway pantones, so your infographics can be built using your colourway where appropriate.
Volume of text – Sometimes it’s necessary to have a reasonable amount of text on an infographic, but this shouldn’t be the rule. The whole point of an infographic is that key information is communicated quickly and memorably. If a lot of text is required, maybe the subject is more befitting of a blog than an infographic.
Images – Images can be powerful, so use them. Just be sure any you use have been properly sourced. Websites such as pixabay.com provide a library of free images.
Less is more – A cliché that is most apt for infographics. There is sometimes the temptation amongst creatives to pack in more detail than is necessary. A good infographic should convey the information contained in under a minute. Clogging it with pointless icons, text, images, and background features can distract the user and slow this process down.