A Quick Guide to Creating Compelling Infographics

Infographics are a red hot content marketing commodity. This guide to creating infographics will show you — from start to finish — what you need to create data visualizations that capture your customers’ attention.

A Quick Guide to Creating Compelling Infographics
It’s not difficult to figure out why B2B content marketers have fallen in love with creating infographics and data visualizations.
Not only are they an incredibly effective means for distilling complex information into an easily digestible visual format, they’re also highly engaging attention-grabbers that have been shown to drive higher social sharing, customer engagement, and prospect conversion.

So, just how popular are data visualizations among B2B content marketers today?
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Consider this statistic from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ 2013 B2B content marketing budget, benchmarks, and trends report: 38% of B2B marketers are now using infographics as part of their content marketing strategy. By contrast, when the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs published the same report in 2012, infographics weren’t even listed among the top 20 tactics being used by B2B content marketers.
That’s a pretty precipitous rise in just a year, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see that number jump significantly next year, as well.
If you haven’t joined the infographic party yet or you’re not sure how to go about creating a good one, this guide should help. It highlights the questions, resources, and talent you need to consider before getting started, and outlines three simple steps to composing data visualizations that educate and empower your customers.

Are Infographics Right for Your Business?

This infographic by GetResponse combines otherwise dry statistics with attention-grabbing visuals:

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Given the many benefits of infographics and their general appeal to B2B buyers, there’s no reason your business shouldn’t be creating data visualizations, right?
That may be true, but before you jump on the infographics bandwagon, it’s critical to consider whether making that move is actually wise for your business. You can do that by asking three important questions:

  • Do you have infographic-worthy data? Creating an infographic isn’t as simple as compiling a few statistics, drawing some pretty charts, and calling it a day. One of the key components of an infographic is compelling data. If nobody cares about the content within your infographic, no amount of savvy graphic design can save you. 
  • What topics will your infographics cover? If you’re targeting a very generic audience and your infographic content will simply glaze over a simplistic subject, this content format might not do you much good. If, on the other hand, you need to tackle confusing, data-driven issues that can be best explained through visual representation, by all means jump on the infographic bandwagon.
  • Do you have a clear call to action in mind? As the Content Marketing Institute’s Ahava Leibtag writes in this post, it’s all well and good to produce a beautifully designed, data-rich infographic. But if the infographic doesn’t encourage readers to do something, what’s the point? A call to action is critical to further customer engagement and conversion.

Getting Started

If none of those questions gave you pause, then the next step is to consider the technology and talent that you’ll need to create an infographic.
While some data visualizations can be created in-house, you may want to consider hiring a freelance graphic designer if you lack that talent internally. Similarly, you’ll need someone to collect, analyze, and organize all of the data that you plan to include in your infographic.
Generally, an analyst, developer, or tech-savvy marketer can do that, but it’s important to identify that person before you start creating an infographic. If you lack that talent, it might help to hire an agency that has experience taking infographics from inception to distribution.
As for tools, here are four free resources you might consider using:

  1. Piktochart: Billed as an infographics and presentation tool for non-designers, this software gives you access to themes, interactive charts, and customization tools.
  2.  Visual.ly: This service’s free data visualization tools can help you create infographics from a handful of themes in a matter of seconds.
  3. Infogr.am: With more than 30 chart types, this free tool allows you to edit data, customize images, and instantly download and share your infographic.
  4. Easle.ly: Still in its public beta, this site boasts thousands of what it calls “vhemes” (short for visual themes) that can be used to create your own infographic.

Outside of free tools for actually creating your data visualizations, SEOMoz’s Miranda Rensch writes in this post that it might be helpful to explore resources like OmniGraffle and Balsamiq, which allow you to diagram and wireframe infographic mockups before you launch fully into design mode.

Creating Compelling (and Honest) Infographics

While the infographics craze has made tools and technology like the ones listed above easier to find and use, it’s also led some companies to take advantage of their buyers’ trust.
In fact, some infographics being published today are downright dishonest, says Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez, the information design director for JESS3, a highly respected creative agency that specializes in data visualization. Those graphics twist data or create it out of thin air to best serve their corporate message. That practice has gotten so bad, in fact, that The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle has declared virtual war on what she calls the “infographic plague.”
You do not want to be a part of that war.

General Electric supports this infographic’s accuracy with cited sources:

By committing to these three simple infographic principles, Farrant-Gonzalez says you’ll ensure that your graphics achieve the end goal of data visualization: to empower and educate prospective customers with real, helpful data that sparks meaningful conversation.

Step 1: Let the Data (Not Fancy Illustrations) Tell Your Story

The modern consumer — whether they’re buying a smartphone or software — is data hungry. They like to know how a specific product or service is going to help them. One great way to convey that message is to provide data that speaks to their interests, needs, or pain points, painting a quantitative picture that empowers their purchasing decisions.
So, let your data tell the story. Rather than trying to manufacture data that forms to the story you wish you could tell, start by looking at the data you do have, and then pinpoint potential narratives that might result from it — there’s almost always one jaw-dropping stat that will catch your audience’s attention. Design is important, but your goal should be to do data justice by complimenting it with equally strong design.

Step 2: Designate (Or Hire) a Team to Handle Data Visualization Projects

Great infographics require several steps — data gathering and interpretation, design, distribution, etc. — that are often best performed by people with specific skillsets.
As a result, creating an infographic — or any other form of data visualization, for that matter — is not a one-person job. At Jess3, Farrant-Gonzalez says the firm has three specific teams to handle all of its projects: Strategy, Design, and Public Relations. Granted, most startup and growth-stage technology companies can’t afford to hire someone to manage each role, but that doesn’t they can’t organize a team of current employees to handle infographic creation.
Doing that will not only spread out the work and create quality control, it will also encourage better storytelling from the data you are able to collect.

Step 3: Leverage Social Media as Your Primary Delivery Mechanism

Because of the viral nature of some infographics, social media can be an incredibly effective way to distribute and share the graphics you produce. That’s especially true for smaller companies that might not have the team or resources to execute a widespread marketing strategy, or haven’t yet developed relationships with key industry websites or publications that might republish their content.
As a general rule of thumb, Twitter seems to be the most effective social network for publicizing infographics because of its immediacy and sharability, but Visual.ly, an online community specifically designed for sharing infographics and data visualizations, is also extremely well-targeted. You should also consider posting infographics to your company blog, LinkedIn account, Pinterest page, and SlideShare, along with any other market specific networks or forums.

Examples of Compelling Infographics

Kissmetrics infographics         Wired infographic        Monetate infographic
KISSmetrics                                 Wired                                              Monetate
How Colors Affect                     Who’s Sharing What?              Marketer’s Guide to
Conversions                                                                                            Actionable Data

Additional Resources

15-Minute Crash Course on Infographics for Content Marketers by Content Marketing Institute
Infographics: What the Pretty Pictures Aren’t Telling You by Precision Thinking
Infographics: Oh, the Possibilities by Eloqua
Have you incorporated infographics into your content marketing? What results are you seeing?

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Photo by: Dennis Wilkinson

Jonathan Crowe
Jonathan Crowe
Senior Content Manager

Jonathan Crowe is Senior Content Manager at Barkly. He was previously the Managing Editor of OpenView Labs.
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