The Visual Appeal of Infographics
Travel 10 years back in time and you’ll find that most people don’t know about infographics. Fast forward to now and you’ll find the exact opposite. According to Jeff Bullas, one of the foremost social media strategists, since 2010 searches for infographics has increased by 800 percent.
People are clearly seeking out infographics as a preferred way to digest information, making infographics a powerhouse medium for telling data stories. Their appeal is based on human physiology; we are visually wired. E.N. Merieb and K. Hoehn point out in their book, “Human Anatomy & Physiology, 7th Edition,” that nearly 50 percent of the human brain is involved in visual processing, and 70 percent of all sensory receptors are in our eyes. With only 8 percent of our brain engaged in processing touch and 3 percent for hearing, there is no doubt as to why content marketers have been pairing visuals with almost all textual content.
Our vision works to do more than simply read the visuals we see. Working in tandem with the brain, humans have the ability to understand, almost instantaneously, what we see. Think about how ubiquitous visual road signs have become. This falling rock sign is interpreted and understood far quicker than a text sign reading, Falling Rock Zone.
Just to make sure we’re on the same visual page, whatis.com defines an infographic as a representation of information in a graphic format to increase understandability at a glance. A combination of the words, information, graphics, infographics combined with text, images, and design to simplify the presentation of complex data. Using an infographic, content marketers can more easily communicate stats, patterns, relationships, steps, and more. For those looking for a high-level view of information, infographics are not only extremely useful, but visually appealing as well.
Infographics have actually been around for a very long time. Primarily used to educate, infographics can show a piece of history, display trends in an industry, show a comparison, or explain a demographic. What’s new is the term and its place in content marketing. According to whatis.com’s definition, cave drawings documenting buffalo hunts, maps, illustrated directions for putting together a piece of furniture, and charts are all forms of infographics.
Eighty percent of marketers use visual assets in their content marketing because of their demonstrated ability to positively impact reach, engagement, and sales. Images paired with text bring messages to life in a way that captures both the eye and mind.
New York-based visual communication company, Infographic World, surveyed 100 businesses and 1,100 consumers in 2017 to gather information on infographic use. They found that 56 percent of the 100 participating businesses use infographics and 84 percent of those using infographics consider them to be effective. Infographic World CEO, Justin Beegel believes, “We live in an overstimulated world, we are visual creatures that still want to know, learn, be entertained, and be convinced.”
- The shortening of attention spans: Time Magazine’s article, “You Now Have A Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish,” cites that because of our digitalized lifestyle, people generally lose concentration after eight seconds, a decrease of four seconds since 2000. Goldfish have a nine-second attention span.
- Information is broken up into bite-sized pieces: Often called chunking, breaking up longer strings of information into units or chunks is easier to commit to memory. Infographics are easier to digest than long-form content.
- They include the images that today’s social media-hungry audiences crave: Images gain greater engagement from viewers because they grab attention, aid learning, and inspire an emotional response. Visuals are known to improve learning and retention by a whopping 400 percent.
- Infographics go viral: Because infographics are attractive and informative, their capacity to go viral is higher than ordinary content. If your infographic shows results of research or contains insightful data, send it out into the social universe with an optimized press release to further your reach. The press release can tell the story behind the infographic, such as summarizing what was learned from the research.
- They increase Search Engine Optimization (SEO): An infographic embedded in your website will increase SEO as people begin to share and link to it. These links will increase the importance search engines place on your site.
- They expand your social media reach to Pinterest and Tumblr: Technical or business information is rarely represented well on visual networks like Pinterest and Tumblr. Infographics are an effective means of expanding your reach to visual networks.
- They conveniently produce embeddable code for sharing: When designing and publishing an infographic, an embedded code is generated for publishing it to a website or WordPress blog. This allows others to share by republishing your infographic using the embedded code which creates an automatic link from their site to yours.
- Infographics exhibit your expertise on a topic of importance to your business: The research you conducted to create your infographic displays not only those results, but your knowledge of the subject area. They prove you to be the expert and that can generate leads and sales.
- They attract public relations: Journalists probably won’t embed your infographic, but they’ll incorporate the data into their own article, citing you as the source.
- The facts contained in an infographic can be broken down for social sharing: Repurpose and drive engagement further by sharing one fact or stat at a time across your social networks.
- They are easy to track in analytics: Infographics are one form of content you can monitor to determine its effectiveness. You’ll be able to gain insights into what type of content and information for which your readers are looking.
Too many content marketers turn to infographics as a way to simply diversify their content offerings. This format-first approach pushes data and story to the background. Great infographics employ a story-first approach. The best time to choose creating an infographic is when you have a data-driven story.
This is because data has a bad rap. It’s thought of as boring, long-winded, and difficult to digest. This type of data-driven story can best be communicated as an infographic where you can present the data in a visual way that will bring the story to life.
Infographics are one element of content marketing that you should not create from a template. If your infographic has the same look as the thousands of others that readers have encountered, it will be overlooked. Likewise, websites will not share it. An effective infographic must be:
- Unique—Make your graphics relevant to the data in a colorful, meaningful, and entertaining way. Give an illustrator a job. Create attention-worthy illustrations and charts that push creative boundaries. Make your infographic inspiring.
- Simple—The whole point of the infographic is to simplify data for the reader. Keep your graphics clean with only as much going on as is necessary.
- High Impact—Your concept and graphics need to pack a punch that says, “You cannot ignore me.”
- Minimal Text—Readers should understand your content at a glance. Add too much text and it will no longer be digestible.
- Easily Sharable—Your infographic needs to contain a social sharing widget that allows readers to share your brilliance with a click of their mouse. You can also provide the html code so other websites can display the infographic, linking it back to your site.
LinkedIn uses a food metaphor as the theme to talk about best-practices in blogging. What they created is a great resource that’s beautiful to look at.
The Almighty Dollar’s use of traditional shading to display higher densities in a simple semi-circle surrounded by lots of white space makes this infographic easy to understand and easy on the eyes.
Hip Hop Artists’ Unique Words Used is a fascinating study of the number of unique words used by rappers, as compared to Shakespeare and the book, “Moby Dick.” Simple graphics and conservative use of color help place these faces on the map.
The Bright Future of Car Sharing Infographic is interactive. Readers have the choice of clicking on buttons to learn more.
In “The Sage Handbook of Political Communication_,_” the author asserts that people can assess a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second. Those who are not taking advantage of the power of infographics could be missing out on a seriously effective means of communication. With the continued importance of visual content across almost all major social networks including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter, now may be the right time to delve into your data to give Infographics a try.