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Many moons ago, in April 2012, I wrote a humorous post about how not to make an infographic, where I enthusiastically chastised a selection of misguided visualisations. 

A few people chortled and applauded at the time but many others requested a more positive follow-up post featuring helpful tips on how to actually create and promote an infographic, with personal examples.

Fair enough - and since then I've been involved in a few projects that fit the bill with the most recent example being an infographic for Snowskool,  a company that specialises in ski instructor courses. 

The infographic was created as a collaboration with the talented Snowskool team and released two weeks ago on Visual.ly, Facebook, and the Snowskool blog: Myskool.

Here is said infographic (if you're a skier you'll understand):

Snowskool Ski Instructor Courses: 1982 vs 2012 Skier Infographic

Results:

Here are the results so far:

Shares & Interactions:

  • + 750 combined Facebook Likes 
  • + 100 combined Facebook Shares
  • + 50 Pinterest Pins
  • + 10,000 Stumbles

Traffic:

  • + 30,000 Visual.ly views
  • + 6,000 ‘engaged users’ on Facebook (the equivalent to ‘clicks’ within Facebook)
  • + 4,000 blog page-views

Admittedly, these figures might be well short of the coveted classification of 'viral' but they're still very, very good based on the short amount of time that’s elapsed; the limited resources; the relatively niche audience, and the size of Snowskool's existing social networks.

So, to balance the sardonic shade of my previous post, here are some of the key things that I’ve learned from this project and others - and the key questions I’ll ask in the future.

1) Research: What type of infographics have been successful before?

A good question to ask for two main reasons:

Informing design:

I find it useful to digest what’s worked before and what hasn’t when considering new content.

So, we looked at previous examples, in a similar vein, and loosely based the design of Snowskool’s infographic on a previously successful piece. And by borrowing some of the previous content’s style we created a new infographic with some tried-and-tested appeal - and saved quite a bit of thinking time and effort in the process.

I think it’s also valid to try a completely new style of visualisation but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with borrowing old ideas,  as long as there’s enough creativity in the telling to completely distinguish the new infographic from the old. This rule makes even more sense when resources are tight.

Saying something new:

A stale point is less shareable than a new one and we knew from research that a similar story had not been told before - even though some of the design ideas were borrowed. A bit of investigative groundwork helps (and helped) to keep things fresh and appealing.

2) Design: Why would anyone share or comment on this?

As the old maxim goes, ‘content is king’ and a whole project is doomed from the start if the content is... krap.

The factors that contribute to a good, shareable infographic are mysterious and subjective but I’ve found the following factors to be important - especially in this observational case.

  • Truths: massive, and kind of encompassing everything else: if someone can look at a piece of information and see an astutely (and/or humorously) observed truth or two then there’s a good chance they’ll share or comment. But i’ve always found it best to work with the experts/clients who can reveal these truths rather than naively searching for them myself. Ample truths were available in this case from the Snowskool team’s many years on the slopes.
  • Immediacy: an instantly recognisable narrative - visually and editorially - is far more appealing than one that has to be interpreted. In this case, most skiers can have a reflex-chuckle at a tight 80s ski-suit and at least a few of the other observations.
  • Distinctiveness: general infographics can drown in the chaos of similarly emerging designs and ideas. Saying (or visualising) something new or specific is far more interesting and shareable than saying something that has already been said; or similarly said. I’ve already said this point at step 1.
  • Tone: the delivery should chime with fans. The points in the example might not be to everyone’s taste but they resonate with the people who like and share. Sometimes brands can be too controlling and end up speaking in a bland mono-tongue that's understood by everyone but appeals to no-one.
  • Humour: obviously, you’re onto a winner if you make people laugh - as I think we did.

3) Promotion: Which channels can best help the promotion of this type of content?

We focused on two areas:

Social networks:

As one of my old colleagues and good friends David Preece once said: it helps to be ‘platform agnostic’ rather than taking a faddish approach that doesn’t consider the relevance of the channel to the content, and if a developed presence has been established to actually make the channel useful.

This sounds like an obvious point but it’s a point that’s often overlooked. 

With this sage thinking in mind, we (or rather Heather Hill) planned the channels to focus on, mainly focusing on the following networks for the reasons described. 

Most are obvious but I’d at usually use each one again in the future - especially the first:

  • Visual.ly: a specific online network for infographics, and probably the single most fruitful channel in terms of results and sharing - even in the absence of a developed Visua.ly Snowskool presence.
  • Facebook: suited to the promotion of entertaining content in most cases but a strong, relevant fan-base is needed for the channel to work. Over 6,000 Snowskool Fans helped in this case but sponsored posts were also helpful due to Facebook’s machiavellian changes to its ‘Edgerank’ algorithm (to make non-paid content less visible). Sponsored posts would probably have to be used again.
  • Pinterest: useful due to the relevancy of visual content to a visually-focused network combined with Snowskool’s developing Pinterest presence. Infographics are also frequently shared on the channel. Flickr was also used, for similar reasons, focusing on the site’s many specialist Infographic groups.
  • Twitter: not a hosting channel, like the above, but super for getting the infographic out there by linking to other channels and  letting individuals know about it using incremental updates over the coming weeks and months rather than a single update at the start. Again, a strong and relevant network helped.
  • Blog: all other channels link to a central blog post on Snowskool’s domain. This is useful for SEO as the the links and shares can be consolidated on one central point, even if this area isn’t the actual focal-point for many users (and it usually isn’t in my experience).

Individuals:

As part of the classic process of ‘engaging with influencers’, we also identified and contacted some prominent people who could’ve been interested in the infographic - with some success. Still I’ve found influencer engagement to be a bit of a hackneyed and overstated technique on this project and others: it’s often everyone else who will get others to notice in the first place - at least in my experience.

4) Analysis: What are the overall results like?

I’m not a fan of tunnel-visioned terms or concepts like ‘link-bait’ so I’ve not focused on one particular element like links when including the results at the start of the post.

Instead, I try and evaluate in a rounded way: any release of (good) content is going to be broadly effectual so I usually gauge success by looking at the whole picture - and I'll examine the results in this way in a few weeks' time.

5) Intuition: What’s my gut telling me?

Theory has its place but plenty of blog posts - including this one - can be riddled with hints and tips when a lot of great, shareable content just feels right - from start to finish - like this example did. I guess this is at least as important as anything else I’ve said.

So, that’s it from me, but have I missed any key points?

Michael Wilkins

Published 14 November, 2012 by Michael Wilkins

Michael Wilkins is a freelance Online Consultant and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can contact him on LinkedIn.

9 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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BRENDAN LEE

Hi,
Another article on software required to build these infographics quickly and easily would be well received!
Thanks,
Brendan

about 4 years ago

Michael Wilkins

Michael Wilkins, Freelance Digital & Content Marketing at Freelance

Good point Brendan. I've preferred to try and create from scratch but there's some decent software out there that can help a bit. Maybe something to cover in a future post.

about 4 years ago

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Linda Sherman

Thank you for a very useful article Michael. I posted this on my GooglePlus with commentary and pinged you there but just in case you don't catch it, you'll find the link in the URL from my name.

about 4 years ago

Michael Wilkins

Michael Wilkins, Freelance Digital & Content Marketing at Freelance

Super, thanks Linda, and glad to have written something that you found useful. I'll take a look today - I should start using Google+ a bit more.

about 4 years ago

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