Love ‘em or Leave ‘em: A Case for (and Against) Infographics

infographic-designAre infographics a marketer’s dream? Or an overblown novelty?

It’s nearly impossible to navigate the net these days without running across an infographic of some kind.

Most of you reading this don’t need an introduction to infographics. They’re pervasive throughout every industry in the online world and are a particular friend to inbound marketers. Data compiled by Search Engine Journal (delivered via infographic, thank you very much) shows that infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than pure text information.

And while their value was once unquestionable, some experts say they’ve gotten too big for their britches—that they’ve evolved from a treasured resource into marketing fluff.

There’s a case for both sides of the argument. Let’s take a look at the positives (and pitfalls) of infographic use.

The rise of infographics

The popularity of infographics is understandable enough. What better way to disseminate information than visuals packed with eye-catching imagery, statistics, and insights? There are a few big advantages to infographics over other types of content, including:

  • Infographics are viralHigh quality infographics are shared three times as much as other documents on social sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Infographics are accessible—By combining images, print, and hard data, infographics appeal to a wide variety of learning styles and can effectively engage with a diverse audience.
  • Infographics are efficient—Aside from how effective they are at distributing information, many brands can repurpose data from blogs and white papers and create an entirely new piece of content without paying for painstaking research.

But infographics aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Unfortunately, their desirable features have turned them into a method of marketing link bait and click bait—two things that quality marketers must avoid at all costs.

The dark side of infographics

Infographics might be able to deliver serious value, but their popularity has created some problems. After all, it’s not enough to simply throw together an infographic and call it a day; the process has to be approached with clarity of purpose and concrete supporting data. Common pitfalls plaguing brands that jump on the infographic bandwagon include:

  • Misrepresenting data: Not every statistic needs to be represented in an infographic. Infographics, as the name implies, work best when displaying statistical data sets that are easier to understand in a visual format. However, the viral and appealing nature of infographics leads some brands to create them without a good reason.

Bottom line? Before asking if you can, always first ask if you should.

  • Decreasing your credibility: Infographics are great at building authority in a field, as long as the data is real and relevant. However, many brands assume that any infographic is a good infographic and stuff them full of disparate links and sources that lack any kind of cohesion. Or worse yet—they rush to engineer the first big infographic of a hot new topic, only to fail to verify the data. These are known as link bait: images designed not to educate but to gather as many backlinks as possible.

Remember, infographics are designed to educate and demonstrate authority—and slapping a Frankenstein’s monster of data together won’t build your credibility.

  • Obfuscating sources: Although a quality infographic cites its data sources, they can create confusion when trying to trace a statistic back to its origin, particularly when multiple sites link to each other and add to the mess.

Infographics are ideal ways to gather information about a topic from widespread corners of the internet, but they’re really just data aggregated from other locations. Be cautious that you only link back to trusted sources.

The State of Infographics

So, with the pros and cons assessed, where do infographics stand in today’s marketing landscape?

Despite the pitfalls and the backlash that they’ve received, we don’t think that infographics are dead just yet. Any marketing tool can be ineffective when handled by those who don’t know better, but we think infographics are still a powerful way to get your message out there.

When building your infographics, keep these tips in mind to avoid falling victim to the above mistakes:

  • Have a goal in mind to direct infographic creation. A clear purpose will help your infographic stay consistent and relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Double check your data and statistics to ensure what you’re saying is accurate, lest you lose credibility in the eyes of your audience.
  • Use the visual elements of your infographic to your advantage. Work with a professional to come up with the right blend of imagery and text; well-crafted infographics feature valuable data brought to life by striking visuals.

Infographics work; there’s no getting around it. But, it’s up to you as the business owner to use them responsibly. Get focused on crafting them carefully and you might be surprised at the value that they can bring to your inbound marketing strategy.

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