The Definitive Guide to Writing and Promoting a Viral Infographic

When infographics rocketed onto the scene a couple of years ago, everyone was rushing to make one. Like every new SEO tactic, it was easy to score some quick wins. Yet, as with all successful marketing approaches, the market for infographics has become crowded. It takes more than just great design to have a real hit.

The emphasis is on intelligent conceptualization, strong storytelling and design, and targeted marketing. But don’t let that dissuade you. A well-placed infographic can get you a large number of great inbound links and exposure to a wide range of potential customers and readers. Here’s what you need to know to develop an infographic that stands out from the crowd.

Without a great concept, everything else is wasted effort

For infographics in particular, it’s critically important to develop and execute a great concept. Not every idea works well as an infographic. There are a few criteria to consider when deciding whether or not an infographic is the right medium for your idea:

  • Is the concept visual? Does it have a visual slant or a systems dynamic that can be conveyed in a visual way?
  • Is the concept data-driven? Can a series of ideas and facts be used to tell an effective story?
  • Is the topic focused enough for a single infographic? Have you chosen a topic that can be told in one image series or on a single page?

Once you’ve determined that your topic will work as an infographic, it’s important to consider timeliness and competition. Some aspects to think through include:

  • Is this topic trending right now? Are there discussions on social media that would make this interesting? (A quick look at Google Trends or Twitter Search can help answer that question).
  • If you Google your keywords + the word “infographic”, are there a lot of other infographics on the topic? If so, is your concept unique enough to stand out? Another place to look for related infographics is Visual.ly.
  • Do we have enough original data or access to public information to create an interesting narrative?

If you’ve determined that your topic is timely, original, and possible to properly source, it’s time to start the outlining process. Developing a solid outline for your infographic will save you a ton of time in both research and design. In the next section, we’ll talk about design, but for now, let’s take a closer look at further developing your concept.

Titles

As you get started, come up with a compelling title for your infographic. A good title does three things. First, it grabs people’s attention. Second, it conveys the core concept of the infographic. Finally, it includes your priority keywords for optimization purposes.

Find your narrative thread

Most infographics are based on a simple concept. For example, an infographic could show the evolution of mobile tablet use over time. But it’s important to consider “what’s the story I’m actually telling here?” What do you want people to walk away with? Why does this matter? By answering these questions, it’s possible to really focus your efforts. In the case of tablets, you could look at the evolution of the iPad, detail the story of competition in the industry, or look how people have used tablets over time.

Outline your key points

Once you know what you want to say, break it down into individual pieces. For example, exploring the history of the tablet might start with facts about prototypes of the tablet, the year the first tablet hit the market, when it exploded in popularity and so forth. Review each piece to make sure that it’s absolutely essential, and reinforces the overall message of the piece. Cut anything that’s extraneous.

Gather your data

Since so much of the focus of infographics is on data, map your facts to each of the key points. If you’ve got primary data, break it into sections linked with your major takeaways from the previous section. Fill out your available information with data from reputable secondary sources. Some options include Forrester, Gallup, Nielsen, and Google Public Data. Industry groups and associations are also a great source of specific information in your field.

Choose your positioning

The way that you want to tell your story is going to determine the framing you give your infographic. For example, many infographics explore “how to’s” or “facts you didn’t know about X.” Others take a humorous approach, break down a big idea or system into its parts, compare two things, or look at trends overtime. Many subjects can be treated from the same angle, but given a slightly different spin depending on which approach you go for. Take a look at infographics in other fields to see which style you find most compelling.

Transform your concept into an effective design

With all the planning that goes into conceptualizing a great infographic, it’s important to remember that they’re primarily a visual medium. There’s some copy and facts that are featured, but these are more like the scaffolding that the design is hung on. There’s a number of different ways to develop an infographic, from using an online generator or DIY software to partnering with an experienced designer. I’m going to trust your ability to figure out the “how,” and instead focus on some points that are important for you to keep in mind. The end result will be a design that tells your story effectively.

Decide what visual approach you want to take

In the same way that you selected a “category” of infographic, it’s important to decide the overall design style that you want to take. If your story is geographic-based, is a map the right central element? Instead, you might choose to take a more structured approach with graphs and charts, or a more abstract one based on illustration. Ensure that the format you choose serves the story that you’re trying to tell and that the tone matches the message or branding.

What’s your visual hook?

Jayson DeMers
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.
Jayson DeMers

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One thought on “The Definitive Guide to Writing and Promoting a Viral Infographic

  1. Great article, Jayson. Nice in-depth look at how much work actually goes into developing an infographic from start to finish. I was wondering if you have any thoughts on optimizing infographics for mobile. It seems like there are a lot of discussions on basic desktop to mobile design, but not much on image-based site design to mobile.