In a world where people are too busy to eat lunch, an image is exactly what we need to get the latest information in as little time as possible. That’s why memes spread like a disease and online videos have enjoyed such a meteoric rise.
And of course, the more people view it, the more they’ll share it with their friends and the bigger the impact it will have on your goals.
But memes only translate small, simple ideas, and videos can’t be viewed in a glance. What if you want to present lots of data, and you want your audience to comprehend it immediately?
Try an infographic.
I was involved in an infographic project a short time ago that went on to exceed the company’s goals by 300 percent. Among other popular niche outlets, it was published in Mashable, and the post had about 2,000 shares.
How can you replicate my success? Read on for my 21 tips on creating an infographic with the potential to go viral.
Preparation tips (pre-production)
Understand that the infographic development process — from research to promotion — is like a chemical reaction: If one step fails, everything after it will, too. This is why you need to map out your strategic plan to guide yourself through to the end of the process.
1. I like to begin with three simple tools: a process diagram, a timeline chart and a promotional plan.
The promotional plan isn’t much at this point. It’s a standard set of questions I like to have ready for when I’m thinking about potential venues for the infographic. Things like “Who is the audience?” and “Where can that audience be found?”
2. Start with the end in mind. When it comes to infographics, most people start with finding an awesome idea. But as I mentioned before, I like to start with defining the goals and working back from there.
What do you want to get out of the graphic?If you can answer that question first, you’ll be a lot more focused when you start to brainstorm ideas, because “get people to recycle more” is a lot different than “convince people ‘Pulp Fiction’ should have won more Oscars than ‘Forrest Gump’.”
3. Once you’ve determined your goals, identify your targets before making the infographic. Who needs to share this for it to have the best chances of achieving your goal? What do I need to do, and what do I need to produce, for them to share it?
If your infographic has to do with excessive sugar intake, you’ll want to target people interested in that subject — friends on social networks, bloggers, nutrition sites, and so on. Follow people who are the most active and tend to repost and retweet things they like.
4. Assemble a long list of prospects — the longer the better — and record them in a spreadsheet. If you can, include their social profiles, a direct email address, full name, and any blog posts they’ve written that are relevant to your infographic. You’ll reference these posts when you make your pitch.
5. Follow prospects in all social channels. You might even engage them in those channels before going live — like following them on Twitter and retweeting their posts. This will enable you to open up direct communication with them (which we’ll get to in a second), and they’ll like you for retweeting them. Say what you will, but there’s nothing like engendering the goodwill of those you hope will help you in the future.
6. Research, research, research. Obviously, there are different levels of research required for different kinds of subjects, but the more specific you can be, the better. If your idea involves lots of change over time, think about ways to visualize that change using examples. What statistics exist out there that can help you to illustrate your point?
7. Include prospects in your brainstorms. Remember that direct communication you opened up? Well, one of the best ways to get prospective influencers to share your infographic is to include them early on in the process. Tell them that you have this idea for an infographic, ask them what they think of it, and ask them for their feedback or other ideas.
8. Take a moment of solitude. Don’t take your prospective influencers’ words as gold. As useful as it is to get feedback, you’re ultimately responsible for the success of the infographic, and you can’t incorporate everyone’s ideas without creating a Frankenstein’s monster.
So take a step back after soliciting their advice and really think about which ideas fit best with your message, format, and overall goals. I ignored far more opinions than I eventually incorporated into the infographic, mostly looking for ideas that I liked or notes that were given repeatedly.
9. Should your idea be an infographic? Before you begin the actual design, it’s a good idea to revisit this. If your idea requires lots of words, don’t use an infographic, write a blog post. You should create an infographic when you have an idea that packs a lot of visual punch, such as a cooking chart that utilizes pictures of animals to show where different cuts of meat come from.
Time to design (production)
You’ve done the hard prep work and you’re just about ready to dive into your design. How do you do it? What should you keep in mind?
10. Be specific.There are exceptions to this, but an epic infographic is usually specific. “Americans eat too much sugar,” for example, makes for a much better topic than “Americans eat poorly.” This is because focusing on a specific niche will allow you to really delve into it and hammer home that single idea in your viewers’ minds rather than giving them an overview of a bunch of different things that doesn’t feel cohesive.
11. Be timely… or not. The infographic will also do better if you can relate it to something people are already talking about. For example, I created an infographic on the Sony hacka week after it happened. It was picked up by Cisco, and went on to become the most shared page on the client’s website.
Alternatively, you can try to create an infographic about a topic that is so evergreen that people will continue to share it weeks, months, and even years down the line. An example of this is the Kitchen Cheat Sheet Chart that shows metric conversions, cooking times, and how long you can store different kinds of foods.
12. Start with a rough mono sketch. Ever tried tapping or whistling along to a song only to have a friend asks you what song that was supposed to be? This is because we tend to overestimate other people’s ability to understand what we are thinking. That’s why — unless you happen to be an amazing designer — you need to hire someone professional to do the job who’s an expert at conveying ideas visually.
And speaking of conveying ideas, don’t have the designer dive in immediately after you give him or her the brief. Make sure you have a long back and forth to confirm that you’re on the same page, then ask to see a mono sketch of your idea, just to make sure.
13. Ask your targets for feedback. Once you get your sketch, don’t hesitate to ask your targets for their opinion. People love to share their thoughts and be involved in the “pre-release” — they’ll actually take time out of their busy lives to help.
14. Then proceed with the design process. Set a deadline with the collection of your targets’ opinions, or you’ll wait weeks waiting for some people who never intend to reply. Throughout the design process, remember that you hired the designer for a reason: She’s/he’s the pro. Share ideas, but do not try to wrest control or order the designer to follow the opinions you gather.
Saturate the market (post-production)
When the infographic is finally done, you want to strike while the iron is hot! Create market saturation — even if it is only for a week. That will have a much bigger impact than one blog featuring your infographic each week for a month.
To do this, you’re going to have to dedicate one or two days to nothing but promoting the infographic. If you have a team, involve them by getting them to put the word out to their friends and using social networking sites. And use a customized email template — when you already have had a conversation with a person, a template won’t appear to be a template.
15. Offer your “big fishes” exclusivity. There are always a few people out there who wield more influence than others. Offer these people exclusive access to your infographic for 48 hours to maximize your chance of getting picked up by them.
16. And a blog post to boot. If you want a feature from a particular blogger really, really badly, write an epic post to go along with your infographic. Done right, just about any relevant blog would pick it up at this point, because good infographics have proven to be big draws.
17. Engage smaller players through social media.By this time, lots of people will be talking about your infographic on social media. This is not the time to disappear. There are a couple of things you can do here:
- Ask everyone who shared your infographic to follow you — even if they shared it from another website. For example, if you have an infographic featured on Mashable, you can guarantee Mashable will get 99 percent of all social media mentions. Reach out to the people who are responsible for that!
- Thank them for their share while you’re at it.
- You might even want to look for the email addresses of influencers who shared that post and build direct relationships. You can always reach out to them directly when you launch your next project — and get them to share your URL instead of Mashable’s!
18. Let your email list know about it. This one is pretty obvious, but too many people miss it. If you have an email list, these people are already engaged with what you have to say, and some have probably even bought your stuff. (I hope you put your customers into some sort of list!) Do you think they’ll mind sharing it if you create something awesome?
19. Pay for Stumbles. This one is optional, but every time I did it, it delivered great results. If you have the budget to spare, try paying for stumbles on StumbleUpon. Each stumble costs $0.10 (standard) — not a huge deal, really.
The awesome thing about it though, is that you’ll also get organic stumbles out of that — which are absolutely free. How many organic stumbles you get depends on how many people like your infographic when you are paying for it.
20. Look for people who posted your infographic but didn’t link to you. If you get featured on a popular website, there will be a lot of these people. To find them, search for your infographic’s title in quotes, or the headlines influencers use when they post it. Then go to image.google.com, and drag your infographic into the box to search for similar images.
21. Thank everyone involved. If I have a secret weapon, this is it. When a journalist decides to write a story around your infographic, take him or her out to coffee. When a blogger decides to share your infographic, send a thank you card.
Most of all, remember to thank them for their time and attention even when they don’t share — this gives you an excuse to engage with them, and trust me when I say that there’ll be additional opportunities in the future where you might need their help.
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