Back in 2012, infographics were riding high. They were the marketing tool of choice for content marketers. Left, right and centre, infographics were everywhere.
Yep, we even wrote and published a book on infographics.
In the two years up to 2012, search volumes for infographics increased by a whopping 800%. Content marketers who used infographics saw an average of 12% more traffic compared to those who didn’t (Stats from this infographic).
As the social media powerhouse Jeff Bullas has pointed out, infographics are so effective because they:
- Are Attractive. Good looks draw eyeballs and create “addictive content”.
- Are Scannable. The web has transformed the way we read and take in content. People skim-read instead of pondering every word. Infographics are highly scannable, so they’re perfect for the modern reader.
- Have Viral Potential. Infographics are easy to share, and people love to share them.
- Show that You’re an Expert. Infographics display a ton of data in an easy to understand way. As such, they can position you as an expert in your field.
Now wonder they were so popular. They were every content marketers’ dream.
All this rings true with our experience at Social Caffeine. One of our most popular content pieces of all time is an infographic on the best (and worst) times to post on social media.
We were riding high, soaring through the skies.
Then, Infographics Died
It was a sudden death, too.
Just one year on from the heyday of infographics, they were proclaimed to be “dead”.
In October 2013, Rishon Roberts of Spinnakr wrote:
It’s finally Q4, so I’m going to call it now: 2014 will be the year the infographic finally dies.
And Kenny Van Sittert of Zazzle proclaimed “their time is coming to an end.”
What went wrong?
Here’s the Postmortem
Both Roberts and Van Sittert noticed a similar problem with infographics. Too many people had jumped on the infographics bandwagon. Blogs and websites became flooded with infographics, and readers got bored.
On top of that, “infographics” became a magic button for creating web traffic. If you wanted to go viral, so the logic went, all you had to do was create an infographic and “boom!” Quality didn’t matter. Your data sources didn’t matter. As long as you had an infographic, you were golden.
Needless to say, that line of thinking was deeply flawed.
Infographics, to put it in the words of Van Sittert “became spammy”. They were “quickly scraped together by some overseas designers or interns who [had] little design experience”. And so blog readers began to “treat them with a kind of contempt usually reserved for discarded chewing gum.”
Roberts agreed with Van Sitter’s analysis:
Once everyone trie[d] to create them — and quickly — the importance shift[ed] from quality to quantity, and with a high quantity they’re not as fun anymore.
It doesn’t sound good for infographics, does it?
Infographics are Dead. Long Live Infographics!
Did infographics really die?
We’re not sure.
We certainly agree that they’ve become a magic button for marketers. The world got flooded with them.
But to this day, our infographics remain some of our greatest sources of traffic.
In our view, infographics never really died. It just got harder to stand out from the crowd. So you have to work smarter to get noticed.
“Infographics are dead”, they say. “Long live infographics!” we say.
If infographics died, then they’re on to the road to coming back to life.
Here’s what you must do to stand out from the pack:
Remember the Purpose of Infographics: Sharing Information
Infographics are great for driving traffic to your website or blog. But that’s not their primary purpose. What is? Like all effective content, effective infographics share useful information.
As we wrote in our infographics book:
Infographics are pictures designed to share complex information in a simple way. They take a muddle of raw data, and bring it to focus, in perfect clarity.
University lecturer Alberto Cairo said in a recent interview:
Infographics will have a bright future if the people who design them embrace accuracy, clarity, depth, and service to the public, rather than mere promotion.
Don’t Be Lazy
Infographics don’t just appear at the click of your fingers. Creating good infographics takes time and effort. You’ve got to start with a ton of research to find data that has the power to shock, educate, or provoke an emotional reaction. Then you’ve got to check that data is from a reliable source.
Finally, you’ve got to pull together your data into a quality design. That means investing time designing it yourself (there are low-cost design solutions if you’re not a wizard with Adobe’s software), or hiring out the work to a pro designer.
Talking of quality…
Your readers aren’t stupid. You should always treat them with the respect they deserve. They can see through any attempts you make to tart up shabby data with graphics.
Likewise, they’re unlikely to share your infographic if your design skills aren’t up to scratch.
As graphic designer Brian Wallace told the Content Marketing Institute:
Quality will always prevail — if you’re careful at what you’re doing. That being said, infographics are (and already have been) getting more complex. No longer solely flat images on the web, they are becoming a mainstay in product packaging, trade show materials, and even annual reports.
All infographics are still bubbling with life. But interactive infographics hold the keys to the future.
VentureBeat writer Julia Gifford explains:
Interactive infographics differ from static infographics in that they let the viewer interact with them, discovering more on their own. They include elements such as animations and clickable links, which increase the viewer’s engagement as well as the credibility of the infographic itself.
What’s Your Take?
Are infographics dead? Or are they here to stay? What do you love (or hate!) about infographics? Let us know in the comments, below.