Making a Good Infographic

 

You might say that we’re in the golden age of infographics. They’re everywhere, pulling the humdrum facts that make up our world and arranging them in ways that show connections in the data that we didn’t know were there. We share them like crazy, and that makes infographics a powerful online marketing tool if they’re designed properly.

And there’s the rub: so many infographics get it wrong. But if you know the underlying principles that help shape the truly good ones, you’ll have a better handle on infographics design and how to build a visual winner from the ground up.

A Unified Concept

You could have all the facts in the world about shoes. But without a unifying idea, what point are you trying to make with your infographic? Without some type of thesis to work toward, you’ll fail at the most basic point of the graphic: to show how the data is connected. Lack of a driving point also dooms your visual design from the start; I’ve seen too many infographics that are simply a collage of semi-related facts.

Where do you get that unifying idea? It’s hidden in the data. Anemic infographics are boring to read, and the readers know they’re thin on content. Fact-dense infographics intrigue people and get them to pass your infographic along. The most important thing you can do is identify the underlying questions that the facts inspire and visualize the not-so-obvious connections between disparate pieces of data.

Visual Simplicity and Readability

If you have to explain the visual elements of your graphic with a lot of text, maybe your design isn’t going to grab readers’ attention like it ought to. And the worst sin you can commit when doing online PR is to be boring. Someone should be able to capture the idea of the graphic within the first 5 seconds and still be diving into the details after 5 minutes.

It’s an infographic, not an “infotext.” I don’t care how perfect you think the font you chose is; any graphic should be primarily made up of visual elements. And a couple of pie-charts does not an infographic make. The visual design needs to create patterns that show the relationships and meaning inherent in the data you’re trying to represent. When you reveal connections between ideas that aren’t necessarily intuitive, that sparks people’s interest, and that gets your graphic shared.

Try not to make it too massive. Big isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but there’s definitely a point at which you’ve gone too far, especially if the reader has to scroll more than once or twice to read the whole thing.

Portability and Shareability

It’s a lot harder for your infographic to go viral if you don’t make it easy to share. Place it on your blog or website with prominently displayed embed code and share buttons for Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. When people can post a link to your graphic in just a few seconds, it can make the difference between them sharing it or reading it and moving on.

Also, any piece of content needs to exist in a relevant space on the Web. If you don’t place your infographic in a place where it will get noticed by people who care about the content, then what’s the point?

Starting with these underlying concepts, it’s a lot easier to build a compelling infographic right from the start. Otherwise, your graphic might just wind up unnoticed and unshared, like so many of the bad graphics sitting on lonely blogs and sites all over the Internet.

About the Author
Aubrey Phelps grew up in a small town and always knew she wanted to achieve…something, and she has. She packed her bags for college but instead of a degree she earned a husband. Bringing four years of SEO experience and expertise, she is an superb account executive who blends her cocktail of knowledge and unparalleled people skills to take on the world. Contact her company via @prmarketingcom.

 

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How to Build a Social Media Ambassador Program

Ambassador programs are nothing new. If you’ve ever used a punch card to keep track of purchases and eventually received something for free, you’ve been an ambassador, albeit a horribly under-used one…

At the end of the day, ambassador programs are designed with two main goals in mind: (1) to build a relationship with the customers that love you most and (2) to leverage those customers to increase customers, sales, market share, etc. As the Harvard Business Review coins it, the new “Consumer Decision Journey” requires an emphasis on the aforementioned goals of relationship building and credible network building.

But how do you find and leverage this extremely valuable group of customers? Below are some tips from our experience that will hopefully help you think through the process.

Have a goal from the beginning. 

For example, one of our clients told us that they had an ex-employee writing bad reviews after he/she had been fired. Knowing this ahead of time allowed us to construct an ambassador program that focused on generating positive recommendations, reviews, and online sentiment. Ambassador programs can be used to drive event attendance, to drive website traffic, to increase sales, and more. Knowing exactly what your pain point is and how your ambassadors will solve it will allow you to create an impactful ambassador program with a clear focus.

Have a bulletproof system for sifting out your best ambassadors.

Great ambassadors possess three key traits: they love your brand, they love to talk, and they have some sort of online presence. The last one is optional but increasingly important. The question is – how do you find a group of these people? You need a system. Here are the parts to an effective ambassador identification process:

  • Identify (super-duper) repeat customers. When we implemented an ambassador program for a tourist destination, we looked through survey data to find out who visited the most, who would represent a range of demographic profiles, and who made extremely positive comments about their experiences. This gave us a list of about 300 people. On the other hand, when implementing an ambassador program for a local salon, we empowered the hair stylists to recommend their most loyal clients. Finding your best customers will be slightly different for each company, but can usually be achieved with some mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis.
  • Invite them to apply. Notice that this isn’t inviting them to become an ambassador (yet). This step usually involves having prospects fill out a short survey to identify their “word-of-mouth potential.” Which social networks do they use? Are they familiar with basic communication media such as email? The most crucial part of this step is to convey the benefit of an ambassador program to it’s participants, and also the benefits for the brand.
  • Select your best candidates. Invite your desired participants into the program, while clearly articulating the program benefits and why they were chosen. Immediately give them a task or action they can complete – this ensures that you don’t fall off their radar immediately and also tests buy-in of your group.

Incentivize strategically.

The key here is not just to incentivize at any/all times, but rather to incentivize in strategic ways. First of all, we rarely use money, which helps to prevent people applying to the program who aren’t really in love with the brand. We want people to be applying first and foremost because they want to be closer to the brand, not because they want some extra cash in their pocket. Another tip for incentivizing is to not tie incentives to individual tasks, but rather tie them to performance/involvement on a large scale and at random times. This further prevents people just completing tasks for the incentive.

Metrics, metrics, metrics.

As with any investment, measurement is key. When measuring the effectiveness of your ambassador program, be sure to set up systems that capture the benefits your program might be creating. If your ambassadors are writing reviews, are you tracking referrals from those sites? If your ambassadors are trying out new products, are you tracking the feedback? Some other KPI’s we use are: views of ambassador comments (awareness), referrals from ambassadors (leads), and ambassador involvement (engagement).

I hope these steps shed some light on how successful ambassador programs work. However a key point is that ambassador program success is not built on the steps that you take but rather how you implement each step. It is extremely important to be communicating with these people in a way that is authentic, transparent, and communicates the value of a continued relationship.

About the Author
Andrew Krebs-Smith is the President/Founder of Social Fulcrum, a word of mouth marketing agency that leverages social media to create marketing campaigns designed around the strategy, goals, and situation of brands. He has worked on social media marketing campaigns for Fortune 50 companies including Pfizer and Microsoft. Contact andrew at andrew@socialfulcrum.com or @andrewks with any questions about social media marketing or digital strategy.

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The Art of Landing New PR Clients via Social Media

Statistically speaking, social media has proven to be a powerful tool for landing new clients and servicing existing ones. Whether it’s getting the attention of a reporter who then does a feature on a client through a facebook post, getting a friend request from a stranger claiming he wants to hire you, or just trolling through your LinkedIn page and profile views and following up with an intro email, using social media accounts to land new clients and service existing ones can be very profitable.

I’ve gotten several new clients this way, mostly through my LinkedIn. The first was a Miami company owner who sent a connect request explaining he’d like to hire me to get his name up on search engines. His email was courteous and to the point. “You don’t know me but I am interested in hiring you. I’m impressed with your accomplishments.” He gave his phone number and asked me to call him. I Googled him. The company was legit. After we exchanged a few emails discussing his pr needs, I further checked out his company and sent him my phone number. He sent a retainer that day. More requests came.

Soon after, I quickly realized I could increase my new client contacts by following a few simple social media guidelines:

  • Always present yourself professionally, even in your personal social media accounts- you NEVER know who will view your profile
  • Monitor to see who is checking your profile- check their legitimacy, then send an intro email
  • Update and maintain your accounts and sites frequently
  • Strengthen your network by asking others to refer you to their clients and contacts
  • Increase visitors and contacts by including your your social media sites in your email signature, website, advertisements, and on business cards
  • LinkedIn is proven to be a top producer of new client introductions, give those viewing your profile a clear idea of your specializations and keep it updated as your career progresses
  • Ask for recommendations from your past and current clients
  • Cross-connect your blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts and have successes and updates and posts appear simultaneously when possible to reach maximum contacts and followers
  • Create a buzz of curiousity by viewing LinkedIn profiles of clients that you would like to work for; they will see that you have viewed their profiles and perhaps view yours, finding that you are just who they are looking for
  • Get freelance work by sending intro messages to those in similar professions and industries
  • Post on-going client successes to show you are capable of producing results
  • Follow and friend your media and pr contacts and keep them informed of client story, photo and pr opportunities
  • Offer social-media directed incentives to lure new clients
  • Offer rewards/services to existing clients and social media contacts for referrals who become new clients
However, you also need to use caution and common sense when doing this. In meeting anyone you don’t know, where there’s an opportunity to gain a new client, there is also the chance of communicating with someone you’d rather not know! It’s okay to be suspicious; it’s imperative that you protect yourself by investigating the potential client before responding.

In any profession, there’s a certain grain of trust you put out there when you post your name, picture, address, phone number and website. In PR, relating to the public is your first nature, and you want to think the best of those who contact you; you hold a certain level of confidence that you are wise enough to know a scam artist from a legitimate job offer. I follow a few simple guidelines before I reply to people who find me through my social media sites:

  • Google the potential client’s name
  • Research the company and website blogs, social media sites, customer feedback, etc.
  • If you’re still not sure, ‘secret-shop’ the company to get a sense of their professionalism, customer service and follow-up with a simple phone call
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau, public records, criminal search sites, and returns on their phone number and email addresses through search sites
  • Over a course of a few days, visit their social media sites for a feel for who they are and how they communicate with others
  • Read recommendations from other clients or customers on LinkedIn, and posts on Twitter and Facebook
  • Check their past experience, qualifications, abilities, and accomplishments
  • If you still have doubts, ask them for a few references

Are these tips helpful? Are there any others you’d like to add? Please comment on this post and share with others!

About the Author

Sherry Gavanditti has been a PR/media specialist for the past 30 years and   currently works for various clients, including Menorah Park Campus, the largest premier nursing care facility in Ohio. In addition to serving a vast array of clients’ PR and design needs, additional experience includes working with the Associated Press, Crain’s Cleveland Business, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and various other daily, weeky and monthly magazines and newspapers. Contact her on Twitter.

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Which Photo Sharing Social Media Channel is Right for your Brand?

The rise of ‘Brand Media’ creates an opportunity to use the Internet to speed the spread of high quality business intelligence internally, deliver specific and managed photo, video and other content directly to customers, consumers, journalists, lawmakers and other interested parties. It also provides a tool for crisis management, enhance its communications opportunities in the digital community of consumers and bloggers, and, as a by-product, create, manage and provide frictionless internal access to a rich media digital asset repository.

Flickr is but one of those channels. In and of itself, Flickr has little relevance if used carelessly or as a by-product or add-on. You shouldn’t merely dump images or video off and leave them as untitled. You need to program the channel, much like a news outlet programs the different segments. It cannot be your filing cabinet or content graveyard.

How can Flickr work against you?

1. If your brand page is dedicated to showcasing doughy executives conspiring to take each other to a jalapeno popper lunch, cigar smoking at the tailgate, beer pong-Fridays or anyone dressed up like a leprechaun on St. Patty’s Day.

2. If your brand page only consists of screen captures or images of your product placements in the media.

3. If you don’t designate an owner for the channel, who approves, commissions or otherwise takes responsibility for what is publically available. Resist the urge to share that photo of Beyonce at the next table. If it is relevant, give it to the person or team in charge of your social media.

4. Upload images once and let the channel get dusty. That only demonstrates you don’t really care about what is there.

5. If you don’t integrate the platform as part of your overall social media effort and calendar. Flickr is one of a myriad of platforms your brand needs to be utilizing.

These would just be a few ways Flickr (or any other sharing platform) would be not only useless, but also potentially damaging to your reputation, to potential and existing customers and even recruiting efforts. Someone over the age of 25 may not want to go to work at a frat house if they are serious about furthering their career.

How can Flickr be of most use for a brand?

1. It can support a wide variety of business/marketing objectives by showcasing the production process, the people who handle each part of the business and the world-class precision in which your brand conducts itself.

2. Building brand awareness and positioning within the sustainability community. If you are community minded, show your efforts. Help your audience understand your efforts to be considerate to the planet, the neighborhood and those who could most use your brand to do the same.

3. Driving sales consideration. Show new products, the creative process, the packaging or process. Let your audience have access, let them LIKE you.

4. Use the channel to recruit new employees. Show off the office, don’t show off the company clown on his scooter, the hot intern or the forced fun of a mandatory sack race.

5. Changing/improving consumer sentiment. Visually demonstrate what your brand is all about. If all you have to share are photos of people at happy hour, don’t. Your customer doesn’t care.

6. Showcase corporate culture in your sector of business. Do showcase how your organization is different in relevant ways. If you participate in Habitat for Humanity for example, let people know.

Now you might be asking, Why Flickr instead of a Facebook photo album or section of your website or blog? I wouldn’t necessarily say it is an either or proposition. Flickr is great for hi-resolution, keyword tagging, public facing, image embedding on you blog and photo community friendly, whereas Facebook is great for creating albums of content that can be tagged only with actual people and places. Flickr also provides more legal control over the usage of your images via Creative Commons. Simplified: keyword tagging vs names and public vs the option to privatize or selectively share. They are similar, but not alike and for me, the search-ability or Flickr (being discoverable) is of great importance.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the latest hot property on the Internet: Pinterest. Pinterest is another great platform for sharing not only your content, but also content you feel may be of interest to others. So, having said that, the best use for Flickr is to upload your content, appropriately tag it and then perhaps as part of a distribution strategy, ‘pin’ it as a way to share it with your intended community.

Perhaps the most important take away might be to have motivation behind your effort. Use each platform appropriate to the type of content you are creating. Don’t start a Flickr channel because the Jones’s have one. Start using a platform or because you have a story to tell and want to support it, grown the audience, demonstrate quality, skill, fun and passion in your industry. Also bear in mind, you will want to effectively manage the data as well as protect content where appropriate. Make sure you have some sort of distribution strategy in place. After all, it might be great content, but it also has to be discoverable in this ever shifting arena of over sharing and ‘me too’ media.

About the Author
Tracy Shea is a veteran broadcast producer and digital innovator, who was part of the launch team for CNN.com, worked with revolutionaries at Wired Magazine and developed two screen interactive TV content before tablets evolved. He’s worked with brands including Starbucks, General Mills, Unilever, Pepsico and Ebay. Currently, he is Executive Producer in charge of program development for Toni On New York and provides digital/social media council for several agencies. Connect with him via @Broadbandito

 

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5 Tips on How to Manage Up in the Workplace

Taking the initiative + building relationships = Managing Up

Pretty easy and fairly simple, but many of us still struggle with this in the workplace. As such, here are some of the best tips I can provide on how to accomplish this feat:

1. Take Initiative- Do not wait to be told do something just do it. Look for ways to improve day-to-day operations. Suggest ideas with outside the box thinking. By taking initiative, you increase visibility within the company. Management will take notice.

2. Keep the Boss Informed- Communication is the key. Make sure they know everything there is to know about an assignment or project. This helps build a solid relationship with your boss.

3. Leave Personal Opinions to Yourself- Like mom always said, “If you don’t have nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.” Despite how you personally feel about your boss, it should not deter you from giving maximum effort. This is tough because you’re not always going to agree with them. Plain and simple: Be professional at all times.

4. Stay Away from Office Politics- Beware of the internal struggles and daily gossip. Stay safe from being involved in any name calling accusations by not participating in any conversations degrading a co-worker. If you can’t say it directly to the person being mentioned don’t bother talking behind their back.

5. Build Relationships- There is no “I” in team. Make it a point to work well with others. Know their name and get to know them personally. People like to work with someone who treats them as equals. Everyone cheers for the team player that gets the promotion.

Managing up helps you add an irreplaceable value to the company. Do not restrict going above and beyond for just your boss. Do it for the team as well and all else will follow. Create a winning work environment where success is achievable through hard work.

About the Author
Kaleef M. Lloyd is an Indpendent Public Relations Practitioner & Social Media Strategist. He embraces the art of storytelling and feels everything has a story to tell. Find Kaleef on Twitter via @kaleefmlloyd.

 

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