By Dave Stevens
The world has gone mad for infographics.
Go on – do a Twitter search right now and you’ll see what I mean. I’m writing this in the early hours of Sunday morning and seven tweets containing infographics have come through in the last minute. There’s even a multitude of Twitter handles you can follow to get your full fix of the things. And have you seen Pinterest lately? There are boards and boards full of infographics…
And boy do we make a big thing of them! “[Infographic]” has thirteen characters – that’s practically a tenth of a tweet. Yet most tweets containing a link to an infographic will make a point of telling you by adding those thireen characters at the end. Links to text don’t make a big thing of it and yet to write “[Words]” takes up much less real estate.
It’s not hard to see how we’ve got into this place. A picture can tell a thousand words, they say. And images are popular in social media. Infographics shared on Twitter are re-tweeted more than just words. And if that’s not clear here are two infographics on the subject:- http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/infographics-on-twitter_b26840; and http://www.prnewsonline.com/free/Media-Watch-Journalists-Demand-More-Visuals_16829.html?hq_e=el&hq_m=2512573&hq_l=10&hq_v=bec5c1ee8b.
But I bet that the infographic bubble will burst quickly. And here’s three reasons why – which I’ve written below in an old-fashioned medium called “text”:-
1. Infographics don’t contain information. Most infographics that pass by my desk don’t convey information or data. They simply pitch an opinion in a graphical way. So if people are attracted by infographics because they give them a basis of fact in a social media sea of vapid, gossip-heavy content, they can forget it.
2. Infographics don’t convey their point clearly. The point of a graphic or an image is that it conveys its point clearly and cleanly. Most infographics that I see don’t. Lay-out is poor so that the argument is difficult to follow. Frequently infographics don’t display on one screen so that you have to scroll which makes the point difficult to take in. It is difficult to focus on the information and not the graphic as there’s lots of competing imagery. Frequently the data is distorted or difficult to read and the statistic and the text desciptions are not well-integrated.
3. Infographics no longer offer differentiation. So if these things don’t convey information and aren’t clear, why are so many marketers opting for them? Because they stand out? Because they differentiate you from the crowd? Not for much longer! Infographics are becoming the norm. Text could soon be a differentiator.
So I reckon the infographics bubble will burst. Rather than jumping to design an infographic, marketers should consider how best to convey their content clearly and effectively to achieve their objectives. And then use the medium taht does that best.
I could have conveyed this view as an infographic of course. Perhaps a big infographic blue bubble being divided into three sections for the key-lines of my argument by a small child with a stripy woolly hat (for colour) who happens to be riding a unicycle across a high wire (for added differentiation)?
But on second thoughts, perhaps just a bit of text is a better bet…