On today’s web, pictures speak much louder than words: according to recent research, an infographic is 30X as likely to be read than a text article. If that’s not a clear indicator that it’s time to consider adding visualized data – or infographics – into your marketing content mix, consider the traffic you could be losing to websites that are visualized.

Infographics don’t necessarily require a team of designers and big design budget to be made. It’s possible to present your data in an engaging way using the free tools online today along with a bit of know-how. Here’s what you need to know about if you’re planning on adding infographics to your marketing campaigns in 2016.

What is an infographic?

Infographics are, simply, visual representations of information. They tend to be used where complex information needs to be explained clearly and quickly, and the information could use a visual spin. For example, numerical data might be considered too dry to read in text form, and so is made more compelling in the form of visuals combined with data. Infographics may range from a simple collection of graphs to animated graphics, but regardless, the focus is on the information shared as opposed to artistic merit.

Content combined with images get shared more often

The reason infographics are so popular is because online, we gravitate toward visuals. Researchers found that colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%, and they are shared on social media 3X more than other any other type of content.

In order for your infographic to pack the most sharing power possible, the piece must be balanced: too many images and you overwhelm the viewer, too much text and you drown the message in the minutia. There should be no extraneous text – it should all serve the narrative succinctly. Use text sparingly, but make sure it’s big enough to be read, and be sure to structure your piece with a beginning, middle, and end

Steps to a successful infographic for your small business

Before you jump into designing an infographic, make sure you do the necessary planning. Here are 5 steps to creating an infographic for your small business:

Step 1: Pick your topic

Like all marketing content, your infographic must have a central goal. You can use an infographic to present study results, explain how a product or service works, convey earnings results, depict a chronological series of events – and much more. Starting with a clear focus is arguably the most important part.

Step 2: Firm up your message

If you don’t spend enough time identifying the exact points you need to make in your infographic to achieve your goal, and decide how you can tell your story clearly, convincingly and succinctly, your infographic will fail. Be sure to firm up your message before you begin creation.

Step 3: Plot the story flow

Once you know what points to convey and the order they need to be told, determine how best to depict them – charts, percentages, graphs or pictograms, or a mix of many, for example. The tool you choose to create your infographic can help with this step.

Step 4: Design and build your infographic

Thanks to today’s free or low-cost tools, you can get professional-looking results simply. Here are 3 options:

  • Piktochart: Choose from hundreds of ready-made, customizable templates and a library of over 4000 images.  Piktochart offers a free version and a pro account with more theme options
  • Easel.ly: You can simply drag and drop design elements into this platform. Choose a template from Easel.ly’s library or upload your own background image and start from scratch
  • Infogr.am: Pick a template, visualize your data, and publish and share. Connect charts and graphs in your infographic as well as add interactive visualizations

Step 5: Share your infographic

Consider your target audience. Which social networks and blogs do they frequent? Who are the most influential bloggers and social leaders in your target space? Share your content with the right hashtag(s) and consider reaching out to influencers who may be interested in sharing in order to land it in the right conversations.

Using visual capabilities of Microsoft Excel 2016

If you’re not keen on using one of the tools listed above, consider making, or even starting, a simple visualization in Microsoft Excel. There are several apps you can download to add visualizing functionality. Apps can be used in Word, Excel, OutlookPowerPoint, and Project, and can help with tasks like presentations, connecting with social media, and other basic functions.

When you’re incorporating infographics into your marketing campaigns, keep in mind that above all, your information is what will make it the most memorable. Don’t get so caught up in interesting visuals or savvy design that you lose sight of your main goal – to tell a compelling story that matters for your business.