Brian Wallace is the founder of NowSourcing, a social media marketing  firm based in Louisville, KY. NowSourcing offers infographics, WordPress consulting, online reputation management, SEO, PPC and other Internet marketing services. You can follow Brian on Twitter .
Why do you think infographics have become so popular in the past couple of years from a marketing perspective? How do they differ from other forms of linkbait (aside from the obvious graphical element, of course)?
Even though it seems that infographics are a fairly recent trend, they have been in the print world for some time. I often think of USA Today – it ran a bunch of infographic equivalents for years before I ever saw anything like that on the web. Why they’ve become popular is for a few reasons:
- You’d be hard pressed to find a single piece of noteworthy, fact-driven and downright pretty content. Typically a lot more work (concept, research, storyboarding, artwork, typography, etc.) goes into them than a plain Jane blog post.
- Social media infographics  are a great way to compress a great deal of information into a relatively small space and reading time. Let’s say your average reading time through an infographic is about 2:30 – the amount of verbiage that you’d need to convey the point otherwise would be considerably longer. That, coupled with the fact that infographics are a visual learner’s dream makes the infographics irresistible.
- People really don’t read much on the web. Most people scan and do what are called chunking, quickly scanning for headings, images, bold, bullet points and the like. Infographics give the viewer some pretty slick pneumonic hooks so they’ll remember typically for a longer period after viewing infographic versus text-based content.
What are the potential benefits and pitfalls of infographic marketing? What qualities make for a good infographic and, conversely, a lousy, pointless one? Are there certain topics that lend themselves to infographics, and others that don't?
Benefits include getting a great amount of page views to your site as well as quite a number of mainstream news coverage, authority links, blog links, and numerous social media shares. You can also make it easy for people to embed your infographic, and then you’ve got some killer links + anchor text. Not so much in terms of pitfalls, except if you have a crappy looking, poorly researched or poorly executed infographic. If you’re in that category, don’t quit your day job. :)
I’m asked the “certain topics” question a lot in overall social media strategy as well (“is my boring business going to work in social media?”) – there are obvious topics like green, tech, science and geeky types of topics, but really any kind of industry will work. You just need the right concept, angle, graphics, typography, and strategy/success metrics.
How much promotion is required to get an infographic to go viral and what avenues do you recommend?
Ah yes, the $50,000 question. :)
Infographics do well on a number of popular social media news sites as well as infographic and social news blogs. The better quality of your infographic is what makes the difference here.
Infographics can be quite costly to put together when you figure in design resources as well as promotion efforts. How can marketers be sure they're getting ROI from infographics?
Pretty much the same way they (should!) be measuring off their other online campaigns. Take a look at the total PV’s, baseline how many social actions you had prior to launch (friends/fans/RT’s/followers/shares), watch your overall SEO as well as target phrases from the infographic, and watch for increases in sales, signups, other KPI’s you have for your business. Assign an estimated value for the huge links you’ll score from the infographic. Rinse and repeat.
As a designer, how much do you think about SEO when working on projects?
Well, we’re not just a design firm, so we take SEO seriously. It helps to have a beautifully anchor-text-rich link when everyone is copy/pasting your embed code versus completely missing the opportunity.
Do you think companies are underutilizing social media marketing? Overusing it? Misusing it?
I think that companies fall into 3 categories:
- The ones that “get it”
- The ones that have their head in the sand (“It’s just a fad,” “social media is dead”, etc.)
- The ones that don’t get it
Problem is, there are lots of companies that think that they get it, but really don’t. Lots of SMB’s especially go to some social media seminar, get all hopped up about the possibilities for the day and create a Facebook page, Twitter account, and try it for the week. Then, they stop all efforts and call it a failure. C’mon people. The secret in social media is hard work. You wouldn’t go to work for 10 hours, stop working altogether and call it a failure. Stop treating social media as magic. It’s applied effort + magic. :)
I'm sure you've heard people declare blogging dead. Obviously, it's not dead (yet), but do you think the emergence of social media or any other factors have made it less important or relevant for business marketers?
Blogging is far from dead. If anything, people short-circuit perfectly good blogging ideas and instead opt for the more braindead 140-character version. By no means am I hating on Twitter. Just saying that all the sharing happening in social media needs a root source of content. So if you’re bright enough to say something original and put the work into it, by all means blog away and be that source to the eager-to-RT masses. Retweets are today’s version of blog commenting.
Does social media make reputation management harder for marketers?
Quite the contrary. There are some pretty nifty social media listening tools – plenty are free like Google Alerts  and Twitter Search, all the way up to some of the largest paid tools that even include sentiment analysis such as Radian6. Now if you mean “Doesn’t a company have to work harder since their reputation can be threatened online,” the answer is yes. Still, working harder doesn’t mean it has to be harder. When done properly, you’ve got yourself quite an outlet for sales, customer service, recruiting, R&D and many more channels, much thanks to social.
What tools do you depend on to do your job (design tools, social media tools, productivity tools, etc.)?
I subscribe to the 10 rules of social media .