Free infographics feeding off live data

Image courtesy of depone and released under Creative Commons

Creating rich infographics is child’s play – image courtesy of Depone and released under Creative Commons

Rich infographics that used to require a skilled graphics artist, and which could take hours to create, can now be produced in minutes with free tools.

Taking the graft out of graphics

I first reviewed on my site Social Media Kitbag for Journalists in 2012. I had a play around with it at the time but didn’t use it in any live output.

It’s one of many excellent free tools that help journalists make interactive information assets to embed and share. Just go to the link above and use the filter to search for the word ‘data’ to see a selection of free infographic solutions.

Last week I was in Johannesburg working with my pals at Mail & Guardian Africa on their social media strategy. We were discussing using free tools in order to create interactive assets which readers of the site could detach, share and embed.

A few days later I noticed that the M&G team were using in their output. The embedded infographic below was part of a story they produced about human rights in Africa.

What a great way to share complicated information in an accessible and attractive way – and packaged so that the audience can detach, share and embed the information on their own blogs and preferred social media space.

That infographic, along with text explaining how to read it, appeared in this piece. Africa may be rising, but these countries, including many darlings of the West, show why it is not free

Intuitive and fast, with excellent results

So I figured out it was time I had a try myself. What I wanted to do was produce a free infographic using live data.

I created a spreadsheet on Google Docs, put in all the cities I had visited in the course of my media development work in 2014 along with the distance from my home in kilometres.

I then published the Google document live to the web, grabbed the link, went over to my accounted, selected a template, linked it to the live Google document, selected a few colours, wrote some text at the top and published. And here it is.

Detach, share, and embed presses all the right buttons. It’s free, it’s easy to use, it helps journalists tell complex stories, the visuals are attractive AND they are detachable, shareable and embeddable. Add some links back to your site and you have produced an open invitation for people to find more of your rich content. All essential steps for any mature social media strategy which produces information-rich interactive assets and then encourages the audience to take them away with them – and come back for  more.