Tom Webster's keynote this morning at BlogWorld Expo was great… but those of us in the content industry really took a shellacking. Tom is a statistician and takes his craft very seriously… so when he sees the onslaught of infographics on the web pushing out bad assumptions on incomplete data, he denotes them as cringeworthy.
Tom's issue is that infographics are being used to deliver content and folks are forcing them – sometimes on a deadline. Tom doesn't believe they're being used for their key purpose – disseminating data in a graphical format that is easy to digest. (Note: I didn't record or take too many notes during the keynote, so I hope my post here represents his message coherently).
One example Tom provided was the infographic below… where the artist took liberties to swap the sizes (ouch). Not only that, there are so many other variables involved that the infographic is literally meaningless:
Does anyone question that?
I don't necessarily disagree with Tom regarding the quality and depth of the data, causation and correlation, and resulting imagery that infographics provide. But I do take offense that this is somehow a disservice when content providers push this information out. An infographic that provides data on social media timing should never be seen? Hogwash.
An infographic on social media timing raises awareness that the timing of your tweets could impact the level of participation in social media or could maximize the audience you are reaching. In my opinion, if cringeworthy infographics are doing us a disservice, then analytics applications must be pure evil. All of the data supplied in analytics requires scrutiny and deeper digging to find opportunities to improve your online marketing performance.
Social media data isn't great at providing answers, but is for learning to ask better questions.
What if Tom flipped his own quote:
Infographics aren't great at providing answers, but infographics are great for learning to ask better questions
Dare I say that a bad infographic may actually be more productive than a great one, because it raises these types of questions and conversations. My last blog post actually pointed this out… where an infographic on Youtube killing TV was put into question.
I suspect that my followers are much more sophisticated than Tom may think. We're not statisticians, but we're also not taking every infographic we see as fact. Tom mentioned that content producers need to do their own homework and produce quality infographics rather than relying on others. I disagree. I believe the value in distributing and discussing (so-called) bad infographics is that they spark discussion.
The onus is not on the content producers, the onus is on the marketer to do their homework. Infographics don't kill marketing strategies, marketers do.