Infographics have become one of the most effective methods for communicating complex or detailed information to a target audience. By breaking down complex statistics and number-heavy details that would be confusing – at best – in a text post and, instead, relying on graphics and charts to portray specific points, brands can appeal to the visual needs of site visitors and viewers. It seems like a positive thing across the board, right?
It can be. However, because of the viral potential of infographics, they have become major targets for online property theft. Infographics take time, money and effort to create. They generally require hours of research and design. On top of that, promoting them so they are able to get off the ground to be shared requires effort.
Other brands and individuals know this. They know what goes into creating an infographic, and whether they don’t have the time and resources, or they just don’t want to put them into creating a new infographic, sometimes it’s easier to use one created by someone else. That someone else could be you.
When a company doesn’t have to put resources into creating an infographic, because they’re using yours, they have limitless resources when it comes to distribution. They didn’t put time or team members into creating the infographic; instead, they can focus on sharing it with the masses. Whether they modify it to remove your brand’s logo, include their own link or use another method, it’s theft. Using someone else’s creation and passing it off as your own is never acceptable. Unfortunately, with infographics, it’s a common scenario. In fact, as it pertains to online information, only 29 percent of adults feel that taking information or “copying” from the Internet is really cheating.
What is a brand to do? Knowing the publically shared information is at risk for being stolen, is it best to forgo the benefits of infographics by not creating them in the first place? Absolutely not, they are far too valuable. Jeff Bullas underlined the importance of infographics, explaining that they:
- Break down complex information to make it understandable for the average viewer.
- Appeal to the 90 percent of our brains that is visual.
- Lead to 40 percent higher response rates.
- Have a higher probability of going viral than text-based posts.
Infographics are worth the time and effort they take to create. Having said that, understanding infographic theft, taking steps to prevent it and knowing how to act if it happens to you or your brand is critical.
Creating an infographic isn’t as simple of a process as creating something like a text based promotional material, where there could be time to wait and decide how to act next. Publishing an infographic without a solid plan of action makes it easy for another brand to come in and grab your creation before you can establish clear ownership.
Prior to publishing an infographic, the following steps are essential:
- Consider your target audience. How will you best reach them?
- Be sure your social media pages are optimized and ready for sharing. Start engaging your followers in advance if that’s not already a priority, the more engaged your followers are, the more likely they are to share any infographics you post, increasing overall reach.
- Create and segment an email contact list. Have your e-mail pitch ready to distribute as soon as you publish.
- Prepare your website for the infographic. Build multiple internal links to its location and clearly display them, even on the homepage. Establishing ownership at the start is critical.
Make Your Logo Difficult to Remove
If a logo can be cropped out or covered up, the job of someone looking to take credit for material that is not theirs is a lot easier. To do this:
- Use your logo multiple times in the piece when appropriate.
- Try to include your logo near the title or other elements that would be difficult to cover up.
- Include the logo in the design of the infographic itself, behind facts or charts. This makes it nearly impossible to remove or cover up.
Your logo is proof that your infographic belongs to your brand, make sure it does its job to work to prevent infographic theft. WebpageFX, an Internet marketing solutions agency, learned this the hard way when one of their infographics was stolen and their logo was replaced with that of another company.
Use Your Own Data
Datasets – or information gathered from surveys and studies by third parties – are easy to come by online. So are many other statistics. It’s simple to look up a question and be presented with answers based on solid research that can be used as authoritative sources for an infographic.
However, that also opens the debate regarding who the infographic – and the information it pertains – belongs to. Yes, the design might have clear ownership, but when the data could be found and used by anyone, the line becomes a little more blurred.
One of the most effective ways of combating this issue is to use your own data. Do research. Look at studies that relate to your own business. Survey your customers and your online followers and gather your own information. Many large brands, like LinkedIn, use their own data to create infographics.
Using your own data allows you to insert your brand into the facts presented in the graphic. Coupling this brand name placement with the use of a logo makes infographic theft nearly impossible.
Include a Copyright Notice
It should be a given, but far too often it’s not; certain individuals see the Internet as an open forum for grabbing information to use as their own. On your site and where your infographic is published, include a notice of what is and is not permitted. Something like this, found on WordPress.com would be appropriate:
© [Full Company Name] and [Website or Blog name if applicable], [Year]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Content and links may be shared provided that full credit is given to [Company Name] and [Website name if applicable] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
If it Happens/Cleaning Up
If you’ve taken the proper steps to prevent infographic theft but it still occurs, there’s still time to make amends. First you will need to locate the source. It’s important to track down where your infographic is shared, even if you’re not concerned about theft. Understanding where your infographic is being shared gives you an idea of how many individuals in your target audience have had a chance to view the information you’ve presented, along with how successful a given campaign has been.
It is also critical for learning when your infographic has been used by someone else, or, stolen. Ways to track down your infographic include:
- Running a reverse image search. Google’s Image Search allows users to search for images online. To make it work, copy the URL of your infographic by right-clicking and selecting “copy image URL.” Paste the URL into the search box and check out your results. (If you’re in Chrome, you can also right click any image and choose “Search Google for this image.”) Take the time to sort through new results and make sure your brand receives the credit for the infographic in question.
- Looking at your original contact list. When you first distributed your infographic, you probably shared it with a key group of bloggers and others on your email list. Sort through their social media pages and blogs to see if it’s been shared. It never hurts to track who’s sharing what. You can also use Topsy to check for any influential shares.
- Search for your infographic’s text. Sometimes text can be pulled out to create pieces where you may not receive deserved credit, even if the data is your own. Consider running searches on certain key terms from your infographic. You might catch on to a form of theft that an image search alone could have overlooked. Similar searches include looking for your infographic’s title and your embed code’s credit text.
This process can be tedious; but, it’s worth it for tracking what happens with your infographic after the initial distribution.
Getting Credit for Your Infographic
If your searches turn up an instance of your infographic being used with someone else’s logo, or without any credit being given to you or your brand, it’s time to take action. One brand, CJ Pony Parts found that part of their infographic “Most and Least Ticketed Types, Makes and Colors of Cars,” was shared on another site without any credit to their brand. Instead, credit was given to another site that had posted the infographic.
The first step is to reach out to the individual who has published or modified your infographic and remind them that infographics are covered under Creative Commons licensing. Use positivity and proper etiquette for best results, especially in the beginning. The more calm and relaxed you appear, the more likely the situation is to be resolved peacefully. An email likes this could do the job:
Subject Line: Wanted to thank you for sharing my infographic!
Body: Hello (NAME),
I just wanted to stop by and sincerely thank you for publishing my infographic (insert name of infographic here) on your site. I found it here (insert URL). It means a lot to me that you took the time to share it!
The graphic falls under Creative Commons license and I’m flattered that you shared it with your audience. However, when I found it on your site, I realized that you forgot to give us credit for creating it. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d greatly appreciate if you’d link back to my original post about the graphic. I wanted to make it easy for you, so the link is: (URL HERE)
This will make it easier for any of your followers to learn more or share the graphic on their own sites!
Thank you so much for your attention in this matter. I appreciate it.
Have a great day!
(Your name and URL here)
Sometimes a simple email isn’t enough, sometimes it’s too little too late. It’s completely possible that a stolen infographic could go viral with the credit going to the individual or brand who took the work instead of your brand. This could easily be viewed as a worst case scenario.
However, there is hope, and it’s possible to undo the damage. Because infographic theft is so common, along with theft of other online content, publishers are generally familiar with the situation. They understand that it happens and have probably fallen victim to the practice on their own at one point or another. Many of them are more than likely to switch the posting so that your brand receives the credit it deserves. This doesn’t always take away the anger or frustration associated with infographic theft, but, it can ensure you get credit going forward and that is better than nothing.
This happens frequently. In fact, the previously mentioned Internet marketing solutions agency, WebpageFX, had it happen when their infographic, “The Science of Happiness,” was posted on Alltop without credit. Yes, the post had gone viral, but no, the brand behind the infographic didn’t receive due credit. By posting in the comments section, the situation was remedied and, as demonstrated at the bottom of the page, the proper brand received the credit it deserved.
Because of the vastness of the Internet and the potential for any piece of content to go viral, catching every single instance of infographic theft isn’t possible. That’s a fact that one must come to terms with. However, by taking the proper steps up front, putting in the work prior to publishing, integrating the logo and incorporating data that comes from your brand and including clear copyright information, you can prevent falling victim to the crime in many instances.
Furthermore, when an infographic is stolen, following the right steps with the right attitude and acting quickly can provide a solution for moving forward. Infographic theft is an unfortunate aspect of online publishing. Learn what you can do now to prevent trouble in the future.