One of the most powerful creations of our highly connected world is the infographic. These combinations of images and text are incredibly popular in online communications. We sometimes publish them here on Sprout Insights, including a recent contribution by Katie Holland of McDonald’s USA about how the fast food chain uses Sprout Social.

Social media is a regular subject of infographics, and some of these powerful images contain essential insights that can influence your business and your online operations. The following social media infographics present data on issues like the popularity of different networks, to preparing your team to best use those networks. Take a look and draw inspiration from the data where you can.

1. An Infographic About Infographics

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Presenting your data and ideas in a visual format is a smart way to engage your audience. In fact, here’s an infographic by Rick Mann explaining why the medium is so effective. As the huge popularity of infographics demonstrates, visual content can encompass more than just photos on a social media network. Offering your audience an illustration of a concept can make it easier for them to interpret that information. It can also be an an effective way to encourage sharing of that information.

If you’re considering implementing infographics of your own, make sure that you work with a talented artist or graphic designer. They can help you understand smart ways to depict your data while keeping the whole infographic visually pleasing. Also, be careful that the text you include isn’t an oversimplification. You’ll want to be as concise but be sure your data is accurate as well.

2. A Social Media Minute

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Social media is based on real-time interactions; it’s also a round-the-clock source of activity and communication. This infographic from Social Jumpstart demonstrates just how busy some of the most popular networks are. It’s a reminder of how important it is for companies to respond and interact quickly on social media channels. When there are thousands of tweets and messages sent every minute on Twitter and Facebook, people come to expect a speedy turnaround when they voice a complaint or ask a question.

Also, this infographic shows how essential it is for a brand operating online to keep up with a regular supply of new content for followers. Since people are on networks so frequently, it’s important to have new material for them to absorb.

3. Social Media Crises

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A social media train wreck often goes viral and gets more media attention than a solid, strong campaign. This infographic by Christian Faller analyzes where and how those crises happened over the past decade. It reveals that negative customer feedback is the biggest source of a train wreck, followed by violations of ethical guidelines.

Understanding the spark creating major problems can help companies to act preventively on social media. Have a plan for how to respond to negativity and make sure that your whole team is educated about the company ethos. Be especially vigilant on Twitter and Facebook (where more than half of these problems arise), for issues that you can nip in the bud.

4. Employee Social Media Training

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One important step for a brand that wants to have a strong social media strategy, and avoid the aforementioned crises, is to ensure that employees understand how to use those tools. The image by Mindflash demonstrates the surprising statistic that 76 percent of companies do not have a clearly defined social media policy.

The infographic also has a very useful breakdown of how your team members will likely react to the need for social media training. For example, some of your employees may already have popular social media channels in their personal lives, while others may be opposed to your business’ push online. Keep in mind that your team probably represents a wide range of social media experience. This will help you know how to identify the different groups and understand how to best get them ready to implement your strategy.

5. Social Media Landscape 2012

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This last infographic is from Paris-based, Fred Cavazza. It takes the interesting step of illustrating the gadgetry side to social media. Remember that a major part of why social media has a constant flow of traffic is that with the popularity of smartphones and tablets, people can take their networks on the go.

The visualization also gives a smart breakdown of the different types of networks that were popular at the start of this year. Additionally, the chart takes the main purpose of each network into account. For example, Tumblr and Posterous can serve as sharing networks, as well as publishing ones. A creative strategy can help you capitalize on just about any group of social media channels.

Has your social media strategy been influenced by an infographic before? Let us know in the comments!

[Image sources: GDS InfographicsRick Mans, Social Jumpstart, Christian FallerMindflash, Fred Cavazza]