In today’s post-literate world, visual content helps convey complex information in a variety of concise, understandable, and colorful formats that are not possible using just words. Adding visual content to your blog content is a powerful way to grab the attention of your readers and differentiate your thinking from competing bloggers in your niche.
In particular, mind maps are a form of visual content that you should consider adding to your blog. They usually consist of a central topic with branches containing keywords and concepts radiating in all directions. Do you remember the hierarchical diagrams you made in elementary school? Mind maps are a visual version of this.
Mind maps are growing in popularity because they correspond to how our brain works, by association. They allow us to translate our thinking into a more tangible form, so that we can develop our ideas, refine them, and use them to get things done. They are also powerful ways to communicate ideas and concepts to others.
In the context of a blog, mind maps represent distinctive content objects that grab attention and make readers think. The position of subjects and sub-subjects conveys both meaning and context; these visual communication tools can be enhanced with images, icons and other additional information to further increase their value. Once converted to images, they can be shared on a variety of social media channels. This makes it an ideal form of visual and shareable content that you should consider adding to your repertoire.
Here are 5 ways you can use mind maps to create more powerful blog content:
1. Resource maps
Create a collection of resources on a topic that interests your readers, with links to web pages where they can learn more. This type of map image includes a set of built-in links, so when readers click on a topic, their browser takes them to the corresponding web page. Here is an example:
Mind mapping experts, developers and resources on Google+
Note that the subjects of the image displayed in this blog post do not not contain links; this is because WordPress will only allow you to assign one URL to each image. You need to click on the image, which will take you to a separate HTML page with the hotspot version.
This type of interactive mind map can be created in two steps:
- Create your visual map in your favorite mind mapping program and export it as an image file.
- Open it in an image editing program that lets you create hotspots and add links to them (my program of choice is Adobe Fireworks).
If you don’t want to manipulate an image, you can just generate a jpeg, gif, or png image of your mind map – without links – then include the links and resource descriptions in the body of your blog post, like I have. done here:
LinkedIn groups for visual thinkers and mind maps
2. Solicit feedback from readers on an idea for an information product.
One product development technique that bloggers are starting to use is crowdsourcing: posting a first prototype of an information product on your blog to solicit feedback from readers about it. You can present a mind map that outlines the topics and issues you plan to cover in your information product, as well as the order in which you plan to do so.
Doesn’t that potentially expose you to con artists, who may try to use your outline to punch you in? Tech guru Guy Kawasaki, in his new Kindle book “APE: Author, Editor, Entrepreneur,” describes how he previewed it online and asked for comment. He says the input he got was so valuable it was worth the risk. He also believes it resulted in increased book sales, as so many people felt a sense of “ownership” in the book when it was published.
3. Create a small collection of quotes or life lessons
Using this technique, you can copy and paste any favorite quotes or life lessons from someone you admire into a mind map. It takes a list of pretty mundane textual information and turns it into something beautiful and inspiring.
Make sure to include an iconic image of the person as part of the central topic, especially if your topic is a famous person. This will create much more visual interest than a central topic containing only text. Then export your mind map as an image, as described in the first technique.
This approach creates a content object that has a lot of “legs” compared to a simple list of texts of 8-10 quotes or life lessons. You can post your card image on Pinterest and Instagram, share it on your personal or business Facebook page, refer to it in a Twitter post, and more. Here are several examples:
4. Communicate information more clearly to your readers
Disassemble an idea into its essentials in a blog post and use a mind map to visually support your analysis. It’s a great way to expose your thinking to your readers in a colorful and impactful way.
Mind maps do a remarkable job of showing the relationships between your ideas – much more clearly than just text. Top level topics give your readers the big picture – the main parts of the idea you’re writing about. The resulting “child” topics show the following level of detail. Their sequence, when read clockwise, gives your readers an intuitive understanding of how all the pieces fit together. Here are several examples:
A consumer products company, Nestlé, has adapted the idea of a mind map to help consumers make healthier choices about the foods they buy, what it calls the Nutrition Compass. As the company explains on its Nutritional Compass webpage, “The compass has always been viewed as an essential navigation tool. It helps you know where you are, decide where you want to go, and find your way. By linking the traditional nutrition facts table with more specific details about the nutritional benefits of the food and advice on how to make healthier choices, Nestlé says the Nutrition Compass makes it easier for consumers to make choices. more informed choices about the foods that families eat.
5. Visually explain a simple process
While many mind maps are radial in design, with topics pointing in all directions, they don’t have to be. You can create a right-facing mind map to visualize a simple business process. In this type of visual map, the timeline goes from top to bottom. In other words, the topic at the top is the first step in the process; the second is the next step, and so on. You can read more about this technique here:
Tips for incorporating mind maps into your blog posts
If you decide to try one or more of these techniques, here are some tips to keep in mind:
If you don’t currently have mind mapping software, Xmind and MindMaple are well-designed, easy-to-use free programs that you can use to get started.
- The default setting for most mind mapping software is to produce a simple black and white visual map. Explore your program settings to see what you need to do to add color to your mind map. Some programs include themes that you can apply to your cards to do it quickly. I like to use NovaMind to quickly generate maps with a rainbow of subject colors, using one of its built-in themes. Alternatively, you can color the topics manually to meet your needs using the topic formatting options in your program.
- Use larger fonts in your mind map (14 points or more), so when you export and resize it to fit your blog layout, the text will still be readable.
- Most concept mapping programs generate visual maps that are taller than they are wide. Plan to experiment with the positioning of subjects and the distance between them to make your mind map more compact vertically. This will ensure that your readers can see both the map image and the first or two paragraphs of your blog post “above the waterline” (in the first info-filled screen).
- Each of these techniques requires you to export your visual map from your mind mapping program to an image file, which you then need to resize and crop to fit your blog layout. For best results, I recommend exporting to tiff, bmp, or png image formats, as they retain the most amount of image data. Exporting to jpeg or gif format is not recommended, as these are compressed image formats that may appear jagged when resized.
- When you format card images for your blog, create two sizes: one to fit your standard blog layout, and a second, larger image that readers can view to see more detail. For example, when I add such a map image to one of my blog posts, I generate an image that is 600 pixels wide (the full width of blog posts in the WordPress template I’m using); it appears with my blog post. In the WordPress image settings, I then create a link to a large version (900-1200 pixels wide) which will show when the player clicks on the smaller one. Make sure to include words in your blog posts that educate your readers about this feature, otherwise they might not realize it’s there.
- Consider adding your name, company, email address, and logo to your card image in a discreet way. Why? Due to the growing popularity of image-driven social media channels like Pinterest and Instagram, it’s likely that your most compelling card images will be shared by others in places outside of your blog. This will ensure that people who see your card image will know who created it and can visit your blog to access more of your innovative ideas.
- Limit your mind maps to the high level details of your blog topic. Too much information crammed into a visual map can make it difficult to read and understand. If you need to share something more complex with your readers, provide a simplified image of your mind map with collapsed topics in a blog post and link it to a PDF file that displays a more detailed version of it.
For more great tips on how to improve your blog content, read The Ultimate Guide to Blogging.