Do you use animated GIFs as part of your social media strategy? Interested in how you to create them and make them work for you?
In the early days of the Internet as we know it now, animated GIFs had a bit of a bad reputation - poorly drawn, cheesy artwork whose only purpose was, seemingly, to slow down web pages and annoy people. They fell out of favour as chat emoticons took hold, but saw another rise in the era of Myspace.
Fast-forward to 2016 and GIFs are everywhere. Spurred on by widespread use of GIFs on sites like Tumblr, Buzzfeed and Reddit, not even Facebook and Twitter could ignore their popularity. In July 2015, Facebook introduced a GIF search engine to Messenger, and a GIF search engine was rolled out to Twitter in February 2016 - in the year previous, over 100 million GIFs were shared by Twitter users.
Why use animated GIFs for business
Once looked down upon as unprofessional, GIFs are now a readily-accepted part of social media, and thus, social media marketing. What's more, they're eye-catching and easily shareable across multiple social networks. Whether you design your own or lift one from a GIF search engine, GIFs can add value to your brand offering and encourage people to invest in your cause.
How to use animated GIFs for business
Let's look at three of the main ways how GIFs can be used for business, alongside some real life examples.
1. To educate
On social media, where people's time and attention span is short, GIFs can be great for quickly educating your audience - like showing a demo of your product or a step-by-step guide to using an app. And as GIFs loop forever, they can watch as many times as they like.
In the above example, Maps4News uses a GIF to demo a new feature of its product.
2. To react
As an alternative to text and emoji, GIFs offer an excellent way to show an emotional reaction to news, thoughts, and situations - often in a humorous way. In the above example, Climate Council uses a GIF to deliver a sarcastic response to news about the environment.
In the above example, Space Hop turns the tide and uses a GIF to play on the reaction of their fans to their service, again with a none-too-serious tone.
3. To promote
Whether you're teasing a new product for release or advertising a new one, GIFS provide a fun and less in-your-face way to promote your wares and their features. In the above example, Samsung uses a GIF to showcase the fact that it's new phone is water resistant.
In this example, Starbucks uses a GIF to promote its new drink. Notice how vibrant and eye-catching the animation is, and how this would attract attention vs a static image.
How to make your own animated GIFs
Essentially, animated GIFs are either a short video clip or a series of photos that loops continuously. If you're savvy with Photoshop, a GIF can be made with such software, but if you want a quick and easy GIF-making tool, then GIPHY has you covered. To start, visit https://giphy.com/create/gifmaker.
To get started, enter any YouTube, Vimeo, or Vine video URL, drag and drop a video file, or browse your computer to select one.
From here, simply use the slider to select which part of the video you want your GIF to begin and how long you want it to last (up to 10 seconds). Enter a caption and some tags, then hit Create GIF.
Once your GIF has processed, you'll be able to share or download it, and it'll be searchable on GIPHY along with thousands of others (more on this below).
Where to search for GIFs (and how to share them)
If the situation calls for a pre-made animated GIF, there are several quick and easy ways to get hold of one to add to your content. GIPHY.com is the big one, with thousands of searchable GIFs, and the option to share them - it's probably all you'll need. Alternatively, https://gifme.io/ is a more stripped down option.
How to add animated GIFs to Twitter
On Twitter, simply begin to compose a tweet and you'll notice a GIF option. Click or tap this and you'll be able to browse popular types of GIFs, or search for your own. Keep in mind that adding a GIF takes up 26 characters of the allotted 140 limit.
How to add animated GIFs to Facebook Pages
At the time of writing, Facebook's search engine for GIFs only works for personal accounts, i.e not business Pages. What's more, animated GIFs do not work on Pages (whether linked or uploaded as an image), although some larger Pages do have that privilege.
Back in August 2015, Facebook began to test GIF support for certain Pages, and it will use the reaction to them to decide whether to roll support out more widely.
How to add animated GIFs to Pinterest
Animated GIFs work fine as a direct image upload from your device to Pinterest, or when shared from a GIF search engine like GIFFY. Simply choose the board you want the GIF to appear on.
Over to you
Do you use animated GIFs as part of your social media strategy already, or is is something you'll be giving a go now? Let me know in the comments below!
Andrew Macarthy is a social media consultant and the author of the #1 Amazon Web Marketing Bestseller, 500 Social Media Marketing Tips.