Winner of a Lifetime Achievement Webby and older than the Internet itself, the GIF has truly stood the test of time. Created in 1987 by Steve Wilhite, the GIF has seen several iterations, from the dancing banana to the modern-day images seen on social media sites.
So, what is a GIF? Essentially, it’s a way to attach an 8-bit image with motion to an email message, web page, or social media post. With their ease of use and low production costs, GIFs have become a powerful marketing tool. Keep reading to learn more about the GIF’s extensive history and how you can use this timeless tool to your advantage.
The Rise, Fall, and Return of the GIF
When GIFs first made their debut in the 1990s, people gravitated toward them because they looked significantly more attractive than clip art. GIFs were a great way to add a bit of pizzazz to web pages, and their formatting was ideal for image transfer over slow connections. However, the rise of AOL instant messenger emojis caused users to place GIFs on the back burner for several years.
During the early to mid 2000s, Myspace became the dominant social networking site and brought the GIF back to the forefront. You may remember seeing colorful pages littered with glittery GIFs, all playing at once. By the late 2000s, Facebook became the most popular social media site, with Myspace moving its focus to music and culture. As Myspace became less popular, GIF usage also declined—for a while.
The early 2010s saw yet another resurgence of the GIF, with Tumblr and Reddit users placing GIFs in their posts and comments. Today, GIF fans can use Giphy’s online database to find an image for almost any occasion. Facebook and Twitter also offer GIF support. While GIFs still face competition from emojis, Snapchat, and video, they remain on top for the time being. That means that there’s no better time to start using GIFs to enhance your content marketing efforts.
How GIFs Can Up Your Content Marketing Game
GIFs are so prevalent today that many businesses, politicians, and even film studios, work with Giphy to create relevant GIFs for their brand. Posts that contain GIFs can increase engagement and conversion rates. It’s no coincidence that marketers have begun to seek out organic content creators and GIFs to further engage their audience.
One key advantage of GIFs is that they typically—when rendered correctly—have a smaller file size than other types of images. This makes them easy to attach to messages and highly mobile-friendly. Despite their small size, GIFs can have a big impact when reaching Millennial customers. Here are some other advantages of GIFs:
- GIFs typically take less money to produce than other mediums, like video
- They’re very shareable, since most social media platforms offer GIF support
- Millions of pre-made GIFs are available, making content sourcing easy
- Creating a new GIF usually is a very straightforward process
If you’re ready to incorporate GIFs into your content marketing strategy, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- A GIF will not play until it’s fully loaded. Loading time will depend on file size, so make sure each GIF is under 125KB.
- The first frame of the GIF should be the most engaging, since it’s what recipients who don’t use a platform that supports GIFs will see instead of the full animation.
- Don’t overload your message with GIFs—stick to just a few interesting images.
Many popular brands, including Kate Spade, Anthropologie, Nike, and Chanel have utilized customized GIFs in their emails. Kate Spade began using GIFs to create unique backgrounds for their messages, while Anthropologie used GIFs to illustrate key collections.
This form of short-term storytelling is similar to Snapchat or the now-inactive Vine, which challenged users to be as entertaining as possible in less than six seconds. Like Snapchat, using GIFs allows you to say a lot in a short period of time. Alex Chung, who founded Giphy along with Jace Cooke, reports that the average GIF contains 60 frames and is capable of conveying 60,000 words.
Crafting GIFs for Messages
Even though GIFs are relatively simple to share and post, there’s an art form to crafting an engaging GIF. As a rule, GIFs should be used only when they create value for your audience. It’s not recommended to use a GIF if it doesn’t enhance the story you’re telling or if the message would remain the same without the image. Choose your opportunities wisely—if a GIF doesn’t contribute to the story, it may irritate your audience.
When to Add GIFs
Of course, there are several instances where using a GIF in your messaging is appropriate. GIFs can be very effective in the following types of content
1. Tutorials and Guides
Most marketers know that images can be very useful when explaining to customers how a product works, and GIFs give you the opportunity to create images at a lower cost than video. For example, a makeup company could use a GIF to illustrate how their new concealer is applied. Another example is a software company utilizing GIFs to create walkthroughs for clients.
2. Explaining Data
While infographics can do a great job of helping your audience visualize data, animation is even better. GIFs can help you show how data has evolved over time, and they can even be used to break down large infographics to make them more readable.
3. Email Marketing Campaigns
As mentioned previously, adding a GIF to your email newsletter or promotional materials can help boost click-through rates and conversions. In fact, a recent Experian study noted that emails with GIFs had much higher interaction than those with simple text.
How to Create Your Own GIFs
If you’ve searched the Internet for the perfect GIF and haven’t found the one you needed, there’s no need to worry—making your own GIFs is simple. These two websites are available for all your GIF-making needs:
- Giphy GIF Maker: This tool allows you to create GIFs using video files or YouTube videos. Simply upload the content, and the user-friendly interface will help you create the GIF. After Giphy creates your custom GIF, it will be added to the site’s library.
- CloudApp: Software marketers may enjoy using CloudApp, which turns screen captures into GIFs. This is helpful when creating tutorials or walkthroughs. Once the GIF is created, you’ll receive a custom URL that makes sharing it easy.
GIFs and Copyright Laws
While there haven’t been any definitive actions taken against creating GIFs from copyrighted material, it’s still essential to be mindful of fair use rules when creating your own GIFs. Usually, repurposing copyrighted material is considered fair use when the content has been used for commentary, parody, critical, or educational purposes. The repurposed content does not compete with the copyright holder’s ability to monetize the material.
Most of all, remember to have fun when using GIFs in your marketing strategy. Humor is a great tool when it comes to fostering communication and goodwill with your customers, and GIFs provide a simple way to convey a positive message. With their low cost and high rate of return, using GIFs can help you take your content marketing to the next level.
MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, is one of Florida’s top branding firms. MDG’s capabilities include print advertising, direct mail marketing, branding, logo design, creative, media buying and planning, radio and TV advertising, outdoor, newspaper, digital marketing, website design and development, online video advertising, infographic development, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, paid search marketing, and SEO. To learn about the latest trends in advertising and branding, contact MDG Advertising today at 561-338-7797 or visit mdgadvertising.com.
Written by Michael Del Gigante