GIFs: Think they’re newbies on the digital media block? Think again.
Animated GIFs have been around for over three decades. Over the years, they’ve become a familiar, fun, and much-loved element within the blogging and social media world. And when something gets enough attention online for that long, you can bet content marketers will turn it into a valuable tool in their marketing arsenal.
Whether this is your first time learning about GIF marketing or you want to revamp your current strategy, this guide will prove handy. We’ll dive deep into GIFs, giving you actionable insights into how to create and use them to enrich your brand.
What Is a GIF and What Advantages Do They Offer Marketers?
In their simplest form, GIFs (short for Graphics Interchange Format) are soundless, moving image files that loop endlessly without the need for anyone to hit play. They’re intended to be short, fun, and easy to digest.
GIF option: https://giphy.com/gifs/tiktok-cute-dog-hi-nbMyAHO0PAVxJ5uJmG
Before we go any further, let’s address the elephant in the room: How to pronounce “GIF.” Some of us prefer to use the soft “g” as in “giraffe,” while others favor the hard “g” as in “gift.” Steve Wilhite, the inventor of the GIF, has firmly stated that it’s pronounced the first way and sounds like “JIF,” but to each their own.
Either way, GIFs are effective. Wilhite first created these tiny animated images in 1987 to save space. Their compressed file size and limited color palette made them ideal for downloading color images back for slow modems. Now, they offer a much-needed nonverbal and emotional dimension to marketers’ digital content.
According to Giphy, a GIF hosting platform, their users engage with a whopping 10 billion GIFs every day. In addition, over 250 million users visit their Giphy accounts monthly.
If the numbers alone don’t convince you of the magic and marketing potential of GIFs for your brand, check out the list of benefits below.
GIFs Are Dynamic Rather Than Static
You can think of an animated GIF as a “photo that’s still alive,” an attention-grabbing hybrid between a photo and a video. It’s lively and dynamic, unlike other content assets such as text-only social media posts, still images, static pay-per-click ads, and more.
A GIF’s repetitive movement naturally catches your customer’s eye and invites their interest without being intrusive or irritating like a sudden pop-up or huge CTA box.
GIFs Are Mobile-Friendly
Due to their small file sizes, GIFs are a great way to post mobile-optimized, animated content to your site. They won’t slow down your site like other video content. (Page speed is a critical part of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google’s Core Web Vitals, which is a determining factor in how well your content ranks online.)
In addition, GIFs can easily size to mobile screens, making for a much more pleasant mobile user experience.
GIFs Are Entertaining and Expressive
When users are browsing your site after a long day or trying to make a purchase decision, they want content that won’t bore them to tears. They want something different — something that’s super relatable, fun, and quickly communicates your message.
GIFs are exactly that. They’re perfect for short, punchy, and even dramatic expressions which allow visitors to engage with your content with a smile on their faces. In other words, GIFs can be used like they’re a “hype man” for your messaging.
For example, if you’re promoting a summer sale, you can underscore the low, limited-time prices with a GIF like this:
GIF option: https://giphy.com/gifs/thismightget-grace-helbig-mamrie-hart-5BYvjhtjsQdoyx9JT9
GIFs Make Your Content Feel Accessible
As we just covered, GIFs let your brand emote and feel more relatable to your target audience. They inherently create a casual atmosphere and inject a friendly, human vibe into your content. So, they’re a valuable tool for getting more engagement with your educational or information-heavy content.
Many readers are interested in consuming educational content — like strategy-focused blogs or product comparisons — but avoid pieces that come off as dry and formal. GIFs help break down these voice and tone barriers.
15 Ways To Use GIFs in Your Marketing
Now that you know how beneficial GIFs are, you probably want to know how to use them in your marketing. Luckily for you, we’ve done all the digging and heavy lifting on your behalf. Below, we present 15 ways to spice up your marketing using GIFs.
1. Tease Products Across Ads and Social Media
On social media platforms — where attention spans are averaging only 1.7 seconds per post on mobile — GIFs offer a lighting-fast way to tease a big announcement or give users a sneak peek at a soon-to-launch product. In this example, McDonald’s promoted their collaboration with BTS using a tongue-in-cheek GIF:
GIF option: https://twitter.com/McDonalds/status/1401917027338629121
A simple teaser GIF with text like “Expect the Unbelievable” or “It’s Almost Here” could get your audience curious and excited for your upcoming product. Of course, you can also use marketing GIFs in any of your product ads to give them an edge.
2. Give 360-Degree Views of Products on Ecommerce Platforms
One of the biggest mistakes that ecommerce websites can make is failing to offer their site users a rich virtual experience.
Product presentation is a big deal to customers. Since they can’t touch or examine your products online as they would in a storefront, it’s important to provide them with a 360-degree view of every product you sell.
GIFs let your brand execute on this strategy without complicated software. For instance, a shoe brand could make a GIF of a new loafer rotating at every angle, share it via social media, and add it to their product page.
3. Show Users How to Do Something
Whether you want to display a recipe or illustrate steps to use your product or service, GIFs can help you distill pages of instructions into mere seconds of footage.
Chances are that you already use images, video, or screencasts to deliver tutorial-type instructions. These mediums can be useful for explaining complex tasks, but can be time-consuming for both the author and the user.
On the other hand, business GIFs can explain a process quickly and succinctly, without having to list out all the steps in text form. For example, if you run an online electronics shop, you can make a GIF explaining how to assemble a brand new phone.
Here’s how Slack walked users through a new feature update:
GIF option: https://twitter.com/SlackHQ/status/1419711674496471041
4. Enhance Your Brand Voice Via Email Marketing
According to Statista, over 306 billion emails are sent and received every day. If you want people to pay attention to yours, you’ve got to stand out.
GIFs allow you to spruce up your email marketing campaigns and express your brand voice in a way text alone can’t. Standing out doesn’t necessarily mean copying another brand’s voice. Rather, it means sticking to your own.
Now more than ever, people are gravitating towards brands that feel genuine and are true to their values and beliefs. You can show your audience who you really are through the use of perfectly positioned GIFs in your emails. According to Litmus, 56.6% of marketers now use animated GIFs in their email strategy “at least sometimes.”
5. Animate Your Data To Make It More Interesting
From a data visualization standpoint, content GIFs are powerful because they enable marketers to stitch together a variety of facts, figures, and complex concepts into one complete, engaging picture.
There are two important things to remember with data visualizations. First, make the flow of information easy to follow, and second, keep the GIF short. You don’t want to overload your viewers.
Gifographics, which are animated infographics, are excellent examples of visually appealing data. Here’s an example by the World Health Organization:
GIF option: https://giphy.com/gifs/sgvmosquito-health-entomology-tipntoss-XB9XIMyb3xhsEkI8Nv
6. Show Off More Than One Product Quickly
Like we mentioned earlier, online visitors’ attention spans are short. If you don’t showcase your products quickly enough, you could easily end up with poor conversion rates.
Since GIFs have small file sizes and fast load times, they provide the perfect opportunity to show off multiple products on the fly. Use them to cycle through an entire set of product images in just a couple of seconds.
For example, fashion retailer Kate Spade New York promoted their nonprofit partnership and COVID mask sale with an artful GIF on Twitter:
GIF option: https://twitter.com/katespadeny/status/1371570644396224517
7. Customer Success Teams Can Create Fun, User-Friendly Experiences
Who said customer support or technical troubleshooting has to be boring or bland?
A little bit of well-timed fun never hurt anyone. GIFs can help you brighten a customer’s support experience and earn long-term customers. For example, if a customer needs help finishing the checkout process, you could use a GIF of a wrestler jumping into the ring to help their teammate.
Of course, the strength and success of this tactic depends on your brand voice and ideal customer. You don’t have to strike an informal tone — the power of GIFs is in their versatility. For instance, Asana uses GIFs to illustrate steps in their support documents:
GIF option: https://asana.com/guide/help/tasks/subtasks#gl-convert
8. Make Blog Headers More Dynamic
The header of your blog is the first thing readers lay eyes on. It sets the tone for your content and clues them into your brand personality. That said, be careful not to make the header GIFs too flashy. You don’t want to distract the reader or make them lose interest in your content. IdeaRocket’s post on GIFographics strikes just the right balance:
GIF option: https://idearocketanimation.com/17446-use-gifographics-gifographics/
9. Spruce Up Your Website
Remember how we said that GIFs are small in size? That means you can use them on your site without fear of slowing it down and negatively affecting your SEO standing.
For a real-world example, shoe brand Aldo utilizes GIFs on their home page to appeal to both men and women buyers and direct their attention to their latest releases:
GIF option: https://www.aldoshoes.com/us/en_US
10. Liven Up Your Call To Action (CTA)
At their core, GIFs grab attention, which increases the chances that your audience will engage with your content. That’s what makes them so beneficial in marketing. So, why not use GIFs to put some action in your calls to action?
They can help draw users further down a page on your website or deeper into your emails. For instance, you can set a GIF as the background image of your email newsletter signup CTA.
11. Enrich Your Brand’s Blog
Blogs and GIFs go hand in hand. On the spectrum of casual to professional, blogs often fall somewhere in the middle, just like GIFs sit somewhere between static images and lengthy videos.
Together, they can make your audience more likely to keep reading your blog, and even better, more likely to absorb the information. It’s less daunting when a reader sees a lively GIF rather than a block of text and headers.
For instance, Trello regularly uses GIFs to show readers how to get the most out of their project management platform:
GIF options: https://blog.trello.com/beginner-tips-for-using-trello
A data visualization GIF or GIFographic can also demonstrate your brand’s expertise on the topic.
12. Build and Promote Your Brand
Social media has changed the traditional creative process. Today, winning followers and customers via content is difficult without that extra dose of creativity. This is where GIFs come in. Done right, they can boost brand recognition across multiple channels.
Let’s say you’re promoting your casual clothing line with a GIF-driven social media campaign. You could find or create GIFs that capitalize on trends like laundry basketball or tidy-up challenges. A unified color palette, consistent, memorable font, and an animated version of your logo could build brand awareness over time.
Another pro tip: Your brand can partner closely with content creators and influencers who know exactly how to connect with an online audience.
CTA Suggestion: Delta Air Lines successfully used influencers to launch their new website. See how.
13. Get Closer To Your Online Community
Animated GIFs add a spark into your brand community interactions, giving you the tools to drive meaningful engagement and earn brand loyalty. You can use GIFs to speak to the hearts of your online audience, not just their minds.
For instance, you could jump in on #TheTellMeChallenge on social media and ask your followers to react to your prompt or answer your question using a single GIF in the comments section. It’s an easy way to get insights into your audience’s pain points and interests and craft better community content.
14. Improve Your Presentations, Webinars, Demos, and More
Steve Jobs famously said, “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”
Although he was talking about how to improve internal meetings, there’s another takeaway for B2B content marketers. Relying on your presentation or webinar slides to do all the talking is no good. When you’ve already explained everything in your slides and leave no story to tell, how do you keep your audience’s attention?
Use GIFs to break up or replace text, highlight key takeaways, and improve CTA click-through rates throughout your presentations and webinars.
15. Create Powerful, Compelling Stories
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a GIF is worth 60,000 words. (That’s according to Alex Chung, co-founder and CEO of Giphy.)
The animated nature of GIFs comes in handy when telling stories, whether your brand is crafting original content or promoting user-generated content. They add emotion, visual interest, and situational context while being easy to grasp for users who are scrolling through their feed.
Instagram Stories is a great starting point for many brands. Nike takes its storytelling game to the next level with Stories, using a powerful combination of images, GIFs, text, and interactive elements, to tell a moving story about a swimming club for self-proclaimed “old-timers.”
GIF option: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17901622919031208/
How To Create Your Own GIFs for Your Content Marketing Channels
It’s easy to create marketing GIFs from scratch or source ones that best fit your brand. Here are three ways to get started:
Try a Video-to-GIF Converter
Already have a video? Fantastic. All you need to do is plug it into a video-to-GIF converter and you can dive into your GIF marketing strategy. This software tool lets you convert your video files into downloadable GIF files. Import your video file, adjust it to your preferred GIF specifications, and you’re ready to go.
Most video-to-GIF converters are available via mobile app or website and vary in price and functionality. Here are some options:
Use Apps for Making GIFs
There are dozens of GIF maker apps that allow users to collect or upload images or videos to make GIFs from scratch. Most of these tools let users add special effects like emojis and filters for extra customization. They also come with the ability to export files, and some even integrate directly with social media channels to facilitate seamless posting. Consider these helpful GIF creation apps:
Source Them From GIF Aggregator Websites
Not every marketing team has the time or desire to produce their own GIFs. The good news is there are tons of websites dedicated to aggregating GIFs. You can tap into this GIF goldmine, but only if you keep up with GIF copyright laws.
The trouble with sourcing animated GIFs for commercial purposes lies in using someone else’s original content. As such, it’s important to credit the original GIF creator as required by them or the platform they’re hosting content on. Alternatively, you may need to get permission from the copyright holder or those who appear in the GIF.
That said, here are some popular GIF search engines and websites where you can find ready-made GIFs:
Ready To Make a Splash With Animated GIFs In Your Marketing?
Popular Pays has got you covered. Our platform gives brands the full liberty to curate and vet the right team of influencers for their campaign, manage production and promotion with ease, and build a high-quality content library.
Choose from a variety of formats, including GIF marketing, graphic design, photo and video, stop motion, and more. Request a demo today to see how it works.