Animate Your Social Media Marketing With GIFs

If pitted against each other in a popularity contest, animated GIFs would beat boring old JPEGs in a heartbeat these days. If you’ve been on the Internet at all lately, you’ve seen them: short, animated images that replay automatically on loop.

Often clips from television shows or movies, animated GIFs have viral appeal, and thanks to Tumblr, have reached heightened popularity, especially in the United States in recent years.

Reaction GIFs,” which are animated GIFs used to express an emotional reaction to something in particular, are soaring in popularity. Check out Google Trends for the keyword “reaction gif.” Since March of 2010, the interest in reaction GIFs has continued to rise, peaking around this time last year. The forecast shows interest in reaction GIFs continuing to climb into April of 2016. (Google PR has even been known to respond to a request from a journalist with an animated GIF.)

GIFs are so popular among my co-workers, in fact, my company had to start limiting companywide email threads. Never-ending threads of reply-alls with animated GIFs would ensue after simple memos such as “Hey Influencers, The coffee pot is broken today.” It may have sucked up bandwidth and employees’ time, but it sure was fun. We still use them often today when announcing a promotion via email and on our blog quite regularly.

These days, regular old images just seem plain boring. Read on to find out how you can animate your social media marketing with animated GIFs!

GIF-Compatible Social Media

Sometimes I turn to the West and shake my fist, a gesture usually directed at Google for rolling out an algorithm update on the sly and creating trouble for my clients and a lot of work for my team. These days I’m shaking my fist in the direction of Facebook headquarters for continuing to ignore animated GIFs.

Today, Facebook does not support animated GIFs. If you try to share one, things can get ugly. Rather than sharing the GIF in context, you’re really sharing a link. What a letdown, Facebook — you’re making Google+ look like an innovator!

When trying to share an animated GIF on Facebook, things can get ugly.

Based on reading I’ve done, Facebook hasn’t yet provided an explanation as to why it does not support animated GIFs. For the record, it does support the GIF file format, but not animated GIFs.

Meanwhile … back in the 21st century, Twitter announced support for animated GIFs in June of 2014 with none other than a tweet with an animated GIF. (Note that the animations may not show for embedded tweets although you can see them on Twitter.com.) Other networks that support animated GIFs include Tumblr and Google+.

Ask Before You Share: Copyright Implications

As a business or brand using social media, sharing animated GIFs that do not belong to you can create some liability issues. Many of the animated GIFs popular online today feature TV shows, movies, celebrities or other copyrighted characters and material.

AdWeek consulted with a social media expert attorney on the use of GIFs. He advised businesses to be wary of embedding animated GIFs directly into your social media channels if they don’t belong to you.

Remember, as with any copyrighted material, just because others may be getting away with it doesn’t mean you will. An alternative is to consider linking out to the GIF or sharing another brand’s post rather than sharing the material directly as your business. To play it safe, create your own animated GIFs. Check out this list of nine free GIF creation apps from About.com.

Say It With A GIF: 4 Ways To Use GIFs in Social Media Marketing

Whether your goal is to build brand awareness, develop a brand voice with some personality or create more viral content, try saying it with an animated GIF.

1. Add some personality to your brand, and help customers see that you’re people too! Especially if you engage with customers via social media to resolve customer service issues, animated GIFs can add some humor and personality to the exchange. HootSuite Support is known for being great and highly responsive on Twitter (I can attest to this myself), and I loved this example of using an animated GIF to end things on a positive note with an unhappy customer.

2. Make your content more viral. Using animated GIFs in your social posting strategy or your website’s blog posts can make your content more viral and share-worthy.

If you have blog subscribers who receive emails with new blog posts, animated GIFs can catch their attention and attract more click-throughs to your website. Animated GIFs in a blog can also increase your average visit duration and pageviews.

3. Feature your product, sneak peeks or exclusive info. Animated GIFs can be used to visually highlight features or provide sneak peeks of your products. If you are releasing a new product or have a big event coming up, you can use animated GIFs on social to build hype.

Pair a promotional animated GIF with some paid promotion on Twitter and you could see a great return, drumming up interest in your products or features.

4. Highlight your company culture, and create unique content that’s all yours. Animated GIFs are a small but defining part of our company culture at Search Influence. From email threads to blog posts to debating the proper pronunciation via our “question of the day” board, we like to incorporate GIFs in our online content too.

Animated GIFs can help give outsiders a glimpse of what it’s like to work with you (whether as an employee or a customer).

This animated GIF was created using photos our employees took of King Cakes in the office during Mardi Gras season!

We’re located in New Orleans, which means once a year there is an entire season dedicated to revelry and indulgence called Mardi Gras. It’s become quite the tradition to bring and share king cakes to the office (and inadvertently gain 5 to 10 pounds if you’re not careful).

As a growing company, we like to keep a constant stream of content about our company culture visible to prospective employees and customers. By taking photos of the many king cakes we enjoyed last season, we were able to create a GIF of our own and write some fresh content for our blog. Hungry yet?

Do you use animated GIFs in your social media? Tell me about your successes in the comments below!


About The Author

Alison Zeringue
Alison Zeringue is Director of Account Management at Search Influence, a national digital marketing agency dedicated to helping businesses optimize their potential. In Alison's six years in digital marketing she's acquired SEO, Social, SEM, and integrated digital campaign experience on accounts ranging from small businesses to regional and national institutions.