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Animated GIFs as a Powerful Content Marketing Tool

Animated GIFs as a Powerful Content Marketing Tool

13min read  

23 Aug 2019

We’ve all cracked a chuckle at funny animated GIFs at least once or twice. Their entertaining value is undeniable. 

But is there really more to GIFs than meets the eye?

Think about it this way: People remember a mere 10% of the information they hear. When they see it, however, a whopping 65% sticks making eye-candy visuals the most demanded medium of the 21st century. 

To top things off, we live in an era where nearly 84% of communications are visual. Your audience demands engaging, creative, and innovative content. 

Enter the animated GIFs.

Use them wisely, and you’ll get a lighter, cheaper alternative to pictures and even videos. Add a pinch of humor into the mix and boom – you’ve produced a relatable medium that not only humanizes your brand but also tightens the bond between you and your target audience.  

 

What is a GIF?

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format that is essentially a “moving image.” In simpler words, it is a JPG or a PNG that contains an animation without sound. 

Originally created in the 90es, GIFs quickly became the bane of rational web design. Their small size and simplistic implementation have transformed websites and forums into glittering psychedelic dreams of a kid experiencing a bad case of a sugar rush. 

Somehow GIF-first website design didn’t stick as a trend for too long and the technology’s popularity faded into oblivion.

Then came social media bringing forth a revitalized renaissance for the format.

via GIPHY

 

What Made GIFs Popular Across Social Media Platforms?

Let’s take a look at the dynamics for a bit. 

Back in 2015, people shared more than 150 million animated GIFs, according to Twitter. For the past couple of years, the interest in the format has become increasingly popular. 

Today Giphy, the alternative to Google in the world of animated content, passes more than 100 million daily users.

They share more than a billion animated GIFs every single day. 5 million are exchanged in Facebook’s messenger app daily. 23 million lands on Tumblr every single day.

Wow. Just wow.

via GIPHY

 

What Makes the GIF Format so Popular?

For starters, they use compression making the animation smaller in size if compared to a traditional image or video. Yes, they are actually smaller than pictures.

In simpler words, they don’t require as much internet speed and don’t eat up as much traffic as their alternatives. 

Animated GIFs are mobile-friendly from the box making it simple to share them across any and all devices and screen sizes. 

Lastly, making one is incredibly simple. It doesn’t take any coding or video editing skills. Most of the job can be done for free in an online GIF editor.

 

What is a GIF to a Marketer Though? 

Ok, GIFs are pretty popular. You didn’t need a 300-word essay explaining this easily observable fact, did you? 

The real question is: why should you care? What good are these hilarious animations to serious marketing work?

Bear with us for a moment.

Dell is a fine example of a serious, reputable brand. They don’t seem like the joking type.

So what if someone told you that the first time they used animated GIFs in their email marketing campaign, they enjoyed:

  • 6% higher open rates
  • 42% CTR increase
  • 103% conversion boost
  • and 109% more revenue

Now imagine what the right GIF can do if paired with the right mass email service!

 

The Storytelling Edge 

Storytelling has grown into the new black of digital marketing over the past couple of years. Stories are much more relatable and engaging than dry statistics, trust factors, or traditional marketing messages.

Johny Walker, Warby Parker, and Lego are prime examples of a story-driven edge used to grow an otherwise stagnating business.

Well, according to Alex Chung, CEO at Giphy, “the average GIF contains sixty frames, then they’re capable of conveying 60,000 words – the same as the average novel.” 

How’s that for telling a story?

via GIPHY

And it’s not just about using an email verifier to pitch your marketing message directly into your prospect’s inbox. With GIFs, you are free to reach your audience wherever they are.

More on the matter, you’ll be speaking their language.

Speaking of which...

Back in 2009, we were spending an average of 3 hours per day online. Today, a typical adult invests 6 hours of his life in engaging with digital media daily!

annual digital growth 2019

The Internet has outgrown its status as a place where people go to looking for answers. It has become the driver of modern pop culture, a place for like-minded individuals from all over the world to unite into hubs.

The Internet has its own language, culture, and rules with GIFs being on the frontlines. 

Speaking the same language as your customer, especially if you are working with the millennial audience, is as quintessential to your success, as reviews and testimonials.

 

GIFs in Content Marketing

Given everything that’s been said above, one can easily assume that jumping on the GIF hype train is the second best thing since sliced bread.

Unfortunately, this mentality happens to be the #1 mistake of most businesses trying to liven up their content marketing efforts.

Here’s the thing: despite your willingness to connect with your audience on a personal level, you are still a business first. Going too far can damage your brand and downgrade your authority to the level of an entertaining community on Facebook.

via GIPHY

Use GIFs to:

  • Add flair to your product reviews. Visually showing off your brand new product is obviously superior to describing it with words. GIFs are cheaper and more sustainable than videos. Add two and two together, and you’ll get one of the best possible ways to professionally use animated content.
  • Sneak peeks. Speaking of product reviews, a GIF is also an incredibly potent way to tease a new product, update, or feature without giving away too much. 
  • Shareable content. Marketers started using images, videos, and infographics in blogging with a single reason in mind: making the content more shareable. GIFs can serve the same goal as well. More on the matter, their popularity paired with the inherent “trendiness” of the format boosts engagements as well as the time spent on the page.
  • Show off your engaging culture. Relatable corporate culture enforces trust in the hearts of your followers. A humorous GIF with a time-lapse of a day around the office or some people from your team simply goofing around creates an intimate, unique bond with the viewer. On a side note, it is also a creative way to sneak in a little bit of intricate promotion. 

 

Yes, these types of content are not a part of the unquestionable rules of using GIFs in marketing. Yes, you can go far beyond the limits if you feel like your brand allows for it. Still, keep in mind that while animated content is engaging, overusing it will remove the excitement. Your audience will no longer be pleasantly surprised, but rather accustomed to the format. 

via GIPHY

Then they will expect more.

 

Your Audience 

Making your own animated GIFs that illustrate the product or an aspect of being a part of your team is one thing. Using a humorous GIF of a meme is another.

While in the first case, you are working with a promotional video of sorts, the latter is what actually triggers your interaction with the internet culture. In theory, it is a much more powerful tool due to the sheer power of relatability, but use it poorly, and you’ll wish you shot your own leg instead. 

The first thing you’ll need to do is to identify whether your audience is into this type of content in the first place. 

How?

Observe their behavior on social media.

  • How do people react to your typical content?
  • How do they engage with it?
  • Do they themselves use GIFs, memes, or emojis in their replies?

If they do, feel free to start the experiment. Start things slow. It’s best if you were to catch a trendy GIF-meme when it is trending and carefully incorporate it into your usual story and narrative.

Then see how the audience reacts.  

via GIPHY

Pro tips:

  • Avoid seeing if your audience uses GIFs in their day-to-day communications. Focus on how they interact with your brand.
  • Avoid pop-culture references. Yes, they have clickbait written all over them, but the theme is a bit too controversial, and it changes too fast. Trading into that territory raises more risks than potential rewards unless you are keeping your finger on the pulse of popular media.
  • Same can be said about politics. A meme with president Trump may be temptingly hilarious. You may feel like you are in the same camp as most of your fans. Still, it only takes one person to induce a flawing hate war in the comments section. Are you willing to take your chances? 
  • Good old classics are the ultimate weapon of choice for someone yet to sink their toes into the whirlpool of GIF humor. Unlike pop culture references, these classic icons have withstood the test of time and proven themselves as popular despite the overcoming odds of new content.

That said, take the shortened lifespan of modern content into consideration. Shows like Breaking Bad and Office, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movies and even 10-year-old franchise are considered classics nowadays. 10 years is an eternity in internet years. 

animated gifs

 

Copyright 

GIFs aren’t as copyright-hunted as music. This is one of the major reasons why we see GIFs spreading throughout the internet with the speed of a forest fire. As Jeremy Liew, an early Giphy investor put it:

“GIFs enable users to avail themselves of the entire catalog of popular culture to help express themselves. Art, TV, movies, memes, all become part of the alphabet, enabling richer, funnier, more contextual, more personalized communication than ever before."

That said, every GIF has an author – the person responsible for creating the content. Sure, users create and share these without any serious repercussions, but you, as a business, are to be aware of the copyright restrictions. 

Most GIFs fall under the fair use doctrine. They do not undermine the market for the original work as, obviously, no one would prefer watching a GIF to the original Lord of the Rings movie. If anything, these GIFs make the original property more popular. 

via GIPHY

Still, the GIFs you use must fall under the “transformative” property. For example, they are to be focused on commentary, satire, parody, or criticism. Otherwise, you are risking a lawsuit for copyright infringement. 

Or you can always make your own animation from scratch!

 

How to Make Animated GIFs? 

As we already stated above, GIFs are much simpler and cheaper than videos in the making. You can create a unique set of alluring, professional-looking animations online within an hour or so.

You can find a number of online-based all-in-one platforms for making high-quality videos, animations, and presentations. Renderforest is one of such cloud-based platforms that you can use to come up with something unique. 

Alternatively, you can use the aforementioned Giphy. Their GIF builder isn’t what one would call state of the art, but it can definitely cover you on every major front. And it’s absolutely free.

animated gifs in content marketing

Simply go to Giphy.com, click on the “create” button in the top right corner of the screen, upload a video file, select the starting time and duration and you are done. Your GIF is ready to rock the web like it's nobody's business. 


Conclusion

Animated GIFs have become a potent tool for social marketers from all over the world to build a personalized bridge between their brands and the audience. They are also a remarkable method of conveying information. Use them carefully, don’t overstep your boundaries, and you’ll have a new tool for pummeling your competition into the ground in no time. 


Eric is a digital marketing specialist at Atompark. Currently, he is working on a new business tool Atomic Email Hunter. He’s always traveling when he’s not at the computer. He likes to share his thoughts and believes that his articles will help a great number of people. Feel free to contact him on Twitter!

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