How to add GIFs and make your content pop

You don’t have to produce a movie to get moving pictures into your content streams. Here is how to make the most of an internet phenomenon like no other.

The GIF has truly stood the test of time.

Created in 1987 by Steve Wilhite, GIFs offer an easy 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.

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 have been shown to increase engagement and conversion rates, so 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 keeps them mobile-friendly.

Despite their small size, GIFs can make a big marketing impact:

  • 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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Crafting GIFs for messages

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

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 images can be very useful when explaining to customers how a product works, and GIFs cost less than video. For example, a makeup company could use a GIF to illustrate how their new concealer is applied, or a software company can use 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.

Michael Del Gigante is the president and creative director of marketing communications agency MDG Advertising. A version of this article originally appeared on the MDG Advertising blog.

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