These looping clips have come a long way since their creation 30 years ago. And it isn’t just the 18-25 year olds who are obsessed with video and GIF sharing; everyone else has jumped on the bandwagon too.
Whether you love them or fear their infantilising impact on language, it’s impossible to avoid them. Thanks to the little GIF, no emotion is too big or small to capture in animated image form.
Ironically, many of the GIFs seen on sites like Twitter and Imgur are actually video files that have been coded to behave like GIFs, just because new video tech is far more efficient than the vintage GIF storage format. Somewhat it transcended the file format to become a name for this cultural meme.
Animated GIFs are a quick-and-easy way to present dynamic content. The file size is small which makes it easy to download and allows for a faster browsing experience.
They continue to be a massively popular form of communication and for very good reasons
- They tell stories better than standard still images
- They show that you’re paying attention to internet trends
- They show that you and your brand have a fun side
- GIFs will grab your user’s attention instantly, thus attracting more attention to your content
- They convey emotions better than text or photos alone
- Unlike long videos, GIFs get the point across automatically, silently and in a mere matter of seconds before they loop back to the beginning
- GIFs generate 60% more engagement than a static visual
- They’re mobile friendly
Twitter first introduced the ability to share animated GIFs in 2014 and since then they have been used millions of times to pass along messages.
Twitter supports animated GIFs directly by upload. Animated GIFs can be up to 5MB when uploaded from mobile, and up to 15MB from the web.
Apart from sharing your own GIFs, a relatively easier way to share GIFs is with Twitter’s own collection. Click the tweet composer and look for the little GIF icon between the photo/video camera icon and the poll icon. You can either browse through the categories or enter your keywords in the search box.
Facebook still doesn’t allow you to upload a GIF directly but you can upload it to a site like Giphy, your website, or blog and paste the URL into your Facebook post (make sure the URL ends in .gif). The GIF will not animate in the compose view but will animate once posted. Just keep in mind if you’re creating your own animated GIF you’ll need to keep the file size under 8MB.
Instagram doesn’t support importing animated GIFs, but you can post the MP4 video and it will auto-play and loop, just like an animated GIF.
LinkedIn does not support animated GIFs at all; that includes status updates as well as profiles. You can convert your GIF to an MP4 file and post it that way but it will have a play button and won’t loop.
Animated GIFs are a brilliant way to grab attention on any social platform, if you know how to properly use them. Just when your brand starts embracing the GIF, remember the following checklist:
- Use them in context (don’t try too hard to look cool)
- Don’t overuse them
- Always try to find the source of them
- Don’t talk through GIFs as a brand