by Chris Reid

Modern Family GIF

In the world of content marketing you can say a lot with words. But to stand out, sometimes you need something extra to engage your audience and make your content stand out. Today, many brands are using GIFs – the short, animated images that replay automatically on a loop – to get their messages across and build their online presence.

Clips from TV shows and “reaction GIFs” have viral appeal and are soaring in popularity. You only have to look at how BuzzFeed has successfully incorporated GIFs into its content to engage its audience and drive social media shares.

If you’re not using GIFs as a part of your content strategy, it could be time to start. As well, if you’re unsure of how to incorporate GIFs and want professional help, try hiring a content writer.

What Exactly Is a GIF?

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. Simply put, it’s a type of image file, but unlike a JPEG or PNG, GIFs can be animated. Animated GIFs are made up from a series of images that run in a timed loop and they’re often taken from a video clip.

Because they’re perfect for showing pop culture clips and reaction shots, social media has become the natural home for GIFs. Today, GIFs are compatible with Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Google Plus. But for Facebook Business Pages, it’s still a work in progress.

When to Use GIFs for Business

There are various uses for GIFs. Here are a few of the most popular uses to pump up content marketing:

– To add personality to your brand. If you regularly engage with customers on social media, why not use them as part of your conversations? Animated GIFs can add humor appropriate situations and help your audience see the human side to your business.

– To make your content more shareable. If you run a business blog, start incorporating GIFs into posts to catch the attention of readers. It’s likely to boost engagement, shares and time spent on your website.

– In email marketing. Most webmail clients like Gmail and Yahoo support the GIF format and so do iOS Mail and Android mail on mobile devices. However, only use them occasionally in emails to make them stand out.

– To promote a product or service and to share exclusive news. Perhaps you’re releasing a new product or promoting an upcoming event. Use a GIF on social media to build hype.

– To show people your company culture, you can use photos of certain aspects of your business to create informative or funny GIFs. It all helps to improve your credibility and trustworthiness.

All Internet browsers support the GIF format, so you don’t have to limit yourself to social media when using GIFs. Use them on your homepage, in your blog (WordPress also supports GIFs) or on your product pages. Think creatively and you can come up with numerous ways to use GIFs in marketing.

Consider Your Audience First

Before you start using GIFs at every conceivable opportunity, think about your target audience first and your marketing goals. For example, if you’re a law firm, using a GIF on the company’s homepage could detract from your formal brand image.

This is where a little audience research can go a long way. If you know your target audience are twenty-somethings, you could focus on pop-culture GIFs that your audience can relate to. If your demographic is mostly young women, a GIF from “Girls” or “Orange Is the New Black” is likely to get more shares. Whereas if your audience is predominantly younger men, “Breaking Bad” GIFs are likely to resonate more.

Best Practices for Using GIFs

– Make sure they reflect your marketing goals and support your calls-to-action

– Use high-resolution GIFs

– Work GIFs into your social media content schedule

– Use them in moderation

– Use them to convey emotions you can’t express in a few words

– Use them to generate buzz around your messages

The Bottom Line

There are many online tools for creating your own GIFs and plenty of online resources that feature GIFs that are ready to use, embed or link to. But you also have to be careful not to offend your audience. Just remember that GIFs won’t suit every business and may project the wrong brand image. Using a content writer can help you figure out the perfect moment to incorporate GIFs. But you also have to be careful not to offend your audience. And when you get it right, a GIF can make you stand out from the crowd and boost brand awareness like no other form of content.