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How To Use GIFs & Short Form Visual Content

August 11, 2017

In the past year, I’ve been a part of many conversations in regards to our rapidly evolving digital marketing ecosphere. The conversations have ranged from simple, yet heated conversations about the best formats for Instagram, to how to implement advanced conversion strategies; how to set-up a Facebook ad account, to how to successfully track the full user journey from first to last click. Some of the questions have been brilliantly complex, some of them surprisingly simple.

This fall, I’ve decided to share some of those conversations –– and the answers that go with them –– in no particular order, to help marketers better understand what’s happening in our world, and how to successfully approach solving the challenges they currently face in their roles.

The first topic I’m going to start with is Visual Web. As AR and VR give rise to MR (if you don’t know what any of those mean, start a Google search) and Amazon moves into Pinterest’s space. I’m going to break down how we can use images and video in our earned and paid programs.

My writing will always leave room for your own experimentation and improvisation based on information that should be serving as the foundation of your decisions. To kick this off in grade fashion, let’s talk about GIFs.

What Are  GIFs & How Do I Use Them?

Yes, this is a question I received in 2017 → pick up your jaw now, not everyone knows all the latest and greatest and GIFs are not passe, they are actually really hot! Couple that with Adweek’s heavy focus on short-form content, and GIFs are set to resurge as an easier use case for marketers over video given their cost effectiveness to make.

For those of you that don’t know, GIFs are short, looping videos that have become the norm in how many people communicate simple ideas, statements or calls to action. Their popularity is pretty much what built BuzzFeed into the powerhouse it is and one of the main forms of visual content that dominate your daily Facebook news feed.

With dwindling attention spans, many marketers are asking, is this the future of how we’ll communicate?”

How GIFs Play Into Content Marketing

In order to answer this, I talked with my colleague and short form content expert (yes there is such a thing as that) Richard Rabbat, the CEO of Gfycat on how “snackable content bites” will soon structure how we communicate. Since he created an online company that make GIF creations pretty simple, I figure he’d be my go-to for all the juicy, juicy we marketers want to know.  To start, I asked him the three biggest trends he sees surrounding GIFs. He shared:

Long Form Will Go Short Form –– And Visual

Imagine journalists breaking up articles with GIFs that illustrate their point or fashion labels showing an entire new line in less than three seconds. Content creators will heighten engagement with long form by adapting it to an audience that’s hungry for short form.

People Will Use GIFs To Build Their Personal Brands

As GIF creation gets easier, even the casual internet user will create their own GIFs to build their brand. A quick scroll through a user’s social media feeds will quickly reveal everything from their sense of humor and aesthetic to their core values.

The ‘Gamification’ of GIFs Will Spread Far and Wide

High-quality GIFs are already the tool of choice for gamers to share highlights from their best plays. This trend will quickly spread to other niche groups—imagine makeup artists using a looping GIF to demonstrate the perfect cat-eye, or bakers crafting visual recipe tutorials.

Sound exaggerated? Gfycat, the largest user generated GIF platform in the world, is already the major platform gamers use to share highlights. And with a streamlined, foolproof video upload process, they’re making it easier than ever for the casual user to share their GIFs with the world.

How GIFs Can Be & Should Be Used In Marketing

To continue the conversation about how to create and effectively use GIFs, I asked him a few more questions:

How can GIFs be used in paid social ads? How should GIFs be used – are there any best practices?

They can absolutely be used in social ads. Facebook and Instagram video ads are already akin to GIFs – they’re most often played silently, and they auto-loop if they’re under a certain length. For GIFs, make sure they’re silent and auto-loop so users don’t have to restart them.

Macala’s Marketing Pro Tip:

The best way to optimize video ads on Facebook and Instagram is to follow the best practices these platforms recommend. Make them short (most users only watch the first couple seconds of video ads). If you don’t know how to create videos (read parts 1, 2 and 3 of my video marketing series).

How do people create high-quality GIFs?

Well, I’m a little biased so here goes my shameless plug! Use Gfycat, our platform allows users to create high-quality gifs instantly and easily because of the ease of the tools. The platform automatically serves GIFs as HD-quality videos. You can make a GIF from a video at https://gfycat.com/upload.

Are there any specific audiences GIFs work with best? Give us some demographics!

GIFs are generally associated with younger people (millennials). The majority of Gfycat’s users are 18-35. However, as older adults adopt social media and smartphone usage, I think we can expect to see GIFs become an all-ages phenomenon. Unlike some of the more millennial- or teen-specific trends, GIFs are readily accessible on most messaging platforms, which means that they’re less intimidating for older adults.

What should people NOT do with GIFs?

I think the seizure case is a good example of how not to use GIFs. GIFs should be fun, not dangerous or hateful.

Image courtesy of George RedHawk