Get GIF-Y With it: Considerations for Using Animated GIFS in Media

As marketers, we know we need to stay on-trend. To speak to younger generations, we have to use their language. One of the newest and most well-known languages of Gen Z and millennials is the animated GIF.

It’s no secret that video content is some of the most consumed content on social media. Hubspot predicted that 74% of internet traffic will be dominated by video in 2017. So, it’s no wonder that the GIF has become so popular. For those who are a little behind on the times, a GIF is a short clip that rolls in a loop. Usually comedic, these images are now used in everything from articles on Buzzfeed to messaging on iPhones.

It’s no doubt that GIFs are engaging. They can be cute, funny, and trendy. They add that extra punch that a still image just doesn’t have. However, if your business wants to incorporate them into your social media strategy, you have to be wise about the ways in which you use them.

Be Relevant To YOUR Audience:

If your business wants to use funny GIFs as a promotion, don’t sacrifice user understanding for the sake of a joke. If your target audience is elderly women, a GIF featuring Kanye West probably won’t do much for them. In fact, they might begin to think your content (and therefore your business) isn’t relevant to them anymore, and unfollow you. That headache isn’t worth the few laughs you might get. As with all content marketing, you need to remain relevant to your target groups. You must get into your buyer persona’s head and think critically about what your personas want and need, and think is funny.

For instance, Buzzfeed uses GIFs in this article about everything turning 20 in 2017 to target millennials and release a sense of nostalgia. The GIFs are effective because most millennials remember seeing Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, and the GIF releases fond memories of the classic chick flick. The GIFs deliberately target a specific audience. It’s unlikely that a piece like this would speak to a generation of baby boomers in the same way, because millennials are attached to and grew up with the images being represented.

Not Every GIF is Hilarious:

Just because your target audience might not think Kermit the Frog sipping Lipton is hilarious, doesn’t mean you can’t use GIFs in your blogs and on social. A GIF is just a short, moving picture. NPR recently used a GIF to describe the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East. It wasn’t funny of kitschy: it was there to help illuminate and educate. Your GIFs can do the same by educating your audience. Maybe consider giving a behind-the-scenes look of a product or a sneak-peek? The possibilities are endless.

In contrast, BuzzFeed gives us another (more practical) use of GIFs. They recently used GIFs in an explanatory way with this article about the sitcom Friends. The GIFs in this article aren’t meant to make you laugh (even if the show Friends does). Instead, they are meant to illuminate little technicalities you may have missed the first time watching an episode.

Funny GIFs Still Have a Place in Business

You can have it all!  You can still write an educational blog post while having entertaining GIFs featured to make the reader laugh. It’s completely about knowing your audience and what they would enjoy. For instance, HubSpot wrote this article about things email marketers can relate to, and used the GIFs to represent the real ways in which marketers would react when presented with information. The post is informative, funny, and the GIFs add to it rather than detracting.

Think of a GIF as A Picture x1000

GIFs are powerful visual representations, and should be used to help your marketing campaigns. Do you sell a product that has a unique new feature? Show your consumer that feature firsthand by creating a GIF. Do you make the best marmalade in the state of Mississippi? Maybe a GIF showing a customer reaction to the first time they try your marmalade would be appropriate. Using GIFs can help consumers build a bond with your company because GIFs (by nature) tell more of the story than pictures do. However, you must also keep your GIFs relevant to your business and your target audience. Riding the newest hashtag won’t do much for you on social if your audience isn’t  riding it too. The same thing goes for GIFs.