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5 Tips for Using GIFs in Your Marketing Efforts

They’re more than just fun snippets to share with your friends. Learn how to use GIFs in your work life, too.

By Eric Corpus

So, you’ve written a fantastic piece of content — a meaningful email or blog post — but before putting it out in the world, you feel like it needs that extra something to grab your audience. This is the perfect chance to utilize the power of the GIF.

What Is a GIF?

There have been GIFs for as long as there have been websites. Developed in 1987, the GIF actually predates the World Wide Web (DOB: 1989), and its dominance shows no signs of waning. The web’s top GIF search engine, GIPHY, reports that it serves 10+ billion pieces of content to 1+ billion people every day. That’s a lot of cats.

cat licking paw

GIF, an acronym for “graphics interchange format,” is a type of digital image file. It differs from counterparts like the JPEG or PNG as it can compress multiple frames into a single file. Think of a JPEG as a photograph and the GIF as a flipbook of photos, which makes animation possible.

Why You Should Use GIFs in Marketing

You’ve seen what GIFs can do. Whether it’s a subtly animated email header or a dancing banana in an Instagram story, they’re a savvy option when you want to add movement and visual interest — without the time and cost of a producing a full video. And unlike an embedded video, a GIF doesn’t require the user to press play or sit through pre-roll ads, and it won’t autoplay with a sudden burst of sound.

Another benefit to using GIFs for marketing — particularly in email — is that most email clients don’t support embedded video. If you want a moving image in your email, use a GIF.

Where to Find GIFs

While GIPHY, Google Image Search and Reddit are the most popular repositories of GIFs, most of what you’ll find comes from copyrighted material. As much as you’d like your favorite character from The Office to punctuate your email, we recommend holding back. In fact, GIPHY’s User Terms of Service states that content from its site can only be used for personal and non-commercial purposes.

The best way to avoid copyright infringement in GIFs is to make them yourself. (Just make sure you have permission to use the media that the GIF is made from.) There are many tools that can help you make GIFs, including Adobe Photoshop and video editing software. You can make GIFs from photos, bits of video, moving text, changing shapes, different colors and much more. There are also stock GIFs available through the usual stock photo sites.

When employing GIFs in your marketing, apply the same rules that you do for all your other content: Stay on brand. Keep it relevant. Remember your audience.

How to Use GIFs Well

When employing GIFs in your marketing, apply the same rules that you do for all your other content: Stay on brand. Keep it relevant to the context (e.g., no cat GIFs in your email selling dog food) and remember your audience. Here are a few more specific tips to use GIFs well:

  1. Remember the alt text. GIFs have accessibility considerations just like JPEGs do. They should have alt text that describes the animation for users who employ a screen reader.
  2. No flashing. While accessibility guidelines say that content should not flash more than 3 times in a 1-second period, we recommend not using any flashing content in consideration of users with photosensitive epilepsy.
  3. Keep them lean. GIFs do a great job of producing small file sizes compared to video, but they can easily get heavy and bog down emails and webpages. Make your GIFs no larger than 1MB with 15 frames per second and at most 600 pixels wide.
  4. Use them in moderation. Just as heavy GIFs will bog down your load time, using too many GIFs in one piece will take away their novelty.
  5. A/B test your GIF content. You may love your new GIF-adorned content, but it might not move the needle with your audience. Run A/B tests to find out. If your audience doesn’t seem to notice them, you can try A/B testing different GIFs against each other.

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Eric Corpus Grey
Eric Corpus Senior Editor

Eric has worked in a variety of areas within the wide world of marketing, including web development, video production, photography, digital marketing and, of course, content. At Casual Astronaut, he helps lead content programs for clients such as Farm Bureau Financial Services, The University of Kansas Cancer Center and Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

A relentless creative, Eric enjoys writing, making videos and playing music in his free time, as well as teaching his three boys to do all the aforementioned. He lives in Florida where he loves to connect with people and host dinners (during which he’ll likely mention his 13 years living in New York City at least once).

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