This Sunday, many of us will tune into the Oscars to see the best films of the year honored for their greatness. It’s a wonderful reminder of the universal pull of the visual. But filmmakers aren’t the only ones receiving praise for moving pictures this year. Animated GIFs are hitting the big time, and brands are getting on board.
We’ve shared tips on animated GIFs before, but the conversation on GIFs is far from over. Brands are doing new exciting things with these easy-to-consume, and easier-to-create than you might think, animated visual shares, and now is the time to join in. Here is your guide to getting started with Oscar-worthy GIFs:
A Refresher on the Basics
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I have to get a couple of definitions off my chest:
- GIF (pronounced gif or jif): a format for image files that supports both animated and static images. Animated GIFs, are colloquially referred to as GIFs.
- Meme (pronounced meem): a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.
To clarify, a GIF can be a meme, but a meme is not always a GIF. The words are not interchangeable.
There was a time, when creating a good-looking GIF meant having a degree in photoshop and digital design. Now, it seems that everyday, a new and exciting tool pops up to make GIF-making easier, which really means one thing: There’s no excuse anymore. In the same way anyone with a smartphone can now be a cinematographer, literally anyone can download these free tools and start experimenting with GIFs. Here are our favorites of the moment:
- Imgur: Imgur, the photo sharing site, now offers a GIF tool of its own. Input the url of any online video, and instantly convert it into a looping video. Although, technically, it’s not a GIF, and so embedding it works more like a video. The effect is the same as any other animated GIF. It’s a great option for anyone with any video content you’re hoping to spread.
- YouTube: Yes, that YouTube. This feature is still being tested, so it’s not available for all channels; but could soon be added as a new sharing option for videos on YouTube. Here are some we created from one of those lucky test channels---PBS Idea Channel. As you can see, you can also add text to these GIFs as well:
- Kanvas: Kanvas lets you make GIFs out of video and photos and share them directly to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and more. You can import images from your device, but there’s no way to upload video at this point. So video must be recorded through the app. That makes Kanvas a good option for any real-time GIF making opportunities. Maybe at a conference, tradeshow, or any live event where you’re trying to capture and share the moment. One other downside: there is no way to remove the Kanvas watermark.
- Nutshell by Prezi: Prezi’s latest tool lets users create GIF-like creations by packaging three images together in a looping video format. You can add graphics and text to make it your own. Save it, and come back and edit later, then share it when you’re ready to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Prezi, or directly through email or messaging. Much like Kanvas, Nutshell videos contain a watermark and there’s no uploading feature at all at this point. So images must be taken through the app. Also, be warned, this app is only available for iOS 8 and later.
These are just a few of the latest GIF making offerings, check out our previous blog on GIFs for more great tools to fit your GIF needs.
Making the Most of GIFs
So, now that you’ve got a GIF or two, what do you do with them? The better question is: What can’t you do with your GIFs? Here are a few ideas for making the most of your new visual content:
- Product Demos/ How-To’s: Odds are you already have some sort of product demo video. Turning this into an easy to share GIF is simpler than you think. Tools like imgflip, Imgur, and now YouTube can help you easily turn longer videos into bite-sized GIFs that can be shared independently or side-by-side.
- Marketing E-mails: We all get so many emails everyday, it take something special to catch our eyes. An animated graphic could just do the trick.
- Liven Up Data: The infographic may be on its way out, but the GIF-ographic (let’s spread this mouthful of a word mash up) is a different story. Here’s an example that Tier One created for client Fluent, using Photoshop.
Awesome Brand Examples
At this point it’s clear that the power of the visual can not be oversold. But just to make sure you get the point, consider this stat from BuzzSumo: Posts that include images on Facebook and Twitter are more than twice as likely to be shared. It pays to be visual, and GIFs are the next thing in visual. What kind of success are brands already having with GIFs? Lots of it. Here are just a few example of brands that are using GIFs to spread content, build awareness, and make the most of this visual storytelling tool:
Perhaps the most far-reaching and quality example of branded GIFs, is Google’s Doodles, which commemorate the historical or current happenings of the day. Sometimes it’s a well-known event, like MLK Day, the World Cup, or the Lunar New Year:
Then sometimes you learn something new, like on Alessandro Volta’s (inventor of the first electrical battery) 270th birthday:
Everyone loves a good quote, and IBM took it to a new level with this GIF quote highlighting one of its own in a very visual way:
This exceptional GIF-ographic (it’ll catch on, just watch) by Salesforce, is another example of how GIFs can liven up a tired set of data points:
Tumblr is not only a great place to find GIFs, Tumblr itself is great at using them. Most new features on the site are paired with a simple GIF to introduce the new feature, like this one showing users how to use the new embed function:
No list of social goodness of any kind would be complete without General Electric, which is at the forefront of GIFs as well as all things social. Its Throwback Thursday shares of stock GE footage are mesmerizing and educational:
Don’t you feel inspired! The only limit to what you and your brand can do with GIFs is your own imagination.
Want to learn more? Check out these great resources:
- Hootsuite: Five Brands Using GIFs the Right Way on Twitter
- AdWeek: These Were Tumblr's Top 20 Sponsored Posts of 2014