GIF Is The Word


You know, those short looping video snippets.

GIFs really got rolling on Tumblr, a once promising social network that YAHOO! (Ha, remember them?) essentially destroyed. But GIFs are going mainstream. Your Facebook and Twitter streams are starting to be filled with them.

It’s an art form that’s unique to the internet. It’s also part of the emerging Lingua Franca of the web, a universal way of visual storytelling told through emotion, humour or sarcasm. A GIF usually has a simple meaning, one that hits the viewer over the head.

GIFs are part of the pop culture lexicon, instantly recognizable yet with contextual freedom to frame your own message within.

That’s why GIFs are becoming more important in marketing. The web is moving inexorably toward a video-based platform. But producing a video is time consuming and expensive compared to writing a blog post. That’s why we are seeing easy-to-use short-form video platforms like Snapchat and Instagram becoming popular social media channels.

A GIF is powerful. It’s more engaging than a photo and but less of a commitment than a video, for both the viewer and the producer.

GIFs are easy to consume, they’re a highly snackable piece of content. A looped GIF tells its story or conveys its purpose in a few short seconds. That makes it a powerful element in online storytelling.

Yes we all love videos. But a video is a time commitment, particularly in our endless online dopamine quest. We want instant satisfaction. If it takes minutes rather seconds people will often click away in search of the next shiny thing, the next little food pellet of dopamine. That’s particularly true if you’re reading or watching something on your phone.

If you want to tell a compelling story online, a few well-curated GIFs will make your post more lively and engaging. It will also increase the potential virality of the post.

There’s an almost endless supply of GIFs, with new ones being created and shared each day as new things happen in the culture. Sites like Giphy make it easier for brands to find GIFs without running afoul of copyright laws.

And for the record, it’s pronounced GIF, not JIF. Don’t be a monster.

Allan Gates

Allan Gates is the president of Bonfire.