How to Harness the Power of GIFs in Your Visual Content Strategy

Group of illustrations about motion graphics and animated infographic video

GIFs have become a staple vehicle for memes and funny online content. (To get specific, many platforms actually work with the .mp4 file format rather than .gif, but any shortform video is commonly referred to as a GIF, regardless of file format). But their strengths extend further than looping scenes of your favorite TV shows or cat videos. These types of files are a great way to drive engagement because they present information in a more dynamic presentation than can be experienced through a static design. Their appeal for content strategy experts is rooted in the same reason that audiences gravitate toward video content. In these formats, information is accessible, easy to understand, and above all, packaged in a way that sustains your attention.

Marketers and brand-builders alike are always looking to create exciting, memorable content to share. Whether you’re looking to garner some buzz around an upcoming project or simply want to emphasize a specific piece of data, GIFs are an essential tool for any marketer’s tool belt. In this post, we’ll take a look at some best practices and other strategic ways to utilize the power of GIFs in your content marketing strategy.

1. Add Excitement to Simple Stats

GIFs bring simple stats to life with motion. Single-stat graphics or visuals, sometimes called micronarratives, are a fantastic way to add supplemental information to a larger body of content. Whether you’re sharing micronarratives in a blog post or in a social post, GIFs can provide the perfect dynamic emphasis to help your message stand apart from still images and text.

Here are some helpful tips to think about when creating an effective 1-stat micronarrative:

  • Experiment with timing: If the stat animates too quickly, viewers will have trouble reading the information. Conversely, if the animation is too slow, viewers may lose interest. Beyond the timing, you can also create emphasis with the animation speed of single elements within the GIF. The bottom line? Find a speed that suits your GIF. There is no standard solution when it comes to timing and speed.
  • Make sure the stat is simple: A good litmus test is whether the stat can stand alone without any supplemental footnotes or extra information. If so, it will make an ideal candidate for being converted into a GIF.
  • Keep the design clean: Too many colors or visual elements can be distracting, which can negate the strength and purpose of the GIF as a vehicle for easily digestible visual content. Try using a limited color palette and large recognizable iconography and graphs for easy readability.

2. Optimize GIFs for Each Channel

Not every social media platform supports GIFs in the same way — and as we mentioned in the intro of this post, some aren’t even compatible with GIFs at all. Because of this, it’s important to do some research on the best ways to share GIF content as part of your overall content strategy. 

Here are a few quick tips for optimizing your for social sharing:

  • Instagram: GIFs are not supported on this platform. However, by using Instagram’s built-in looping video feature, MP4 files will replay automatically as long as they’re between 4 and 60 seconds long. Maximum dimensions should be 1080 pixels on the long edge. For some more specifics regarding optimal sizing, check out Sprout Social’s sizing guide.
  • Facebook: Posting a GIF to Facebook is as simple as posting a photo. The optimal size is much debated among marketers, but users have reported that files up to 15MB were still able to post. Also, if you’re short on time, Facebook offers an integrated GIF library available within the posting window.
  • Twitter: When posting to Twitter, make sure the file size is a maximum of 15 MB. For more information on sharing GIFs see Twitter’s support page

LinkedIn: Until recently, GIF usage on LinkedIn was not possible. Fortunately, things have changed, and to post, simply click the photo icon and select your GIF file. (Uploading the GIF as a video file will not work, so be sure to choose only the photo icon.)

3. Use GIFs to Promote Video Content

Due to the inherent similarities that GIFs share with video, they are an ideal way to create a variety of content pieces that support larger, video-based initiatives. GIFs can extend your content strategy efforts and simultaneously generate interest for upcoming projects or campaigns on social media and beyond. 

Below are a few examples of ways to use GIFs as promotional video material:

  • Create shareable teasers: Sharing short clips of a larger video can help generate interest before the big launch. Be sure to not give too much away!
  • Give your audience a behind-the-scenes perspective: Process videos are a great way to show off intricate details of a favorite project.
  • (Bonus) GIFs aren’t just video teasers: Don’t limit GIFs to be supplemental content for video projects exclusively. Try putting static designs into motion with animation to create a dynamic visualization that will be sure to bring attention to the parent project.
Eric Tra

Author Eric Tra

Eric Tra is the marketing director at Killer Visual Strategies. Originally from Spokane, Washington, Eric received degrees in marketing and fine art from Gonzaga University. After graduating, he moved to Seattle with the hopes of of pursuing a career in the city’s thriving tech community. Since earning a position at Killer Visual Strategies at the beginning of 2013, he has been at the forefront of all marketing activities within the company, including content strategy, lead generation, and social media management. Some of Eric’s other strengths in the office are geared toward internal project management; he currently leads the development of content pieces such as blog posts, ebooks, and more.

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