Chances are, you've already seen them popping up in your social media feeds: seconds-long repetitive moving images called GIFs, short for "graphic interchange format." Unlike the now-defunct looping videos of the Vine platform, most GIFs are simply used as a snippet reaction, or to add emphasis to a message while capturing reader attention. They're fun, lighthearted, and casual - so can you make them mesh with your B2B marketing? Absolutely - here's how:
Determine Your GIF rating
GIFs, much like movies, come it a variety of styles, from the innocent "catchphrase" styles that use an exaggerated emotion from popular culture, such as these excited minions from the "Despicable Me" movie franchise:
There are also a wealth of more "adult" GIFs that don't pull any punches when it comes to shared issues, particularly in the workforce. Consider this snippet from the adult cartoon Archer:
Both graphics tell an emotional story that your audience can relate with, but using GIFs in marketing is about more than simply attaching a picture to your message. Much like your text-based content, you'll need to carefully consider if the GIF and its source material are a good fit for your brand. If the origin of your GIF is controversial or in the news for all the wrong reasons, your attempt to be lighthearted could backfire. Just ask burger chain Wendy's: they recently had to field a great deal of negative attention when they accidentally tweeted a meme that had been co-opted by white supremacists - or, in GIF-speak:
Are GIFs Worth the Effort?
At one time, before MTV prophetically hit the airwaves with "Video Killed the Radio Star" for their very first broadcast, television was seen as a dead end for advertisers. Likewise with internet advertising, email advertising, social media marketing - the list goes on perpetually. GIFs do produce results - in some cases, bumping up email engagement by upwards of 25%. It's a new venture, and all new ventures come with some degree of risk, but chances are that dabbling in a GIF here and there won't make or break your company. Think of it as embossing on business cards you're already having printed: it doesn't fundamentally change what you're communicating to prospective clients, but it does arguably make your message a little more eye-catching.
Your Own GIFs in Marketing
While using ready-made reaction GIFs like those above is the standard, don't be afraid to wade into GIF-making yourself, particularly if you already have video of your products or services in action. Cleverness counts, so go ahead and get a little punny with the text on your GIF if it meshes with your brand story. Unlike still images, GIFs require a little digital know-how to create, so if you don't have adequate design support in-house, reach out to your marketing agency partner for help and suggestions on topics and quips. If you can hit the right combination of humor and information, your GIFs can even serve as a de facto visual elevator pitch - communicating what you can do and what you offer in the space of a few entertaining seconds.
Using GIFs in your own pre-planned, structured posts is a great step towards increasing your brand visibility, but don't overdo it. You may see some noteworthy brands firing GIFs off like a gunslinger on fast-and-furious platforms like Twitter, but they've built up that carefully-crafted casual tone with their audience as a two-way conversation. Trying to mimic that volume of GIFs out of the gate will make it seem like you handed the reins over to a very young intern that doesn't "get" the seriousness of B2B. Tread carefully, test and review, and dole out your GIFs like promotions for the best results: sporadically, to a primed audience that will appreciate them for what they are.