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When to Use Gifs to Make Your Content Stand Out

Weslie Oeftering
When to Use Gifs to Make Your Content Stand...

Whether you pronounce “gif” with a hard or soft “G,” there’s one thing we can all agree on: when used wisely, gifs make social media better. It’s also easier than ever to implement gifs into your posts. There are tons of different gif search tools that integrate into social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. If you can’t find what you are looking for, you can make one yourself.

However, while a picture is worth 1,000 words, the same cannot be said for gifs. That is, not all gifs improve posts. This is because much of social media is serious breaking news where using a gif might be seen as indelicate. In other cases, posts are simply just good enough on their own without a gif.

To make sure that gifs are helping your content stand out in a good way, here are three questions to ask yourself before using one:

Is it Appropriate?

In order to answer this question, you need to assess three things: the kind of company you are,  your audience, and the subject of the post. Let’s look at police department Twitter accounts as an example.

Police officers deal with a lot of serious subjects that need to be handled with care. However, many police departments have found success in using humor and gifs on social media in order to better spread information on preventing some of the very serious issues that the police deal with every day. This tweet from the Austin Police Department’s #9pmRoutine campaign is a great example.

On the other hand, police department social media accounts should not use gifs (or any attempt at humor at all) when reporting on a serious crime or incident that has already happened, a lesson that the New Zealand Police Department learned the hard way in 2017.

A good rule of thumb is that when you are in a more “serious” industry (finance, tech, government, etc.) you should never use a gif when it comes to reporting serious subjects or apologizing. To put it mildly, it can come across as insensitive, out of touch, and is a great way to go viral for all the wrong reasons.

Is There a Gif that Complements the Post?

Don’t go out of your way to find or make a gif for your post. If you’ve been searching for something that a) matches your post, and b) enough people will understand the reference to, for longer than 10 minutes, it probably doesn’t exist.

Similarly, don’t slap on just any gif just because using gifs is trendy. Gifs are like toppings on a pizza: Just like you wouldn’t ruin a quality pizza by adding toppings you don’t like, don’t ruin a quality social media post by including gifs that don’t make sense.

Are You Overusing Gifs?

A gif should not be used as a crutch for a weak post to stand on. Gifs should make an already good thing even better, so if your content relies on gifs for making posts good rather than adding value to already good posts, then it may be time to re-evaluate your social media strategy.

A strong social media account usually has a good mix of original content like text posts, videos, and images. Therefore, using too many gifs comes across as a little lazy, because it’s unoriginal — unless you make your own. 

Start with making sure your content is good, then decide if a gif adds value.


About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft is a digital marketing agency in Austin with offices in Denver, Houston and Antwerp that provides digital marketing services and trade show lead gen support for tech companies around the world. Some of their services include media relations, content and inbound marketing, CPC campaigns, and marketing automation consulting.

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