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A Beginner's Guide to Turning GIFs Into an Awesome Marketing Tool As more digital platforms adopt their use, these moving pictures are becoming one of the most effective ways to communicate and engage with your customers.

By Peter Gasca Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


A picture is worth a thousand words -- but in business, entrepreneurs don't like to leave much to interpretation.

It is for this reason that graphic interchange format files, or "GIFs," have proliferated our digital landscape over the last few years. And while you may not know of them, there is a very high likelihood that you have seen them.

The low resolution files, short and repeating, often with a title or phrase embedded in it, have become commonplace in our digital lives, from news to sports highlights to daily philosophical and comic relief.

GIFs (pronounced "jiff', as in the peanut butter) have been around since the late 1980s, but platforms were slow to adopt them. Many websites, such as Tumblr, have supported them for a few years, but last year, two behemoths -- Twitter and Pinterest -- announced their platforms would support auto-playing GIFs. This summer, Facebook announced its news feed would now support the video aspect through links to GIFs.

Related: Here are 5 Ways GIFs Can Amplify Your Content

Another reason they have become so popular is because in today's culture of 140 character Tweets and seven second Vine videos, our attention spans continue to diminish and we are increasingly demanding to consume more stuff in less time.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but businesses need to adapt.

For businesses, GIFs offer the opportunity to better connect with customers while respecting their time and attention by providing content that:

  • Adds important context
  • Emphasizes key points
  • Demonstrates that your business understands it customers and how they are communicates (especially with younger customers)
  • Shows off your creativity (and possibly, sense of humor)
  • Promotes more engagement (and sharing)

If you are new to GIFs, there is no need to fret. You can find an ample supply by searching Tumblr and Google, but to really hone your search, consider these resources to help you find the GIF that matches the message you want to deliver.

  • Giphy. A website that compiles daily GIFs that reflect the most current news, culture and events.
  • Popkey. An app for iOS that creates a keyboard of GIFs that you can use in text messages and posts.
  • Reaction GIFs. With a helpful navigation tool, this site will help you find just the right celebrity reaction to any of life's situations.

If you are still unable to find the specific GIF you seek among the tens of millions already made (picky, aren't you?), then here are a few sights you can use to put your own creativity to work.

GIFs from images

Related: 5 Ways to Convert Casual Blog Readers Into Social Advocates

GIFs from videos

GIFs from other GIFs

  • Me Right Now: allows editing of existing GIFs with your own text

Without a doubt, there are countless possibilities with GIFs, but it can get out of hand. For that reason, keep these tips in mind for your business GIFs.

Use sparingly.

If you are constantly churning out GIFs in your daily digital feed, it can overwhelm your customers. GIFs should be integrated into a broader content management and customer engagement strategy.

Aim for quality.

GIFs are usually poor resolution or difficult to see or understand. Remember that they are a reflection of your brand, so put some effort into finding or creating GIFs that reflect your commitment to quality.

Maintain pertinence.

It's all too easy to create witty GIFs that will entertain your audience and possibly promote sharing, but if it does not coincide with your business and culture, it could end up hurting your brand.


Before you publish a GIF, make certain that the message and context is clear. The last thing you need is to have your GIF misinterpreted and promoting the wrong message altogether.

What are some of the ways you have found businesses effectively using GIFs in their digital marketing strategies? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Related: To See Results, Entrepreneurs Must Choose the Right Marketing Metrics

Peter Gasca

Management and Entrepreneur Consultant

Peter Gasca is an author and consultant at Peter Paul Advisors. He also serves as Executive-in-Residence and Director of the Community and Business Engagement Institute at Coastal Carolina University. His book, One Million Frogs', details his early entrepreneurial journey.

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