How to Use Animated GIFs on Social Media & Email

Have you ever wondered about how to make use of animated GIFs in your digital and social media marketing efforts? 

These image files, developed by Compuserve in 1987, have been wildly popular since the early days of the Internet.

GIFs are the only image (not video) format that allow for animation. It's also one of the only two image formats for web that support transparency, which means that you can see the background behind your image if you remove the background in an editing program such as Photoshop.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and one of the longest standing debates is whether it's pronounced with a hard G or a soft G.

Alex Chung, cofounder and CEO of Giphy (a site where you can search all the animated GIFs and make your own), is pro-hard G. In agreement, Aaron Bazinet went as far as to create a website and t-shirt design repping his favored pronunciation, How to Really Pronounce GIF. However,  the creator of the file format himself, Steve Wilhite, once told the NY Times, "the Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

HOW DO I USE THEM IN EMAIL?

In Mailchimp, you can upload an animated GIF just like you would upload any other image, or insert one directly into your email campaign from Giphy. It's important to note that some email clients (such as Outlook 2007 to present) don't support animated GIFs. This is because many of these clients use Microsoft Word to render HTML email, so the animation will not be displayed.  

Another recommendation is to produce your file so that the first frame contains the most important information in case it doesn't load, as compatibility issues will cause only the first frame to play. When designing emails with animated content, always plan for how to minimize the impact on the overall campaign if the animated content fails. You should also edit your animated content before uploading it to your email service (if you crop it in Mailchimp, it will break!)

BEST PRACTICES IN EMAIL
1. Keep them a novelty (every email shouldn't be blinking)
2. Use them with purpose (to draw people to your call to action, or to demonstrate how something works, or to show different options)
3. Keep an eye on file weight and how compression impacts the design (pixelation and color alteration often comes as a result of saving GIF files)
4. Treat any type of animation as a billboard (you have no longer than 10 seconds to keep someone's attention)
5. Never ending animations should be done thoughtfully (not like a broken record)