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Although most of us might think of GIFs having only been around for the past few years, we have some potentially mind-blowing news for you:

The GIF is over 34 years old. Mind blown, right?

Yes, seriously.

According to Vox, on June 15, 1987, the GIF — short for Graphical Interchange Format — was born from a team of developers who wanted to compress images without losing lots of data. Fast forward to today, where GIFs are more or less a cultural phenomenon that makes the internet a much more interesting and fun place to be. I mean, how can you deny something as wonderful and lovely as this? 

And with their booming popularity, it’s only natural that content creators want to get in on the fun and use them, too. (If you’ve been with Uncanny Content for a while, you know that GIFs are practically our first language.)

So, how should you use GIFs in your content? We’re sharing some hot tips and tricks (and of course, GIFs) to help you out along the way.

Make sure they make sense

Let’s be honest: GIFs are hella fun to use. In blogs, emails, social media posts and stories…even in text messages. When done well, GIFs can encapsulate a thought, feeling, or reaction. They can add personality, humor, and storytelling to any situation. 

But don’t use GIFs just for the hell of it. They should make sense for your brand and in the context of whatever you’re saying. Otherwise, the joke will just fall flat.

So, is your brand personality outgoing? Sarcastic? Uplifting? Whatever that looks and sounds like to you, find GIFs that enhance your brand’s personality — not confuse it.

Know your audience and platform

When choosing GIFs, make sure that it actually makes sense for the platform you’re posting on and the audience you’re talking to. For example, if your email list consists of brand loyalists and ride-or-dies who have been with you from the beginning, chances are you share lots of inside jokes with them — which can only be made better with the use of GIFs.

But if you’re posting content on LinkedIn, it’s probably best to skip the GIFs. That’s because your audience there likely consists of more distant people who aren’t as connected to your brand. LinkedIn also maintains a more professional atmosphere, which, of course, can be a little boring in the GIF-sphere, but makes sense for the overall goal and intention of the platform.

Do your homework

Like with anything you put out into the world, you should always do your homework first. When it comes to GIFs specifically, it’s wildly important that you know where they come from. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s the cultural reference of this GIF?
  • What’s the context surrounding the GIF and/or reference?
  • What’s the intent of the GIF?

Because, with just a little bit of digging, you might find that some GIFs are, well, wildly inappropriate. 

You might be thinking to yourself: ‘But it’s just a GIF! How bad can it be?’

Well, dear reader, it can be bad. Real bad.

 That’s because GIFs can be created from any type of video. And given how videos spread like wildfire on the internet, you can piece together how quickly and easily inappropriate and offensive GIFs come to be. 

Another thing to be cognizant of as we continue to strive towards anti-racism: The use of black people in reaction GIFs (when the user/poster isn’t black) may be viewed as problematic. According to author Lauren Michele Jackson, an American culture critic and an assistant professor of English, the use of certain reaction GIFs essentially reinforces stereotypes of black expression that, historically, have been deemed negative. 

That’s not to say that anyone who uses them does so with a malicious intention. And, as Jackson points out, it doesn’t mean these reaction GIFs can’t ever be used or they need to be canceled. It’s just a matter of being mindful and aware of the types of GIFs you share, how you share them, and what your intent is behind them. 

Make sure they’re optimized and accessible

Any and all content you post should be accessible for all readers, and GIFs are NO EXCEPTION. And just like any other photo or video you post, you want to make sure your GIFs are optimized so they can be crawled by search engines. Here are some ways you can do both:

  • Use descriptive filenames
  • Write good alt-text
  • Make sure they don’t slow down your site speed (compress the images or reduce file sizes so your pages still load quickly)
  • Make sure the GIF placement makes sense with the surrounding content
  • Add descriptive captions
  • If you include the GIF URL, check that it’s not broken and leads to a legitimate site

We also don’t recommend leaving a line hanging, with a GIF reaction. Something like “If you’re feeling like…. [[insert funny GIF]]… we get it.” Make sure you describe the feeling before the GIF for the sake of accessibility. Not everyone’s device will load the GIF and not everyone can see the GIF.

Have fun with it

Bottom line: GIFs are a really fun addition to content, so have fun with it! Just remember to use them intentionally, responsibly, and respectfully. In other words, don’t be an asshole. Let’s all have fun.

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