When our fearless leader, Aaron Strout, posted a simple question on Facebook a few months ago about the future of Twitter, I answered with one simple word: “GIFs!” I wish I could find the the link to Aaron’s post, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. Yup, I called it.
Fast forward to Wednesday, June 18th, when Twitter announced that it is now supporting animated GIFs on the platform. A GIF (graphics interchange format) is a type of soundless animated image that plays on continuous loop. GIFs had been supported on Twitter before, through Giphy, but now you can upload them directly, as you would an image. GIFs appear in the Twitter timeline with a play button and will play in continuous loop once started. The use of GIFs is recommended on Twitter as an opportunity to cleverly re-purpose and remix existing video content. As with any other media, the use of GIFs on Twitter should contribute to a larger content strategy, featuring a variety of different types of content, such as text, photos, and videos.
On Thursday, July 19th, the WCG Content Engine team that creates analytics-driven agile content for HP, seized the opportunity to use this new feature and created a coin-flip GIF, celebrating how Helwett-Packard got its name, seen below. This post has already received 4X the engagement of an average tweet. A few days later, the team created a GIF to promote the HP Machine, a brand new supercomputer announced at HP Discover. Here are some other brands that creatively explored the new GIF feature on Twitter.
How to upload GIF on Twitter: Compose a new message, then, through the gallery button under the text box, click upload and attach the .gif file in the same way you upload a photo.
GIFs are great for re-purposing existing video content in short snippets, even after it’s already on Youtube, as seen in the example above. Showcasing brand personality/lifestyle/passion areas with highly visual content and emotional reactions when text and/or a static image is simply not enough. GIFs are also perfect for quick “how-to,” illustrative, posts – also – animated images that can be played in a perfect loop.
The difference between GIFs and VINE/Instagram videos: A Vine account is necessary to create, upload and share Vine videos; only a Twitter account is necessary to upload and share GIFs. Instagram videos can be up to 15 seconds in length and are different file types. These videos do not play within Twitter, but they do play within Facebook, though not in a continuous loop. Other platforms that support GIFs are HTML websites, HTML-based email, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google Plus.
How to make a GIF from an existing YouTube video:
- Identify a 3-5 second snippet of your Youtube video that you want to use in your animation. Snippets that can create a perfect loop are preferred. Audio will be muted
- Use third party sites such as IMGflip and GIFsoup to cut the video to the desired length and convert into a .gif file
- Download file to your computer as .gif
- See above “How to upload a GIF on Twitter”
How to make a GIF from an raw video file or .mp4 or .mov
- Identify a 3-5 second snippet of your video that you want to use in your animation. Snippets that can create a perfect loop are preferred. Audio will be muted.
- Save file to your computer as a .gif
- See below: “How to upload a GIF on Twitter”
- Reach out to your WCG creative resources if you would like to create a custom GIF using static images.
Implications with third-party publishing apps like Hootsuite:
- GIFs can be published from Hootsuite to Twitter if pic.twitter.com is enabled as the default photo viewer within the platform; however, GIFs are not able to be viewed within Hootsuite, yet
- Twitter will be rolling out GIF support to its API, which would allow third-party developers like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc., to offer similar support in their client applications
What to avoid with GIFs:
- Sharing overly-complicated messages; GIFs are inherently snackable and should be used to share a short animation that is usually funny, informative, or elicits an emotional response
- Posting too many GIFs during short period of time. The result is distracting and busy
- Posting a video snippet that relies heavily on sound. GIFs do not have sound
- If you are posting on behalf of a brand, avoid posting consumer-generated content without proper permission and sharing video from media or films without giving credit, as commonly seen on Buzzfeed (which receives special permission as a news site)
Pronunciation: Some people, like the format’s inventor Steve Wilhite, say that it should be pronounced “JIF,” like the peanut butter. Still, a large contingent of people prefer saying “GIF” with a hard “G.”
Bonus points: The “GIFs” that end up in the Twitter feed aren’t actually GIFs. They’re MP4s, embedded with the HTML5 video tag. Even if a GIF is uploaded, it’s converted into an MP4. The GIF/MP4 difference is a smart tactic for Twitter. The conversion compresses the file by 20%, allowing for faster load times.