Read and watch the webinar recap where Steve Rado, CEO and Founder of Giflytics explains how to get started with GIFs as a marketing channel.

Why GIFs?

GIF search engine platforms like Giphy, Tenor ,and Gfycat offer ways for brands to create and optimize content on their respective search engines. Much like your traditional search engines, whoever can create the best content that gives the end user the result (or GIF) they were searching for can grab a hefty chunk of the 10 billion daily GIFs served across the web.

Yes, that is 10 billion GIFs -every-single-day served across messaging apps and social media. 

By using GIFs, brands can earn more engaging, high-quality impressions than they could with billboards, TV commercials, or interruptive digital ads. This is because GIFs are actively searched for and shared by consumers, instead of passively forced upon them like other marketing mediums. If you’re a consumer brand or media company, you definitely should be getting serious about GIFs in 2020.

A major driver behind the growth of GIFs as a marketing channel is the dominance of Messaging and Stories as the primary way we share on social. Since 2018 Facebook has made it apparent that the future of social is private – and sharing will mainly be done via Stories and messaging. This is important for GIFs because GIFs are primarily distributed within Stories (as GIF stickers) and messaging apps (as traditional ‘rectangular’ GIFs). We’ll talk more about the types of GIFs later on. The main point is that as messaging and stories continue to grow – GIFs will grow as well.

GIFs are fun. We always say People hate ads, but people love GIFs. GIFs aren’t an interruptive ad that disrupts a consumer experience. Instead GIFs are a useful tool that helps consumers communicate better and improves their online sharing experience.

Instead of overtly trying to push a product with an interruptive ad, you’re making a brand play and building a relationship with consumers by entertaining them and giving them a fun and useful tool.

Essentially, you’re creating a ‘micro-moment’ between your brand and the consumer.

The Channels

When getting started with GIF marketing, the first thing you need to understand are the different channels and how they work. The major channels are GIPHY, Tenor, and Gfycat.

GIFs are distributed through these major GIF search engines and their third-party integration partners. GIF search engines have integrations into the most popular social media and messaging apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, iMessage, WhatsApp, Tinder, Slack, and many others. 

 Any time you see an option for a GIF search within a messaging or social app you use, it’s most likely coming from one or multiple of these platforms.

The best practice is to distribute content to all major GIF search platforms to maximize visibility. 

Making your GIFs searchable in 3rd-party apps

Before your GIFs can be publicly available in 3rd party messaging and social media apps that use GIFs, you need to create a verified account on each GIF search platform. Below are the steps and requirements for making your GIFs searchable on each platform.

For GIPHY:

Before your GIFs can be publicly available in search, you’ll need to have a verified brand channel. The application process is easy. As long as you can prove you are a legitimate company, have a professional website, a modest social media following, and five original (quality) GIFs uploaded to your account you’ll most likely get approved within a few weeks. Once your channel is approved, your GIFs will be available across all messaging and social media apps that have a GIPHY integration.

Learn more about applying for a GIPHY brand channel: https://support.giphy.com/hc/en-us/articles/360019977992-Apply-For-A-Brand-Channel

For Tenor:

Anyone can create an account on Tenor and immediately have their content indexed and searchable across apps with a Tenor integration. In order to create an “official” channel you need to be an established brand and reach out to a Tenor account manager through their website to apply for a channel. It’s best to have your profile filled out and have original content populated on your channel to increase your chances of being approved for an official channel when Tenor is reviewing it.

Learn more about applying for an Official Tenor Channel: https://tenor.com/contentpartners#contact

For Gfycat:

For Gfycat, the process is very similar to getting started. You need to have a fully complete profile and 30 public GIFs on your account before you can qualify for a verified channel.

Learn more about applying for a Verified Gfycat Account:
https://gfycat.com/partners

Planning Your Strategy

The first thing you should do when planning your strategy is decide where you want to reach people.

If you want people to share your content in private messaging conversions, you’ll want to focus on traditional ‘rectangular’ GIFs. This is the GIF format you’re probably most familiar with and already use in your personal messaging conversations. 

If you want to reach people on social media, specifically through Stories and social video like TikTok you should use GIF stickers. 

We do always recommend using a mix of both traditional GIFs and GIF stickers to increase your reach. However, if you have limited budget and resources, pick the medium most aligned with your goals for engaging consumers and just experiment with it. 

Keyword Research

This is where keyword research comes into the process for planning your GIF marketing strategy. If you are familiar with search engine marketing or SEO, you understand how important it is to do keyword research.

Keyword research essentially comprises of researching different search terms, ideas or topics that are relevant to your brand or content and understanding the difficulty and resources needed to rank highly in search results.

GIFs are very similar. The first step in creating a GIF that will perform well is to understand what keywords you want to rank for that are relevant to your brand to give yourself the best chance to rank highly in organic search results.

Focus on the keyword first, and the creative second. By doing this, you can make your creative laser-focused to rank for one certain keyword, giving it a much better chance to be a high performer. At Giflytics, we created our own GIF keyword research tools to help generate ideas for new keywords to rank for.

We like to classify keywords in a few different categories:

Branded Keywords: These are the keywords that include your brand name. If you want people to find GIFs related to your brand, you’ll want to make sure you tag all of your GIFs with your brand name or any popular slogans.This way people can find your branded content when they’re looking for it.

Naturally the search volume on your brand name is probably low in GIF search engines. This isn’t because your brand isn’t that exciting, it’s because most people that are using GIFs in conversations (unfortunately) aren’t talking about your brand (yet).

For example, if you were Pepsi, you would want to tag all your content with “pepsi” and “pepsi cola” or “pepsi soda”, so that people can find your content when they are searching for it. 

Competitor Keywords: These are your competitor’s branded keywords. You’ll want to take note and see what types of content is showing up for these keywords.

Is your competitor there?
Is there user-generated content ranking in the top search results?
Is there no content at all?

The holy grail is when your competitor doesn’t have content on GIF search engines, this will give you an opportunity to rank for your competitors’ keywords when people are searching for their brand.

You’re probably used to paying a lot of money to bid on competitor keywords on Google Ads and other platforms, this is a great free way to hijack your competitor’s branded keyword real-estate on GIF search engines and be there with helpful and entertaining content when people are searching for your competitors.

Product Keywords: These are keywords directly related to the products or services you sell or any results that your products and services bring. If you’re Pepsi – these types of keywords would be “soda”, “cola”, “soda can”, “cold soda” etc. 

Emotional Keywords: These don’t have to be related to your product or brand, but they could be related to emotions that your product or brand brings. Happy, sad, angry/hangry, excited, etc. are all examples of emotional keywords. Emotional keywords are usually very competitive, if you want to rank organically for emotion-related keywords your content has to be very good and  look like UGC. It shouldn’t overtly feature your product and should have very, very subtle branding. 

Trend Keywords: These are keywords related to current trends or pop culture moments.
People often share GIFs related pop culture trends. Many GIF artists are quick to populate GIF search engines with new content for new trends. An example would be Covid-19, where we were seeing in early to mid-March that a lot of artists and brands creating helpful and entertaining content to spread awareness for proper hand washing. As a brand you can take advantage of these trends and create content to rank for new trends — if you’re quick.
Gushers is another good example of a brand that knows how to leverage trends. This Gushers GIF uses the phrase “looking like a snacc” which is popular among Gen Z and millennials. 

https://media.giphy.com/media/uWAcQeZJeexgMq9ohB/giphy.gif

By creating GIFs for these trends, they aren’t just hijacking search results and earning impressions, they are signalling to younger demographics that they understand their lingo and speak their language. 

Another key part of keyword research is checking the competitiveness of keywords you want to rank for. Tenor Insights is a great free tool from Tenor. You can enter a keyword and see search trend data and gauge competitiveness to rank.


The graph shows you normalized search volumes for the keyword as well as whether or not the keyword is a “top Tenor search term”. This ranges between 10, 100, 1,000, & 10,000. A search term in the top 10 is highly searched and highly competitive. A search term in the top 10,000 isn’t searched as often and most likely has lower competition. Here we can see ‘sad’ is a top 100 keyword. From this we can assume it’s probably very competitive. By looking at this graph we can see a trend of the search term ‘sad’ peaking on Sundays. We can infer people most often search for GIFs to express their sadness on Sundays.

Total GIFs per keyword per platform: This isn’t the most technical or data rich approach, it’s actually very simple. You can enter the keyword you want to rank for into a search on a GIF search engine and see how many results there are for that keyword. If there are only a couple hundred results, it’s not that competitive, if there are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, it’s probably a very competitive search term. 




You can also click on the first few GIF results to see how many views they have. Do the top results have hundreds of thousands or hundreds of millions of views? This can help give you an idea of what kind of outcome you could get for this keyword if you ranked highly for it.

Keyword Monitoring: It’s worth mentioning our keyword monitoring tool here. We built it specifically to solve our own problem and help with GIF research and planning because it was taking us so much time to do research manually.

Our Keyword Monitoring tool, allows you to track keywords and easily see what the top 10 GIF search results are on a given day for a keyword. This allows you to understand what the competitive landscape looks like. You can get inspiration from high-performing creative to inform your own GIF creative, see who created the top ranking content – whether a GIF artist or a brand, and understand who owns keyword real-estate and how rankings change over time.

Types of GIFs

Once you have an idea of the keywords you want to rank for, you should start thinking about how to make the best content around these terms. The two major categories of GIFs: Traditional and Stickers, but they can be broken down further and have subtle nuances.

For Traditional GIFs there are 3 main subtypes:

  1. Video-based GIFs: These are GIFs that feature any form of video. Usually a 2-6 second clip featuring a key moment or expression from a TV show or other form of video media. These types of GIFs are often used for what we call “Reaction GIFs” because they often feature a person’s face expressing an emotion or have subtext that expresses a certain phrase like “hooray” or “sorry”. Here we have an example of J-Lo dancing and feeling the vibes. https://media.giphy.com/media/bAPcAk1JoWPg4/giphy.gif
  2. Animation-based GIFs: These are GIFs that usually include custom illustration and animations. These GIFs didn’t exist in another life as a video, they were created specifically to be a GIF and express something. Animation-based GIFs are also often used for “reactions” in messaging conversations. Here we have a nice example of a happy thumbs up punching through a wall. https://media.giphy.com/media/xT1XGT9ersCCKjhVny/giphy.gif
  3. Text-based GIFs: These are GIFs where the core of the content is text, usually with moving animation or color, instead of sending someone boring old text, wishing them a good day – you can send a fun text animation. Here we have a nice “have a nice day” example for a text-based GIF. https://media.giphy.com/media/kHItTUhmy50guDJH2H/giphy.gif

GIF Stickers are a bit different. GIF Stickers are usually animated illustrations, images or text blocks that always have a transparent background. They are typically used as an overlay on top of a picture or video, hence why they are called “stickers”. It’s worth noting a key difference of distribution methods here.

Since GIF stickers are put on top of images or video, they are mainly used on social media apps, specifically social media apps that have a “Stories” feature (Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat) and social video apps like TikTok.


For GIF Stickers there are three main subtypes:

  1. Text-based GIF stickers: These are usually the most popular used as overlays on stories and used to add fun and emotion to boring text. This “Good Morning” GIF sticker can be used when people post their Story on social media in the morning.  https://media.giphy.com/media/7OX43sXyw09x8rrKi5/giphy.gif
  2. Animation-based GIF stickers: These are very similar in purpose to animation-based traditional GIFs, the only difference is the animation is overlaid onto a photo or video to establish more context and add emotion. In this example, it would be to express happiness about a sunny day. https://media.giphy.com/media/3ohhwr9fxNhozYRhLy/giphy.gif
  3. Human-based GIF stickers: These are a bit different. They are mainly used to express a singular and specific emotion, like this Lebron James example. Most athletes, and celebrities have their own human-based GIF stickers by now that are often used by fans, or really anyone who is trying to express their emotions. https://media.giphy.com/media/9JyTB5AlIAxyUX1Jwt/giphy.gif

Many brands find success with a strategy that includes a mix of all GIF types. But if you are just starting out, it’s best to get started with whatever content is easiest for you to make. Choose whichever content medium best fits your available resources, whether it’s an illustrator from the design team, your in-house video professional, or some funny moments from a Youtube video you filmed a year ago. 

Creation Tools

There are a bunch of great tools to create all the different types of GIFs. Below are a few favorites:

For video-based GIFs, GIPHY Capture is a great free tool from GIPHY which allows you to record anything on your screen and cut it into a GIF. It also gives you the ability to add caption text onto your GIFs and save it directly to your computer, or upload to GIPHY. It’s a super easy tool and can help you make GIFs from existing videos in a matter of minutes.

For animation-based GIFs, Adobe suite of Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects are the gold standard. While they are all Adobe products and aren’t free they really are the best tools. The designer who will be creating your animation-based GIFs most likely has a subscription to the Adobe suite. So this shouldn’t be an issue. There are free alternative open-source software options that exist.

For text-based GIFs, There are a bunch of free tools out there to help you make 3D animated text from templates. Animizer is the best free tool by far. However, these are just basic templates for 3D animated text, so if they don’t meet your needs or if you need to create a custom text-based GIF that better aligns with your branding, you’ll need a designer to create it in Photoshop or After Effects. 

For human-based GIF stickers, you can use this really awesome tool called Unscreen. It allows you to remove the background from a video file so you can create a human-based GIF sticker from any existing video you have.

Measurement

In terms of measuring the success of your GIF marketing, there are a few different ways, — and different platforms give different metrics. The simplest way is to look at views.

This is the most comparable to the CPM metric you get from other digital online advertising and a good way to benchmark and translate the value to your client or boss in a way that they understand.

Since we are talking about organic, there is no ad spend. We like to think of CPM with the ‘cost’ in terms of dollars spent on creative. So if you spend $10,000 on artists creating your GIFs, which go on to earn 10,000,000, you have a CPM of $1 — which is possible. We’ve seen CPMs for campaigns we’ve worked on in the sub-$2 range, which is much better than you can get on other digital search or social marketing channels at the moment. GIF marketing is still a nascent space. It’s kind of like the wild west where we’re seeing brands that invest in this channel are getting hundreds of millions of views for very little investment due to low competition.

GIPHY has a Views metric, which is defined as anytime their content is served via their API. So this means anytime someone searches for a keyword and the GIF shows up as an option to share, a view is counted. This does not mean the person chose to share it. The number of times that a GIF loops does not increase view count.

GIPHY recently debuted a Clicks metric which tells you how many times people have clicked on a GIF after seeing it for a certain top performing keyword, presumably to share in chat or a Story.

Tenor has a Views metric like GIPHY, but also has a Shares metric, which tells you how many times it’s been shared by users. Tenor also gives official brand channels the ability to see a share rate. Which shows the percentage of people who share the GIF after seeing it. Generally, a 1% share rate is considered good.

For third-party measurement, if you want to understand how your GIFs and the keywords associated with them are performing organically you can use Giflytics organic GIF measurement tools to help you understand what keyword real-estate you own and how it changes over time.

By measuring organic performance of your GIF campaigns you can understand what type of content is working for individual keywords. which can help you identify keywords that have potential for you to rank highly for, and maximize your visibility.

By understanding what is working and where opportunities are, you can guide your future GIF creative to match certain keywords to increase your chances to rank in the top search results for target keywords related to your brand.

GIPHY did recently announce the ability to have linkable embeddable GIFs, which means we could start seeing GIFs that go beyond just awareness and engagement and instead have a more performance-based aspect similar to Facebook or Google Ads to drive direct web conversions and sales.

The Three Rules of GIF Marketing

These are what we like to call the 3 rules of GIF marketing. Three important things to remember when you are in the creation phase of your GIFs. Follow these rules to ensure your GIF content is something that people actually want to share with their friends.

1) Be Entertaining

You can make people laugh, make them smile, or mesmerize them with an interesting animation. People love to use GIFs to express themselves and add emotion and levity to conversations. So make sure you evoke emotion and most importantly don’t be boring.

2) Keep Branding Subtle

People want to share fun and interesting GIFs that help them express themselves, your brand should be secondary here. It seems counterintuitive but this is not the time to talk about your product like you do on other channels.

You’re entertaining here, you’re not selling. You can include references to your brand or product, but it HAS TO BE SUBTLE.

3) Match the Medium

You may need to slightly deviate from your brand guidelines to make really good GIF content. The best GIFs evoke emotion and are a little bit weird. So don’t be afraid to take a risk, embrace the levity and weirdness of GIFs. Be informal, approachable, and make your content look like user-generated content and you’ll be rewarded with more views. 

Conclusion

No matter how you approach your GIF marketing to generate brand awareness and engage consumers, the most important step is to get started. There’s a massive opportunity to get your brand in front of millions of people everyday with a very low barrier to entry, and minimal resource commitment. The basic marketing principles of research, planning, implementing, measuring, and learning hold true with your GIF marketing campaigns. If you follow these steps, you’ll be on your way to millions of high-value brand impressions and positive consumer experiences.

Want to get started with GIF marketing? Try Giflytics free for 30 days with your Communo membership!

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