Do You Love GIFs? Brief History of GIFs and Their Impact on Social Media

Do You Love GIFs? Brief History of GIFs and Their Impact on Social Media

Even in 2022, animated GIFs are here to stay. They are now a necessary tool for both brands and individuals to use when expressing themselves, interacting, and building buzz online. With millions of searches taking place every day for GIFs, this image format is undoubtedly profitable. 

But how can you use these modern, brief animations to your advantage? Read more about GIFs, their history, how to create them and when to use them in your marketing strategy!


What is a GIF?

A GIF of a Schiit's Creek character asking "what is it?"


In case you were wondering what GIF stands for, it is the acronym for “Graphics Interchange Format.” GIF files can typically be opened via a web browser or using the picture viewing software that comes with your operating system.

As it is a method of image compression, a GIF file is similar to JPEG, TIFF, and PNG files. However, a GIF file is considerably more than that because it allows you to keep several images within the file itself.

Nowadays, when you hear the term "GIF," you most likely mean "animated GIF," as the original GIF (the file format) can only store 256 colors and is therefore not used in digital photography. Photographers more frequently employ JPEG, TIFF, and PNG file formats because they offer a far greater range of color options.


A Brief History of GIFs

A picture showing a 1980s inspired 'vaporwave' style wallpaper.
Source: FreePik


The GIF format’s history starts in 1987. The problem that led to the development of GIFs was the limited computer storage. How can a color image file be distributed without using up too much memory on the computer? This process produced an outstanding image compression approach that made it simple to share these pictures without using a significant amount of data.

At first, GIFs were used almost solely for still images. A particular compression technique, called Lempel-Ziv-Welch after its three developers, was what gave the format its innovative qualities. It was locating recurring patterns and then simplifying them to enable lossless compression of files, which prevents any data from being lost during file enlargement.

However, as time went on, GIF images were mostly abandoned, particularly because alternative file formats now did a better job with static images. But GIF had a market monopoly on animated images, which no one else could compete with. And thus, GIFs managed to stay relevant even as the internet evolved from the early HTML days.


Why Do We Use GIFs?

A GIF of Cardi B asking "what was the reason?"

What made this file format so popular, and why do we keep using it? We put together a list of reasons why GIFs are still being used nowadays and why they have become an essential part of internet culture:


GIFs Say More than Words

GIFs are an appealing way to convey emotions in cyberspace. You can blush, smirk, sneer, cry, or even roll your eyes online when you use GIFs, which makes them great both for individuals and for marketing purposes. It can feel like you’re talking face-to-face with your audience, even though you aren’t really there. 

GIFs are a great tool for highlighting this and engaging with customers on an emotional level if your branding adopts a lighthearted approach to customer relations. They can be included into emails, tweets, Facebook comments, and other direct messages.


GIFs Can Be Used for Multiple Purposes

GIF use is similar to emoji use. You choose the GIF that best fits the circumstance and share it. To make using GIFs as simple as possible, the majority of social media networks collaborate with GIF hosting platforms such as GIPHY or Tenor. You don't need to download anything. 

In fact, a GIF function is probably already incorporated into the keyboard on your phone. This way, the possibilities to use GIFs are unlimited: you can add them to your social media strategy, you can share them with friends, or you can even add a GIF signature to your email! The pool of options is huge no matter what field you’re in!!


GIFs Are Easy To Create

When you use a GIF maker, such as Flixier, you can create an animated GIF in a matter of minutes. All you need is a creative idea, some videos or images and access to the World Wide Web!

Without any prior experience with editing, the user-friendly interface makes it simple to put together GIFs, and our cloud-powered rendering engine guarantees that your creations will be available to share in only a few minutes! The best thing is that you can use it to create the ideal memes or reaction GIFs by adding motion text, subtitles, filters, and video effects.


Using GIFs in Marketing

A drawing of a megaphone coming out of a mobile phone screen.
Source: FreePik


While there are multiple reasons to use GIFs in marketing, we will help you understand why this file format is used for two promotional tactics: 


GIFs in Email Marketing

As an email marketer, you're constantly looking for ways to enhance your campaigns' copy, style, and imagery. But given the fierce competition for subscribers' attention, you must think of novel ways to get readers to click through and be interested in your content. If you are not sure why you should use GIFs in emails, worry not, we are here to unveil the mystery. 

Here are the reasons why you should consider adding an animated GIF in your email campaigns:

  • It's easier to get people's attention
  • GIFs spice up the look of your mailing
  • Briefly narrate a story.
  • GIFs increase click-through rates
  • GIFs quickly demonstrate product functionality

In case you don’t know how to be creative with adding looping pictures to your email, here are a couple of successful methods brands used GIFs in their email marketing campaigns:


Using GIFs instead of Animated Videos

Since most email clients do not support embedded video, email marketers must utilize animated GIFs to provide email readers with a video-like experience. Take a look at how Netflix is doing this:


An animated GIF being used in a promotional email for Netflix's The Crown.


Using GIFs in Email Signatures

Sometimes, GIFs can be straightforward animations, which are considered to be professional in the business world.

Why not copy and paste them into email signatures instead? Nothing captures our interest more than moving items against a still background (that is, regular email content). Animated gifs appear to have been specifically designed for this use. The border between "attention-grabbing" and "very obnoxious," however, is far thinner than you might imagine.

An animated GIF used in an email signature.


Using GIFs for Limited Time Offers

A limited-time offer is designed to swiftly increase your sales. And in order for it to happen, you must captivate your audience. A GIF included in an email clearly illustrates the advantage provided to your audience.

Take a look at how Loft managed to successfully integrate a GIF in a limited-offer email:


A screenshot of a Loft e-mail that includes an animated GIF.


GIFs in Social Media

GIFs add a non-verbal layer of communication to your social media posts, something they lack otherwise. They provide the post more context and ensure that it won't be interpreted incorrectly. It's especially important for firms whose brand voice includes irony and sarcasm. 

Let's look at some examples of how businesses have successfully used the graphics interchange format elements in their social media marketing:


Using GIFs for Product Promotion

You can use animated GIFs to show off features or give customers a glimpse of your products. Animated GIFs can be used to create anticipation for a new product launch or major event on social media.

You could see a huge return by generating interest in your products or features if you combine a promotional animated GIF with some paid promotion on Twitter.

A Samsung tweet which features a GIF of the Galaxy S6.



Using GIFs to Catch Attention

As we mentioned before, GIFs are appealing. They make people stop for a second while scrolling through their social media news feeds. And, as a brand, you should try to make the most out of it.

For example, the innovative banking company, Monzo, highlights the benefits clients can enjoy by subscribing to its premium service by animating portions of the eye-catching cartoons that serve as the brand's visuals. Although the animation itself is rather straightforward, it truly improves the brand's contemporary, vibrant image and aids in drawing attention to crucial aspects.


A GIF used by Monzo to promote their travel insurance.


Using GIFs to Convey Emotions

Each brand has a set of values it stands for. And the best way to communicate the values is through conveying emotions.

Through humorous (and even educational) GIFs, Yo! disassembles its sushi to highlight its core aspects. While the simplicity of the visual supports honesty, openness, and the brand's positioning as an all-age brand, bright colors and a vintage stop-motion style of animation reflect the brand's joyful tone of voice.

Take a look at this kid enjoying their sushi, isn’t the happiness purely contagious?


Using GIFs to Showcase User Generated Content

Truth be told, this type of social media usage of GIFs isn’t that frequently met. Brands frequently reserve user-generated content (especially copy-based submissions with low visual appeal) for usage on social media platforms with shorter lifespans, like Instagram Stories.

It's incredibly encouraging to see that PayPal has chosen to improve these and include them in its main feed as a method to engage its users more directly. For example, look how they turned some customer feedback into an amazing Instagram post:

A promotional GIF posted to PayPal's Instagram account.


Create and Edit Your GIFs with Flixier!

Now that you know how to use GIFs, it’s time to create them. Are you looking for a simple method to edit GIFs to make memes or to add flavor to your YouTube videos, TikToks, or Instagram stories? Thankfully, with a GIF editor such as Flixier, this is not going to be a challenge for you!

With the help of our cloud-powered editing tool, you can easily edit your GIFs in your browser without the need for a powerful computer and without any lag.

Whether you want to crop GIFs or turn a picture to GIF, Flixier is the tool for you. Try our free tool and make the most out of your GIF editing experience!

Dramatically speed up your video editing