Matthew KaisermanMatthew Kaiserman

The end goal of any social campaign is simple. Whether you’re a consumer or B2B brand, a public figure, influencer or creator, there’s one common objective: build an online community and drive people to buy, click or subscribe on whatever you are promoting.

As today’s go-to forum for the common person to interact with their favorite brands, social media has allowed companies large and small to become more relatable. Social media connects consumers all over the globe to engage in real time with topics, causes, people and things they care about. But how do brands become part of these conversations, and how do they forge connections with consumers from all over the globe? The answer is GIFs.

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GIFs—or JIFs, however you prefer to pronounce it—have become social media’s universal language. Whether you’re young or old, speak English, German or Spanish, people from all corners of the globe use GIFs to communicate with one another at astonishing rates. More than seven million of them are sent per day.

There’s a GIF for every occasion. Instead of creating long-form content, brands, influencers and everyday users are sharing expressions through three-second video loops. Is this a lazy form of communication, or the evolution to immersive, shared experiences? Brands are betting on the latter and are tapping into GIFs to better connect with audiences.

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Case in point: Marketers are turning brief snapshots of pop culture into social engagement tactics, and it’s working. Tweets including GIFs see 55 percent more engagement than other posts. Brands are using these animated memes to showcase their personality and interact with their followers in an interesting way. Since weaving GIFs into our social content, we’ve seen an uptick in engagement across our channels. Twitter was the main platorm with the best reaction to GIFs. With a limited number of characters to work with, sometime a GIF is the best way to communicate your message.

The key is for brands to weave GIFs into their content in an authentic way. While this form of content can make your company seem more relatable, it’s obvious when GIF usage is forced or clearly trying to pander to Millennials. And overusing GIFs can come off as ostentatious. This should be a tactic to aid your message and cleverly express emotion, not serve as a random play for engagement.

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It’s all about reading the situation, knowing your key messages and understanding the audience. Our followers respond to GIFs better than static images and tend to reply with other GIFs in the comments. However, you still must be true to your brand. Replying to a comment using a GIF from “The Office” may work for a lifestyle brand or marketing agency but may not resonate as much for an industrial manufacturer.

The value of GIFs is clear. They’ve become their own language, a form of hieroglyphics in the digital age. Without context or awareness of pop culture, however, they appear random. While no one knows how long GIFs will remain relevant, for the time being, however, it’s obvious GIFs are a universal language that helps brands further connect and engage with consumers.

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Matthew Kaiserman is a Junior Account Executive at Media Frenzy Global