The rise in visual culture on the Internet has created opportunities for new innovations to dazzle audiences. One of these new inventions gaining steam is the GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format. Basically, a GIF is a looping video. The GIF technology was created in 1987, yet today you can find GIFs on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit – basically, all over the Internet.

Why are GIFs so popular?

GIFs combine the entertainment factor of a YouTube video with a very short attention span. GIFs are as easy to consume as a static image, as they only last a few seconds. But unlike a static image, they show motion. The limited time span of a GIF allows it to narrow in on one specific action.

For instance, GIFs are perfect for sports stories. A picture of a sporting event, especially one small moment within a game or match, only scratches the surface of what it is trying to convey. GIFs are also commonly used as a shortened version of American’s Funniest Home Videos: shots of a person tripping or a cat doing a backflip are common.

One of the most common uses for GIFs is “Reaction GIFs.” Users pull a selection from a movie, TV show, or even a celebrity interview. The GIF they create is of a person reacting to whatever situation they are in – surprise, anger, excitement, etc. The GIF creator then inserts his or her reaction GIF into whatever Internet conversation they are taking part in to convey their feelings about what has been said.

Who uses GIFs?

GIFs are most popular with younger Internet users. The blogging platform Tumblr thrives off of GIFs, and most of Tumblr’s users are teenagers and college students. However, GIFs are not limited to any particular group. The sports GIFs mentioned above can be appreciated by any sports fans.

Can marketers use GIFs?

Many marketers are already using GIFs. For some, such as Jive, GIFs can be a great way to bring life and modernity to your website. American Apparel has used GIFs to announce and advertise products.  GIFs are very catchy – they attract the eye easily. GIFs also allow a lot of room for creativity, as they can tell a story in a way similar to a TV commercial.

Have you used GIFs in your marketing? What kind of GIF have you used?