From Buzzfeed listicles to your Twitter feed, the mythical gif has risen from obscurity into a pillar of the internet in only a few years. These magical photos, that move and loop before your watering eyes, fill the social media masses with glee. From being used to document magical moments in sports to becoming a daily source of news, gifs are on the rise.
Want to hop on the gif rollercoaster? Here’s a quick guide to gifs that should answer all of your burning questions:
What are gifs?
Gifs (technically pronounced like jifs, if you enjoy starting meaningless debates with coworkers) is the acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, which refers to a file format that supports both static and animated images. Gifs rose to popularity as they allow you to present a short video clip in a far more condensed image format. In other words, they’re quick videos that loop and don’t require a play button.
How to explain gifs to young kids: “They’re like the moving pictures in Harry Potter newspapers.”
How to explain gifs to your grandparents: Don’t bother, they probably don’t care about gifs. Ask them about a time before gifs. Then, appreciate gifs even more.
Where can I find gifs?
The internet is alive with gifs, and that means it’s becoming easier and easier to find them. A lot of people lurk on Tumblr, which is awash with gifs, and simply save the best ones they find. You can also search Tumblr for gifs, by adding “gif” to the end of your word or phrase. The same goes for Google Image Search, which you can scour for gifs by going into the advanced settings and, under ‘type’, selecting the ‘animated’ category.
But if you like eye shopping, or are after the Wal-Mart of gifs, here are a few options to consider.
If you’re looking for a gif, they’ll have it. Giphy also compiles daily gif collections to capitalize on news, culture or other timely events. It’s also where I found probably my favorite gif of all time:
Reddit is a website that helps you curate the best content on the internet, as users upvote the good stuff and downvote the bad. The same system applies to this gif-specific subreddit, which has turned it into one of the best collections of gifs online, including gems like this one:
A gif for every reaction. Reaction Gifs is a lot of fun thanks to a quirky navigation tool that provides you with custom gifs based on how you’re feeling or what your answer to a question is. If you answer “Hell No!” you might get…
About 99 percent of the time, you’ll be able to find a gif to suit your needs. But, for that 1 percent…
Where can I make gifs?
There are countless tools out there to help you make gifs from videos. These include:
Or, if you’re an enterprising individual, you can make your own gifs within Photoshop. Open up your video files, use the timeline tool to crop to the length you want and “Save for Web”. Don’t forget to set ‘looping’ to ‘forever’! If that makes little to no sense to you, there are tons of YouTube tutorials to walk you through the process.
Where can I use gifs?
Only certain social networks support gifs. Within Google+ and Tumblr, gifs will autoplay in all of their glory, which is the best case scenario. Facebook just announced gif support, while Twitter users still need to push a play button for the gif to start, which isn’t the end of the world.
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) May 10, 2015
Don’t limit yourself to using social media for ‘giffage’ either. WordPress supports gifs for all you bloggers out there (this post is case and point). And you can also add gifs to emails within Gmail by copying the image url, choosing the little image symbol, and adding an image by “web address (URL).”
Why use gifs?
They show that you’re paying attention to internet trends. They show that you and your business have a fun side. They can add more context to a short message, post or Tweet. They offer wide appeal in a short time, which is great for the increasingly short attention span of the general public. And perhaps most importantly, they work. The following gif helped us earn over 80 retweets, over 80 favorites, and 760 link clicks. The use of gifs has really boosted the performance of a number of our Tweets.
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) February 9, 2015
Some quick gif advice
Use gifs in social media conversations: Some of the best social media moments come when businesses or influencers have conversations. These convos are even better when they involve a little gif back-and-forth. Check out this example from two NHL hockey teams during the playoffs this year.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) May 13, 2015
Double check what you’re sharing: Don’t rush a gif. Something that seems so nonsensical can actually make a negative impact if you don’t take the time to think about what you’re sharing. A lot of gifs focus on shows or movies that many people won’t get the references to, people getting hurt and people being made fun of. Or they just devolve into chaos. Make sure you consider what you’re sharing, so you don’t offend anyone in the process.
Go for quality: A lot of gifs look like your old Geocities blog background. Hunt around and find a high quality gif that won’t leave your followers squinting, or having a seizure.
Don’t overdo it: Gifs are fun because they stand out. If everything you produce is attached to a gif, they won’t stand out anymore and people will appreciate them less. Use them sparingly.
Want some gif inspiration? Check out 5 brands using gifs on Twitter the right way.