There's no doubt that one of the most important things for any business is creating a long-lasting emotional connection with their target audience of people.
However, in today's digital landscape, this is becoming increasingly complicated and challenging. There is so much content available online, brands can begin to blend together unless they effectively differentiate themselves from their competition.
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There are a few great ways to help your brand cut through the noise like giveaways, but one that you may not have considered is using GIFs in your targeted content.
But what are GIFs? And what are the pros and cons to using them in your targeted content? Before we get into some tips for using GIFs effectively in your content, let's discuss what they are.
GIFs are a collection of static image files that are combined to create a short, looping video. They can also be a short, soundless video clip designed to play on a loop.
In many cases, GIFs are a type of content used similarly to emoji icons. They usually convey some kind of emotion or reaction, which are served better with a series of images rather than static pictures.
GIFs can show a real person or animated characters. Some may even revolve around pets or inanimate objects. The content used in each piece of content has no bearing on whether or not the clip is considered a GIF.
Like many newer forms of content, there are both some pros and cons to including GIFs in your marketing strategy.
Before we get to some tips for using GIFs to create personal connections with customers, let's discuss some of the ways GIFs can both benefit or damage your engagement efforts.
As younger groups of people have begun moving into the ecommerce landscape, it's becoming apparent that some old-school marketing tactics simply don't function the same way on the younger generations.
Using cool GIFs that are based on popular culture references, viral trends, or even featuring popular influencer figures from social sharing platforms can all be great ways to improve your engagement with younger demographics of potential customers.
Using what could be considered 'cool GIFs' is a great way to increase brand awareness with different demographics than you traditionally target, as well as elevate the impression your brand makes with youthful audiences.
In turn, this can help make your brand appear trendy, which can encourage more people to share your brand or offerings with others in their peer groups, because they see you as a representative of their personal values.
This is just one way you can use to create long-lasting brand affinity through the use of GIFs in your marketing materials.
Funny GIFs are a risky road to tread down, only because not everyone is going to find the same type humor enjoyable, and if too many of your potential customers see your GIFs as unfunny (or worse, a waste of time), you could run the risk of alienating your audience instead of intriguing them.
If you are committed to using funny GIFs in your feed posts or other targeted content, be very careful that the humor you're including is tame enough to avoid offending or upsetting anyone, but relatable enough to apply to the majority of your target demographic of customers.
Avoid using funny GIFs that include polarizing figures (politicians, actors, comedians, etc.). There's a chance that a portion of your audience could be actively dissuaded from using your products or services, if they see your brand as associated with a public figure they strongly dislike.
Stick to funny GIFs that have a widespread, inoffensive appeal, and you can avoid doing yourself a disservice.
You may not realize it, but for the same reasons we warned you about using different free types of typefaces and fonts, you need to be very careful.
The internet is full of sites that make it seem like they're there to help you or your business, but the truth of the matter is that they're actually there to scam you into downloading and installing viruses on your device.
Of course, not all free GIFs are bad, but you need to do your due diligence to vet safe locations to save GIFs for usage, instead of just saving them from the first site that you find with the GIFs you want.
The old idiom 'nothing in life is free' can apply here. Sure, there are some good quality free GIFs available online, but unless you're totally confident in the place that you're intending to get them from, perhaps it might be a better idea to consider making your own GIFs.
For the minimal time and effort required in doing this, it's a lot safer and offers more precise results than trusting the free downloadable GIFs you find online.
Tying into our conversation above, you could always consider getting your own GIF maker and taking all the guesswork out of the equation when it comes to final results, quality of GIF, or safety.
Lots of programs now have GIF maker features built into them like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Animate, and while you'll need to pay for the underlying service, you'll be opening yourself up to a world of potential future GIF inclusions in your marketing strategy.
Typically, these GIF makers either allow you to upload a series of still images that you can string together to create a GIF, or you can even access drawing tools which will allow you to draw your own GIF from scratch - just be wary that you have a real knack for art before going this route.
Poorly drawn GIFs can give the impression that your brand is amateurish or unprofessional, unless the lack of quality is intentional, for humor, or to make a point.
This may not be the first place that you would think to include GIFs in your marketing materials, but a blog post is actually a fantastic place to increase your customer engagement with GIFs.
In these situations, it might be a good idea to make GIFs out of regular images like using a famous customer using your products/services, or a series of product images to create a sort of virtual showroom for your brand.
Using a product image will allow you to highlight sales, as well as feature items that may not get the attention you believe they deserve in your retail stores.
Just make sure that if you use a product image in your GIFs here that the image source has plenty of stock. You could end up angering customers if they love the way the image source looks in the GIFs you've provided, but then find that they can't actually order any for themselves.
Social media strategies have become the cornerstone of building personal connections with customers over the last several years, especially as more platforms continue to pop up all the time.
Of course, certain types of social media lend themselves to GIF usage more naturally than others.
For instance, Instagram Stories are the perfect fit for social sharing your GIFs, especially because the audience of people on this platform are used to being fed bite-sized pieces of content through their Instagram Reels.
Conversely, you may want to avoid using GIFs heavily on platforms like Facebook (Meta), because unless you're featuring product images, the platform can make excessive GIF usage feel childish or unprofessional compared to other more commonly used social media marketing strategies.
If you've already got a devout group of followers on social media, you could consider asking them to help create user-generated content in the form of GIFs for your business.
Whether they're creating their own GIFs using a product image from your catalog, or making it themselves using your products/services the image source, the key is that this user-generated content essentially functions as social proof for the rest of your audience.
Not only are the customers participating creating user-generated content that you can then build into your future campaigns, but they're giving it to you for free.
User-generated content is one of the best ways that businesses can build out their inventory of marketing materials with cross-promotional tools. You can use the content given to you on any platform, on your site, or even to increase your email engagement rate.
Customer actions speak volumes, sometimes more than even good word-of-mouth. When your customer actions are taken to actively promote and support your brand or offerings, it's much easier to establish personal connections with customers who aren't yet in your circle of followers.
This is a great opportunity to take advantage of that email list that you've been building for months or years - and it doesn't have to be a single campaign either.
People expect to receive marketing emails from businesses when they divulge their email address in one of their form fields, it's just a part of doing business these days. But your email campaign doesn't need to be boring.
Including GIFs in email marketing services can help increase engagement and establish an emotional connection in a place where customers simply aren't expecting it.
Promotional emails aren't typically known for building personal connections, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. It just means that you need a well-developed and effective email marketing strategy that you can use to create a happy email relationship with your customers.
GIFs take some of the formality out of the email experience, so if you can find a way to create a clickable link using funny GIFs or relatable, cool GIFs, you'll be more likely to see your email conversion rates go up.
Just be mindful: Not every email client supports GIFs the same way. You may want to do some testing with the email marketer on your team to ensure everything functions as it's supposed to, before you start sending out emails to people.
Otherwise, they may request that you take their email address off your email list, and then you'll lose the opportunity to market to them in the future.
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