Let’s get this out of the way, first thing. I pronounce GIF with a hard G. I do this because the G stands for Graphics, a hard G. I’ve been doing this since 1996. I don’t plan on changing, so arguing with me about this particular hang-up is useless. I don’t care what Steve Wilhite (the creator of GIFs) says. He’s clearly trolling all of us. But who am I to take the fun out of the most spirited office kitchen debate of our generation? So please GIF/JIF on.

What’s not up for debate is the format’s legitimacy as a marketing/entertainment tactic and its ability to drive increased engagement in many digital channels. They’re easy to make, easy to consume, and have the unique ability to pack an emotional punch in a small space. The more something can make us feel, the more likely we are to share. And we all know sharing is a major currency/factor when talking about digital campaigns and their success. No longer the small, conversationally driven jab sent to get a rise out of the person on the other end of your text message, these little guys are doing big business and moving the needle for marketers of all sizes.

Look, there’s plenty of data out there that supports the viability of GIFs to offer higher engagement numbers versus their static image brethren. All of it points to the simple fact that we retain more info via picture (and technically speaking GIFs are just packets of stacked images one after the other, sooo). Not only that, according to HubSpot, when we hear information, we only remember and retain 10% of that info three days later. Pair that same info with a relevant image and those same people retained 65% of the info three days later. Whoa. Now for the clincher, visual content is more than 40x more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. That’s a huge unlock for small and large marketers. Why wouldn’t you use GIFs to interact and engage with your audience? Seems like a no brainer (kind of like how you pronounce GIF with a hard “G”).

Now, we all have our favorite GIFs (“surprised prairie dog” gif anyone?), but maybe we aren’t all familiar with the process of actually making them. Put simply, there are 2 avenues to take here. It’s not an either or, it’s more like use both depending on the situation and the content needed.

#1 Use a Web-Based App

You can use a web-based process on any number of video to GIF exporting sites. I prefer EXGif (https://ezgif.com/video-to-gif). Simply upload your batch of files or video. Use the timeline controls to define the section of video you want to use to create a GIF from. (Pro tip – The longer the section of video, the larger your GIF will be. Meaning the longer it will take to download for your audience. Slow download times could cause frustration when trying to meaningfully interact with your target.) Click create GIF. Bam. Download the processed file right from the browser.

I find this method much faster than dragging a video to Photoshop or going all the way around the barn with After Effects.

#2 Use Photoshop

If you are more interested in using some of your original graphic design or type files, I would suggest total control with Photoshop. This process is relatively straightforward. I outline my particular process at a very basic level. The more advanced you become, the fancier and more complex animations you will be able to make.

Open your images in Photoshop.

1. Open up the Timeline window. Window > Timeline

Screenshot 2018-10-02 10.22.01.png

2. In the Timeline window, click "Create Frame Animation."

Screenshot 2018-10-02 10.24.12.png

3. In the Layers palette, create a new layer for each new frame.

Screenshot 2018-10-02 10.24.47.png

4. Open the same menu icon on the right, and choose "Make Frames From Layers."


5. Under each frame, select how long it should appear for before switching to the next frame.

Screenshot 2018-10-02 10.25.09.png

6. At the bottom of the toolbar, select how many times you'd like it to loop.

Screenshot 2018-10-02 10.25.28.png

7. Preview your GIF by pressing the Play icon.

8. Save and Export Your GIF. File> Export> Save to Web (legacy)

Screenshot 2018-10-02 12.46.43.png

9. Check the file size in the lower left corner. The goal is to keep the GIF under 5MB. If it’s larger, try adjusting the attributes to the right of the panel. Try reducing number of colors from 256 to 128 but keep an eye on the preview window because this will affect quality

10. Once you are happy, click Save.

Test GIF

As I stated above, this is the baseline. Practice these techniques and experiment. Like the pronunciation debate, the possibilities are endless.

How will you use GIFs to drive higher impact and engagement for your marketing?

GIF built using Photoshop, above workflow, and some trial and error.

GIF built using Photoshop, above workflow, and some trial and error.