Animated GIFs: How To Use GIFs To Promote Videos
09.24.2019 | by Emma Rose
Social Media

Animated GIFs: How To Use GIFs To Promote Videos

GIFs are a hotly debated subject. Some people love them for their eye catching qualities. Others are tired of tasteless or silly GIFs cluttering the comments on Facebook posts. And then there’s the age-old question: Is it pronounced with a hard g like “graphic” or a j sound like “jingle?” Even the creator of the file type couldn’t put that one to rest

The debate rages on, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: GIFs are a spectacular way to draw attention to your videos and invite people to click. Making a GIF is simple and adds versatility and punch to your video promotion. Here’s how to use GIFs to promote videos.

Why Use GIFs? 

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. While the file type can be used for still images, it’s best known for ultra-short looping video. The animated GIF format allows you to compress a series of images into the smallest file size without compromising quality. They were first introduced in 1987 and reached their maturity around 2015-2016 when Facebook and Twitter enabled GIF keyboards that would let you choose a GIF from their library. Now GIFs are widely recognized as an eye-catching way to make a point. 


Using them for video promotion makes a lot of sense. They move, just like videos. Our brains are hardwired to notice movement amidst stillness, so a GIF stands out when surrounded by still images or text. 

If a photo is worth a thousand words, consider the value of an animated GIF. You can give viewers a preview of the story, hook their interest, or introduce an idea without adding extra words to your marketing copy.

Where To Use GIFs

You can use GIFs to promote videos across all of your digital properties. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Email: Embedded video isn’t supported by all mail clients. So what’s a marketer to do? Use a GIF instead. Almost all mail clients do support GIF files. So you can give your email list a quick taste of your video and encourage them to click to see more. Just remember that large files can cause loading issues. Keep your emailed GIFs as short as possible: 1 MB or less is ideal.
  • Ads on Facebook: You already know that video ads are effective, and that short videos perform better than long ones. It makes sense, then, that GIF ads would get positive results on Facebook too. Keep in mind that GIF ads on Facebook may not autoplay on all platforms. Even so, they can be a powerful tool.
  • Your website: Nobody likes websites with videos that autoplay, especially if they autoplay with sound. A GIF can help you harness the value of moving images without annoying your website visitors. Use one to draw their eye to your video and entice them to click.
  • Social media posts: Stop users mid-scroll with a GIF in your social media feeds. Users may easily slide past a still image, and they’re not going to necessarily stick around for a full-length video, but a GIF might just capture their attention. Make sure its optimized for the platform and includes a write-up with a link inviting them to watch the full video.
  • Digital billboards: GIFs are the perfect format for digital billboards because viewers will likely only spare a few seconds of attention as they walk or drive past your billboard. The motion will catch their eye and the looping style will allow them to tune in during any second of the action without missing anything. You can’t do that with a full-length video.

What About Youtube?

In the first half of 2019, GIF-like video thumbnails started appearing on YouTube. They don’t show up on all platforms and the poster of the video has no control over what the animated thumbnail shows. These thumbnails are generated by AI. It remains to be seen whether YouTube will eventually relinquish control of what could be a powerful marketing tool for video creators. 

Choosing The Right GIF

You could choose one of the millions of GIFs on the internet, but some of them have copyright restrictions. Besides, why would you use someone else’s GIFs to promote videos you made? Create your own GIF using a few seconds of the video you want to promote. But how do you decide what part of the action to turn into a GIF? 


Make Sure It Stands Out

Keep in mind that your goal is to get people to watch the full-length video. You want something that will be short and eye-catching. It should make sense without sound and without context. There are probably several of these scenes in your video, use them to make a few GIFs and A/B test them to see which one gets the most engagement.

This GIF from the movie Minions might be useful to react to someone’s Facebook post, but it doesn’t do a very good job of telling a story. There’s not enough context to convey anything more than the fact those little yellow guys are excited.

The one below, on the other hand, uses minimal motion to tell a compelling story. It’s eye-catching, it repeats in a satisfying way, and there are plenty of visual cues to spark a story in the viewer’s mind. You can feel the tension and you want to know what happens next.

Keep Your GIFs short

The GIfs we’ve used to illustrate this post are ultra-short. Yours might be a second or two longer if that’s what you need to tell a story. There’s no inherent length limit on GIFs. A pair of Flemish artists made one that will run for 1,000 years and changes images every 10 minutes. They un-ironically named it “As Long As Possible.” You probably want your GIF to be a lot shorter than that. Most are only a couple of seconds long.

Remember that you’re trying to entice clicks, not show your whole video in GIF form. Different platforms will have different restrictions on file size that might affect the length of your GIF. Facebook, for example, requires a file size of 8MB or smaller. 

How To Make A GIF

There are dozens of free GIF creation tools on the internet, including GIPHY, where we sourced all the GIFs for this post.  Find one you like get started on using GIFs to promote videos.

Most of these tools will let you add text to your GIF, so don’t forget to add a call-to-action.

If you need help creating a GIF-worthy video, contact IdeaRocket. Our video production experts are experienced in live action and animated video creation.