Learning the Lingo: What is a GIF?

Posted by Nick Pizzolato on Mon, Aug 24, 2015 @ 02:08 PM

Learning the Lingo: What is a GIF? | Wicked Local Media Solutions

Learning the Lingo is a series of posts that will investigate marketing terms, ideas and strategies. Our topic today: What is a GIF?

Communicating with consumers online is normally straightforward. You post a message on Facebook and your fans click the “like” button. They can tweet a response if they follow you on Twitter. They can leave comments on your blog posts. But, text-based comments aren’t the only way people can communicate. As internet culture evolves, so does the way people communicate online. One of the ways users communicate questions or their attitude to a post may be by using a GIF.

GIFs are short for “graphic interchange format,” and were developed more than 20 years ago as a way for people to upload images that would load faster on web pages. But, GIF images soon found another a purpose, because they could also be used to save animation at a smaller file size to be loaded online. Before Flash and YouTube made placing videos and animation easy, GIFs were being used to show moving images.

You may remember the early days of the internet, when a webpage you were visiting was being worked on, a moving “under construction” image would appear. This was a GIF. Web designers used them to make their websites seem more enriching. For the most part, website best practices have passed on using GIFs in this way, but the GIF is still alive and well in modern web culture.

You may remember the term “Meme” from a previous blog. Memes are visual ways that an author can communicate with their audience, usually in a humorous way, sometimes as a way to visualize how they feel about a topic. In that post we talked about still picture memes, but GIFs are also a part of the meme family.

You’ll never get a direct question when someone comments with a moving GIF, the comment will most likely be a response to an announcement. For instance, announcing that you’re offering 30% off of a total sale might elicit this response. However, sometimes these GIFS can be used to mock an announcement, so knowing if followers are cheering or jeering is a huge advantage.

Depending on your experience with internet culture, it may take a brief bit of research to understand how GIFs can be used. For instance, Buzzfeed loves to use them as visual prompts in their pieces. But, you should know that they just aren’t for commenters or web savvy users. You should think about how you can use memes in some of your digital marketing.

Don’t worry about not being able to create GIFs from scratch. There are so many GIFS that already exist online. For example, I’m a huge Seinfeld fan, and every year on December 22nd, I make sure to post on social media this “Happy Festivus” GIF. It’s something that I think is funny and will get the attention of other Seinfeld fans who follow me on social media. It’s that easy.

You can do the same thing for your business. Halloween is a few months away, so let’s say you are getting ready to take part in a big Halloween promotion. You can conduct an internet search for Halloween GIFs and find the ones you want to use to try and engage with consumers. is a great resource to use if you want to find GIFs that exist. Creating a GIF is a little more complicated, but sites like can walk you through the process of creating an original motion image.

Using GIFs in social media and blog posts is not an option for everyone or every business. If your consumer communications are more direct and don’t tend to be informal, there won’t be many instances were using animation in your communications will be appropriate. But, as internet use grows, your knowledge of the way people are communicating should adapt too.

Nick Pizzolato is the Marketing Content Manager at Wicked Local Media Solutions. For questions, topics for future blogs, or to share your favorite moment from the film “Back to the Future,” email him at

Build Your Social Media Presence!

More Resources:

Know Your Meme: Internet Culture that Business Can Use

Learning the Lingo: Tagging

Learning the Lingo: Hashtags

Tags: Digital Marketing