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An always-on approach for social channels like Instagram and Twitter are practically a necessity for modern brands to reach and engage consumers.

Always-on is the foundation for most brands in their digital marketing strategies to help keep their brand top of mind with consumers and maintain a fanbase ready to digest and engage with larger, sweeping marketing campaigns.

Today, when most marketers think of GIFs, and using them as a marketing channel, it’s often an afterthought. Social teams will create a few ad-hoc GIFs to support larger marketing campaigns, oftentimes by cutting up their 60-second ad spots into GIFs or creating custom GIF stickers to support the campaign.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. It’s a good way to leverage GIF marketing channels like GIPHY and Tenor in your omnichannel strategy to support marketing campaigns across messaging and social media. But by just thinking of GIFs in this way, marketers are leaving opportunity on the table.

In the early days of Instagram and Twitter, the brands that dedicated significant resources to build teams and programs to consistently put out content and engage audiences ‘won social’.  We saw brands like Wendy’s become infamous for their approach to tweeting like a regular person instead of like a stuffy corporation- and finding unique ways to make seemingly unrelated pop culture events and news about Wendy’s.

GIF search engines like GIPHY & Tenor are still in their early stages from a marketing perspective. This is evident in the lack of major consumer brands using these platforms. Unlike other major digital content platforms, these GIF platforms still haven’t released public self-serve ad products. Eventually paid GIF marketing will grow to be an important piece of every brand’s digital strategy, with messaging and vertical video (the two main distribution channels for GIFs) becoming the primary way people share in the digital world.

For now, the best way brands can win the hearts of consumers with GIF marketing is by taking an organic, always-on content approach.

If you still don’t have a GIF presence for your brand, check out how to get started with GIFs as a marketing channel. If you’ve experimented with GIF marketing before, keep reading to learn about how transitioning to an always-on approach can help bring your brand into the pop culture lexicon.

Why Transition to Always-on GIF marketing Strategy?

Over 10 billion GIFs are served daily across the world’s most popular messaging and social media apps. GIFs are synonymous with pop culture. They are how people express themselves and add context to their daily private messaging conversations and the Stories they share on social. If you just create GIFs directly related to your products as an afterthought as a method to support larger campaigns, you may get some usage out of your content when people are searching for your brand, but you’re missing an opportunity to be a part of the daily conversations where more generic, non-product focused GIFs are shared.

Naturally, there are GIFs and emotions that people consistently share on a daily basis, like ‘good morning’ and ‘happy hour’ GIFs. However, there are also changing micro-trends that happen every day on GIF search engines based on holidays, trends, and real-time pop culture events.

When something big happens in the world of pop culture or there is a holiday event, brands choose whether or not to comment and be a part of the moment on social media. For example, sending out a tweet or making an Instagram post for Thanksgiving or when a fly lands on a politician’s head.

Brands should also be considering if they want to be a part of these types of moments in messaging apps (with traditional GIFs) or in Stories and TikTok (with GIF stickers). These micro-trends affect GIF search engines on a daily basis as people search for GIFs to add context to their conversations and social content.

Brands can take advantage of this by creating content specifically for these micro moments as they happen. The key difference between tweeting or posting on Instagram about a moment and making a GIF for a moment, is that tweets only reach your existing audience, while GIFs can be used by anyone and everyone. People who see and use your GIF content don’t need to follow you or even know of your brand, your GIF content just needs to show up for the keywords they are searching for (read: GIF Engine Optimization) and be interesting enough for them to share it. This helps you reach new audiences, and why GIF marketing can be considered an earned media channel.

When you take an always-on approach to GIF marketing you can

  • Reach new audiences outside of your existing social followings 
  • Build relationships between new consumers and your brand
  • Make your brand a part of pop culture moments, trends, and holidays
  • Give consumers a way to use your brand by sharing your content in their intimate messaging conversations and social posts. 

How to take an always on approach?

Similar to your social media planning, you should first look at your content calendar and see what holidays and events you plan on participating in on social. This is a good starting point, if you have decided you want your brand to be a part of a certain moment on Instagram, you most likely will want to be a part of it on GIF search engines as well to diversify and maximize your potential reach.

Consider events like Veterans Day for example, you can create an entertaining piece of content that people can use when searching for GIFs to share about Veteran’s Day. This GIF from the weather app Poncho, is a good example (it’s also racked up over 1 million views).

The GIF gets the message across and includes the text ‘Happy Veterans Day’ within the GIF and references American flag imagery. It includes the brand character (Poncho the Cat) and a watermark at the bottom – just to make sure they’re getting the full brand impression value.

NOTE: We do recommend making watermarks at 20-50% transparency so they are less intrusive to the overall experience of the GIF.

If you want to take a reactive approach and optimize your content creation strategy, you can use the free Giflytics trends tool. It provides a real-time stream of top GIF search trends. Brands can leverage this by creating rapid-response content based on real-time search trends.

Live search trends also allow you to adapt and optimize the tags on your GIFs based on what terms people are searching for related to a specific event.

For example, if you created a Veteran’s Day GIF in preparation for the upcoming holiday, you can look at the trends tool on Veteran’s Day to see what GIF search terms are trending and edit the keyword tagging on your GIF in real-time to take advantage of search trends. You may have tagged your content with ‘veterans day’ but analyzing live search trends would show that ‘thank you for your service’ was the top trending GIF search related to the holiday. Using this insight you can separate your content from every other brand, and help your content be one of the first organic results that show up when people search for that popular GIF search term.

An always-on approach allows you to fully take advantage of GIFs as a marketing channel. GIF marketing allows you to inject your branded content into consumer conversations and vertical video on social in a non-interruptive way. It’s not sponsored content or an overt advertisement that people will ignore (read: banner blindness). Branded GIFs can be a useful tool that consumers share with their close friends and followers to enrich conversations and the content they share.

An always-on approach can help your brand be a part of cultural moments outside of just the GIF search terms related to your product and services. Always-on allows you to make your brand a part of the conversation in a natural way that adds value to the consumer experience in the digital world, while earning you millions of brand impressions.