Courtesy of Giphy

Courtesy of Giphy

On the internet, things look cooler when they move. A skateboard trick, a pen drawing on paper, a visual data presentation all hold a viewer’s interest because they’re in motion. While words and photos can tell an amazing story, sometimes they just don’t capture a moment in its entirety. So what can we use to convey content in a quick, witty and entertaining way? The GIF.

What are they? Explanations for Different Generations:

Courtesy of Giphy

Courtesy of Giphy

To a millennial: It’s like those moving pictures in The Daily Prophet newspaper in Harry Potter. Tumblr is full of them.

To your parents: It’s like a really short, muted video clip that repeats.

To your grandparents: No, it’s not on the television, it’s on the computer. It’s a video clip that — no, it’s not a videotape, a video clip… forget it. Let’s move on.

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. It’s a file format that supports still images and videos. These images and videos are condensed into shortened, soundless video clips that loop. They also start automatically — no need to press “play”.

GIFs might seem like a new concept to some of us — in fact, the word “GIF” was entered into the Oxford Dictionary as the 2012 Word of the Year. But come next year, the GIF will be 30 years old. Throughout its time on the internet, it has evolved from a common meme source to a powerful tool for journalists and researchers.

Why Should I Care?

Well, the obvious answer is that it has serious entertainment value. Just think of all the GIFs you’ve seen — cats caught doing the extremely weird things they do, people stuck in unfortunate situations and even this guy’s dive into oblivion.

Courtesy of Imgur

Courtesy of Imgur

But you should also care because it’s shaping business online. These days, if a company or an internet personality doesn’t have a social media presence, they are left in the dust. Branding and advertising is made easier through posts on sites that reach millions of people. That’s why pretty much every big company is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other major networks.

GIFs are a huge part of social media. They help convey thoughts and ideas in a creative visual form instead of a wall of text. Companies and internet personalities alike use GIFs to enhance their social media presence. Here’s what using GIFs says about you, your brand or your company:

  1. You stay updated on internet trends — it’s crucial to stay current!
  2. You have a fun side.
  3. You convey your message quickly and simply.
  4. You share something that’s easily shareable elsewhere.
  5. You add more context to your short content.
  6. You show more emotion than text or photos could show.

And using GIFs doesn’t just appeal to your audience, either. It boosts your page. People look at pages that post GIFs. Just read about what happened to Tumblr when GIFs became popular on that network.

Where Are the Best Places to Get Them?

Courtesy of Giphy

Courtesy of Giphy

The Internet itself is a treasure trove of GIFs. You can scour a website designed for looking up GIFs, like Giphy. You can also find them hidden in the depths of Reddit and Tumblr threads. There are so many GIFs out there, it can be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. These resources will make your search a little easier so you can find the perfect GIF for your situation:


This site is many people’s go-to. It’s basically Google for GIFs. Since 2013, it has grown significantly, venturing into many other projects. There’s a Giphy browser extensions, Giphy TV, Giphy Cam and even a Giphy app for GIF-hunting on the go.


Another fantastic resource, Gifbin comes in handy when you want to filter all the useless stuff out. Using their filter system, you can organize GIF results by “Newest,” “Top Rated,” “Most Viewed” or by tags. Both name and count is included in the filter system. The name feature comes in handy for ordinary search terms, such as “cars,” “nature,” or “movies.” But the count feature lets you sort through terms with the highest amount of search results.


Reddit is great for just about everything, except being productive. Seriously. You can get lost in there. It’s probably the reason why people have blocking apps so they can focus on work. Reddit threads are called “subreddits,” and there’s a ton dedicated to strictly GIFs. Here’s a few to get you started:

Entries on Reddit are filtered by sets of guidelines to help distinguish them from other GIFs.

Reaction GIFs

Are you thinking or feeling some type of way, but you just can’t accurately convey it? Time to visit Reaction GIFs. This site is so cool because right on the home page, there are two dropdown menus: I AM FEELING… and MY ANSWER IS…

Pick a feeling, and boom. You’re set. If that doesn’t work out for you, there’s also a search feature and a tags feature.

Animal GIFs

Animals always say it better — and plus, they make everything cuter. A Tumblr-based site, Animal GIFs offers a healthy dose of cute creatures to send to your friends.

It doesn’t matter what kind of animals you’re into — there’s something for every animal lover, and you’ll probably want to visit a pet store after.

How Do I Make My Own?

Can’t find an appropriate GIF for what you want to say? Just make your own!

Upload your own photos and videos to any of the following sites and just follow the directions! You’ll have a hilarious — or for the business-centric, effective — GIF in under five minutes.

Did you know you can also make GIFs using Photoshop? You just open a video in Photoshop, crop it to the desired length and click “Save for Web.” Set the loop to “forever,” and you are a GIF master.

How Do I Use GIFs Appropriately?

Courtesy of Gifbin

Here’s one thing many people don’t understand about social media: with all the different platforms out there, the content on each one will differ. There are certain chunks of text, images or videos that look great on one platform but not another.

Consider the following when planning to use a GIF:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What do I want to promote/what reaction do I want from the audience?
  • How can I use a GIF to make my message more interesting?
  • How relevant is this GIF to my message/audience?
  • What platform would this GIF look best on?

Of course, there are way more questions that rush through your head when choosing GIFs to use, but these are some light guidelines for the next time you make a post.

And it should go without saying, but some GIFs just don’t belong. Use common sense when posting them: If a GIF looks out of context, don’t do it. If it looks like you’re trying too hard, don’t do it. The internet community will thank you.

Courtesy of Giphy

Courtesy of Giphy

So fire up your favorite GIF and post away — it’s good for you.