GIFs: The Small Business Frienemy

19 Sep 2012 | written by Hilary Jarman for the internet marketing section(s)

Frienemy

As a general rule, if you, as a small business owner, are using GIFs on your website, you’re probably using them wrong. If you don’t know what a GIF is, here’s an example of one from the 80s when they were invented.

The truth is, GIFs are neat. They’re an animated image without the hassle of a video. However, your site will be judged as unprofessional if you use GIFs inappropriately. Noise on your site (which includes self-starting videos and music) can distract your site’s visitors, which will keep them from becoming customers. Distracting elements lessen your site’s conversion abilities. A website, especially one for a small or medium-sized business, should be simple, informative, and should motivate visitors to connect with you.

As a professional in the online marketing world, let me offer suggestions on how and when to use GIFs.

Pick an appropriate location

Most GIFs are tacky on professional sites, but they’ve found a popular resurgence in the blogging and social media world. This being the case, consider avenues such as your company blog, Flickr, or other microblogging accounts to house your GIFs. But don’t forget to consider your target audience. If your audience won’t gain something from the GIF, leave it out. For example, if your customers are international bankers, GIFs probably aren’t appropriate, no matter the location. If you’re selling the newest set of eco-friendly ties, a carefully selected GIF may be a perfect addition to your blog.

Stay relevant

GIFs tell a story, so make sure the story is relevant to your company’s message. While a popular dog GIF may be cute, if it isn’t educating your visitor or motivating them to action, it’s wasted space.

Keep with your brand

Always remember to find a style of GIF appropriate to your brand and voice. My favorite new digital mixed-media is a blend of a static image and video-like movement that can make a blog look relevant and up-to-date instead of outdated and tacky.

If you’re interested in how GIFs can be used in advertising, check out this Forbes piece. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the new media formats available today. But remember: just because you can use it does not mean you should.

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