The top 7 trends in social media for 2015, brought to you by @natureclicker (with much assistance from the rest of the internet), will be posted each week. Check back next week to see #2 in the series. For now, I give you — the first trend in social media for 2015 (and especially this week).
1. GIFs Galore!
Okay, so GIFs might not seem like the #1 most important trend in social media today, and they’re definitely not new to the internet — but they are certainly lighting up headlines this week.
For those of you who don’t frequent one of the many social-sharing sites already brimming with digitized clips of ironic movie mashups, people spinning on escalators, or Taylor Swift doing anything, GIFs are “animated images” frequently used in place of simple image files, memes, or videos.
On Friday, the good people at Facebook confirmed that they will now support GIFs as shareable status updates, although their full roll-out of the feature is expected to take an indeterminate amount of time to arrive to the masses, and it is currently unknown if the GIF feature will also apply to comments, individual wall posts, or mobile messaging. As a self-diagnosed GIF hoarder whose computer is currently lagging under the weight of thousands of these little guys, I can tell you that this is big.
For too long, GIF-enthusiasts such as myself have been forced to seek out greener pastures by way of platforms such as Reddit, Tumblr, and most recently Twitter, in order to express our GIFitude with the world. Others have found add-ons like Giphy to support sharing on Facebook platforms, but the workaround was never officially endorsed by Facebook (or completely bug-free).
Facebook has long-contended that GIFs would be an eyesore for the platform and a headache for users’ newsfeeds. Many “armchair critics” (myself included), have questioned Facebook’s frequent and near-passive-aggressive attempts to keep GIFs from timelines and newsfeeds, especially in light of the ubiquitous (and now permanent) auto-play videos that began appearing back in 2013.
However, as part of Facebook’s statement to Adweek explains, Facebook has now “built support for animated GIFs to help people express themselves in fun new ways on Facebook.”
With Facebook’s active users on the decline, this may be just another case of keeping up with the Jonses, or, as Facebook has not yet made the update available to pages (and thus, brands), it may turn out to be another pricey but potentially profitable add-on feature for marketers in the future.
So, what can GIFs do for social media marketing? And what could they mean for non-profits?
Well, first of all — they’re trendy, so much so that they beat out both “YOLO” and “superstorm” for Oxford American Dictionary’s coveted position as 2012’s “word of the year.” As opposed to most trends from 2012 (see: Binders full of women and Gangnam Style), the public enchantment with GIFs has continued to grow over time. GIFs are often tongue-in-cheek approaches to communicating big ideas in small image files, the internet’s version of a shrug or snarky banter. Recently, marketing circles have started to get in on the joke, suggesting that GIF-brand collaborations could lead to better customer service interactions, more viral content, visually appealing product promotions, and more unique content.
In the world of non-profit communication, images are everything. They often help to reach potential volunteers, financial supporters, and build connections with online networks. Obviously, visual storytelling is only one part of the picture, but if “photographs and videos create options for supporters to share your message with their networks,” as the NonProfit Technology Network suggests, why not use GIFs to animate and enhance that story?
And that’s not all — GIFs are replacing other types of communication as well, and can be just as beneficial for brand interior. In my previous life as an account manager for an up-and-coming B2B company with “corporate culture” on the radar, GIFs were a standard part of our in-house communication. An email without GIF attachments was a rare and torturous exercise in “suit-y” monotony, while mandatory meeting announcements or hum-drum accounting files seemed, well, a little jollier when placed alongside a self-deprecating Zoolander moment or two.
For example, this little gem:
Will you be using Facebook’s new GIF feature, or are they too late to the party? Will Facebook GIF support become available for brands any time soon? What will it cost, and could it achieve results similar to autoplay marketing?
Only time will tell!
Until then, check back tomorrow for #2 in June’s Top 7 social media trends for 2015.