How to Make Branded GIFs For Instagram

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Nowadays, if you want to create brand awareness — or simply be part of just about any conversation — it’s smart to have a few good GIFs in your back pocket. But if the selection out there on the internet doesn’t exactly match your brand, you can make your own. It's easier than you might think.

The 5 most popular GIFs on the internet

Before you start posting from your brand channel, it’s a good idea to take stock of the kinds of GIFs folks online have been circulating. Every year, GIPHY compiles the most popular branded GIFs so the rest of us can reminisce. Here are the top five from 2021 that reached a million views and beyond:

  1. The Office’s Bored Stanley. Few sitcom characters sum up the jaded cynicism of social media as well as Stanley. Sometimes all you can do is cross your arms and look on as the drama unfolds.
  2. HBO Max’s Tired Good Night. 2021 was an exhausting year of political madness and pandemic fatigue, so it’s not surprising that this GIF of Tom the cat from Tom & Jerry was one of the most popular of 2021.
  3. ​​The Great British Baking Show’s “Oh No.” This GIF is perfect for that moment you realize that everything is going wrong and it’s all your fault — or, alternately, that the plural of “beef” is “beeves.”  
  4. Pokémon’s Sad Pikachu. How could you say no to that face? It’s proof that even if your entire vocabulary consists of a single word, all you need is a look.
  5. Disney+’s Winking Kathryn Hahn. This WandaVision GIF of beloved character actor Kathryn Hahn winking  is the perfect meme for moments when the wink emoji just doesn’t get the message across.

How to create a GIF for Instagram

You don’t need to be an artist to make a GIF. As long as you have the images you want to string together or the video snippet you want to turn into a GIF, built-in GIF makers on sites like GIPHY or EZGIF make it simple. It’s as easy as uploading a few files.

But things get a bit more complicated when it comes to creating GIFs for Instagram Stories since the photo or video you use needs to have a transparent background. This way, it can be turned into an Instagram GIF sticker, which is the only format Stories supports. This means you might have to find a way to separate your subject from its background or hand the file off to an able designer.

When it comes to what kind of content makes for a truly shareable GIF, my colleague and Descript community manager Christiana Comer has a few best practices:

  1. Make it versatile. “I think a GIF is really best served when the context is right and it’s used to further the conversation,” Christiana explains. In other words, make sure your GIF works in a number of circumstances so it can fit into a variety of conversations. That’s how the best memes get started, after all.
  2. Use recognizable figures. GIFs based on stock images or videos don’t usually perform as well. “Media with real people in it always tends to get more engagement,” Christiana says.
  3. Be polite. This is general internet etiquette, but especially for GIFs that rely on someone’s likeness. “Remember to be respectful,” Christiana says. “If you’re using people in your GIF, they might not want to be associated with everything that we respond to on the internet.” Try to capture your subjects in a flattering light, or at least in a way that doesn’t misuse or misrepresent their image.

How to make branded GIFs for Instagram on GIPHY

When it comes to uploading and using GIFs for Instagram, GIPHY can be your beginning, middle, and end. GIPHY is a third-party GIF compendium that has a monopoly on the GIFs you can post on Instagram.

If you want to make your GIFs useful to other users on Instagram, you’ll need to do a few things:

  1. Create a brand account on GIPHY. Before you upload your GIFs, you need to make an account. The application process is fairly straightforward, though it can take some time. Once you’re approved by the powers that be, you can start adding your animated GIFs to your brand page.
  2. Populate your page. You need to upload your GIFs to make them searchable and usable. Keep in mind that only GIF stickers are supported on Instagram Stories and that the descriptive tags you add to your GIFs are what allow people to look them up. This means you want to make sure that you upload in the right format and that you use specific tags to set your stickers apart.
  3. Consider how you want your GIF to exist before you create and upload it. While you can load GIFs onto your main Instagram feed, the best way for people to discover your GIFs is through stories. And the only way to have GIFs in stories is for those GIFs to be in sticker format.

Where is my GIF?

Once your GIFs are uploaded to GIPHY, you — and others — can use them as you see fit. When making a new Instagram story, tap the smiley sticker icon in the top right corner. When the menu appears, search for your GIF stickers using the search bar. (This is why adding specific and searchable tags to your GIF when you upload it is so important.)

What about using copyrighted content? There’s an argument that creating a GIF from a piece of culture constitutes “transformative use.” In other words, since the GIF isn’t competing with the original piece of content — the original TV show, movie, etc. — it can be considered protected speech. Still, if you create and publish a GIF featuring someone’s face, even if they’re famous, you could potentially open yourself to legal trouble, especially if the person with the face doesn’t like how their image is used. Proceed with caution.

Final thoughts

As delightful as they are, GIFs are one of many potential tools in your brand communication arsenal. “A well-placed GIF can hit just right,” says Christiana, “but I wouldn’t overuse them.”  Play around, engage your followers, post GIFs, but don’t forget that variety is also important.

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