Animated GIFs’ retro comeback is about engagement

Last week Google announced that their social network (Google+ for those of you at home keeping score) would begin supporting animated GIFs as profile pictures. With the popularity of Twitter’s Vine app coupled with the dominance of Facebook, one has to wonder if this announcement is meant to increase the use of Google + or perhaps it was just an early attempt at an April Fool’s joke.

I understand these are two extreme points of view. Regardless, I found that the amount of press covering this new feature last week to be a little bit humorous. At present, a Google search returns more than a million results for Google’s GIF support.

What I find more interesting (and possibly game changing?) is Google Search’s recently added support for searching animated GIFs. (Back in 2011, we used an animated image at our social media agency to celebrate the holidays.)

Here was their announcement from almost two weeks ago:

Starting today, there’s an easier way to unearth those gems: when you do an image search, click on “Search tools” below the search box, then select “Animated” under the “Any type” drop-down box.

While this sounds like a neat little search functionality that the search engine giant added there are sure to be implications of this new feature. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves:

  1. What does this mean for those who ply their trade in Search Engine Optimization?
  2. How important will searches for animated images be for the continued monetization tactics of Google?
  3. How much resources will brands and agencies put into developing GIFs to obtain “first mover advantage”?
  4. To what extent will social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter continue to support the use of animated images?

Toronto-based Green Rabbit Media developed a cute little GIF-making tool called Sweet GIF not too long ago. At last year’s Foursquare Day in Toronto, Sweet GIF made their first “public” appearance. And. if memory serves me well, it was a successful event and coming out party.

Animated GIFs are not game changers in and of themselves. I don’t see people flocking to create Google + profiles and move their social media activity from Facebook and Twitter. Yet products like Sweet GIF do enable increased engagement and entertainment. Who doesn’t like seeing themselves act funny and then sharing them with their friends? Presently, people can upload animated GIFs to their Facebook profile page. They can also tweet out links that point to GIF urls.

That being said, it’s still a very interesting development from the world’s largest search engine. And that’s worth taking note of.

Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji is the Canadian Director of Social Media Strategy at iNvolved Media. iNvolved Media was purchased by Active International in 2015. Clients include popular food brands, technology brands and other CPG companies. Prior to joining iNvolved Media, Karim led the paid social media strategy for some of Canada's most popular CPG and confectionery brands for Catalyst/GroupM. Karim started in the social media space when he co-founded and was the President of THIRDOCEAN where he led the creation of digital content for companies including Scotiabank, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Microsoft, Wild Water Kingdom, Palomino Systems Inc. and Techvibes. Karim has also been recognized as a pioneer in podcasting having interviewed people such as such as federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, former MLSE boss Richard Peddie, TVO's Steve Paikin, Canadian serial angel investor Dr. Boris Wertz, HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes, Mathew Ingram, Mitch Joel from Mirium and many, many others. As a demonstration of thought leadership, Karim led the development and execution of reports discussing how technology and digital media have impacted industries such as retail, education, health, gaming, sports and banking.

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