Despite been reticent toward animated GIFs for years, Facebook has finally started to let businesses post them as ads and page posts.
The social network shunned GIFs for so long time because it was worried that animated images would interrupt user experience. But with Facebook auto-play video ads becoming more and more successful, industry participants think that the time is right for the company to march into GIFs, a format largely welcomed by Tumblr and Reddit users.
“GIFs are a content type no longer relegated to platforms like Tumblr and Reddit. GIFs have become a new, non-verbal way of getting a finessed point across when communicating on social media or in a text with your BFFs (Best Friends Forever),” says Brad Eshbach, director of content innovation at social media agency socialdeviant. “With the growth of auto-play video on Facebook, GIFs will no longer feel glaringly out of place. Users have become accustomed to their feeds being frantic and flashing like a banner ad, for better or worse.”
For the time being, Facebook is testing GIF support in posts and boosted posts for a small percentage of pages. Wendy’s and Kuat, a Brazilian Coca-Cola brand that makes guarana berry soft drinks, are among the first brands to get on board.
According to Brandon Rhoten, vice president of advertising, media and digital for Wendy’s, the fast food chain has had success with Facebook videos, particularly around its salads. He sees GIFs as a supplement to longer-form video, though he’s exercising caution around them.
“People increasingly use GIFs to communicate and this is a great opportunity for us to speak to our audience in the same language,” Rhoten says. “Having said that, one of our primary tenants in Wendy’s advertising is we don’t want to be a jerk. Annoying people in their social feed, which this sort of thing has the potential to do, isn’t something we’re interested in. So we see great potential but are watching it closely.”
Ben Hordell, partner at full-service digital marketing company DXagency, points out that Facebook auto-play videos have laid a foundation for GIF ads. He considers many of the videos to be “GIF-like experiences in video form.”
“If you scroll through a Facebook feed, you are likely to see looping videos, animated collections of still images and stop motion-style moving images created by brands,” Hordell says. “To the layman person, the GIFs you see on Tumblr are actually already all over Facebook.”
The GIFs give Facebook marketers another file type to their creative arsenals. But while Rhoten believes his brand should be careful with them, Hordell thinks Facebook should be careful, as well.
“There is always a fear that Facebook could go the way of MySpace and become an obnoxious collection of distracting images that inundate the consumer,” Hordell says. “Facebook will need to actively monitor any ‘hides’ or ‘unfollows’ that come as a result of GIFs to ensure that they are not turning off users.”
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