Social Media Spotlight: The Season of GIF-ing

Last Updated by Kevin Dando, Natalie Benson | PBS Social Media on

Happy Thanksgiving week, fellow PBSers!

Whether you pronounce it GIF or JIF (we’re team GIF over here), animated GIFs are the newest cool kids on the block in the world of social media. So because of that, we want to provide you with a little more information about them and highlight some recent work we’ve been doing with them. 

Most of your favorite platforms embrace this form of media – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit and even Instagram as a video. And we've noticed, especially on Tumblr where GIFs have been around the longest, these types of posts get higher than average engagement. 

One company, Giphy, has taken on the task of archiving all the GIFs out there, and created what people are calling the Google search of GIFs. When you go to and search specific keywords, like “happy” or “surprised”, you’ll see pages full of results that exemplify that word. Giphy has also started working with brands to create branded pages, which essentially lets a brand break through the sea of content and aggregate/upload “official” animated GIFs. So far, we have created three separate pages—an official PBS page, a VICIOUS page and a HOW WE GOT TO NOW page. This is easy and free. If you are interested in doing this for a local program, please email Natalie, and we will put you in touch with our Giphy contact.

With HOW WE GOT TO NOW (HWGTN), we experimented with our first-ever live-GIFing during each night of broadcast. We selected numerous scenes from the program and created over 100 GIFs with a custom HWGTN template. Then during each episode, we posted these GIFs from our Giphy page onto Twitter during our live tweeting, and onto Tumblr for our live-GIFing. While Twitter uses individual GIFs in a tweet, on Tumblr, you’re able to capture an entire scene and post it into a GIF set, like this one. So while the scene was playing out on air, we’d post it on Tumblr. Our experiment with live-GIFing was well received. We earned nine “featured tags” from Tumblr editors, and gained thousands of followers.

There are numerous apps that help you easily make GIFs, like GIFBoom, but then there is the most common way—Photoshop. We’ve received requests to hold a how-to webinar, and that will hopefully happen soon, but in the meantime, we’ve uploaded some instructions in this Google doc to help you get started.

One additional site that is worth checking out is SnappyTV. According to their website, “the SnappyTV platform enables organizations to rapidly create, distribute and measure real-time promotional messaging delivered via social media channels.” In laymen’s terms this means, if given permission, they can tap into your broadcast and allow creation of social content i.e. GIFs, images and scene clips, in real-time. Their UX is incredibly easy to use and intuitive. And within a minute or two (once you get the hang of it) you can create assets that can be shared directly onto your social platforms. The best part – it’s free! They were recently acquired by Twitter, so this might change, but as of a few months ago, they were still 100% free. 

Now your mission, should you choose to accept it post-Thanksgiving food coma, is to experiment with animated GIFs. If you do, please let us know what you did, and how it went! 

As always, thanks for reading. See you again next month.

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