How to write the most popular blog of the week

Use gifs. That’s it. By starting my blog off with a gif, I upped your likelihood of continuing to read this article and commenting seven fold.

Pretty good, huh? But I guess now that I’ve given away the gist of my entire blog post in the first sentence, that likelihood has been diminished a little bit. But, I’ve still got a lot of tips and fun facts (and a few of my favorite gifs, of course), for those of you who decide to keep reading.

Gifs are, on average, the most engaging form of visual content on the internet. Tweets that use gifs get an average of 167% more click-throughs than those with just pictures, and Reddit posts with gifs get an average of double the amount of upvotes than static images. But they’re not just beating out static images–gifs are even seven times more engaging than videos of the same event. Used in marketing emails, gifs have been seen to contribute to a 6% increase in open rate, 18% increase in click through rate, and have even led to a 100% increase in conversion-based revenues. And if you can manage to capture an event in gif form within 10 minutes of it happening (the “viral window”), engagement can increase by 800%.

Ok, we all know cute puppies are cute, but did gifs get so powerful?

bill nye.gif

People like visual content. And for good reason: 90% of all the information sent to our brains is visual, meaning our brains can also respond to visual information 60,000 times faster than it can to text. It’s actually been observed that people only remember 20% of the text they read without visuals, so, in reality the more important the content, the more willing you should be to throw in a gif. (Counterintuitive, I know, but we’ve gotta trust Bill Nye on this one). People also have a higher emotional connection to visual content, and emotional appeal has been known to increase engagement in all forms of communication.

Gifs work even better than your average static image or long-form video because they can condense a series of events into one short graphic, allowing you to process details you may not have before, with the convenient auto-play feature further enhancing the content’s impact. They also act as benchmarkers and outlining tools in longer text posts like emails and blogs that allow the reader to quickly skim while still capturing an understanding of the content.


Studies suggest that the reason gifs have become so successful has to do with the way content consumption has changed over the past decade. As the internet became ubiquitous, people were inundated with long-form information, and after failing to filter through it ourselves, we altered our content norm to short-form posts like facebook statuses and 140 character tweets. But even these have become overwhelming–think about how many times you’ve scrolled through your twitter feed or email inbox just glazing over the words and stopping only when you find something that stands out. Gifs are captivating by nature, and they can communicate information quickly, which satisfies short-term stimulation urges and frees up time for people to be selective about their longer-form articles.

Gifs are also logistically easy to share because, as one of the first forms of digital image file, they’re supported by just about every platform: from mobile to desktop and from twitter to slack, gifs are almost always going to work.  

Alright, so we’ve got our fill of Science, but Gifs are an ~artform~

As much as I would’ve loved to just thrown a few cute puppy gifs into all of my blogs, or even written this post out of gifs alone, that’s unfortunately just not gonna get the job done.

You may not like cute puppy gifs (you monster), and too many gifs can be just as overwhelming as too many words. It’s all about knowing your audience and mastering that gif-to-text ratio. Plus, you have to stay #relevant.

stephNo one wants to see the Wall Street Journal tweeting out a gif of Steph Curry with a link to an article about the political situation in Syria–that’d just be confusing (and inappropriate). A tweet from the Warriors with a gif of Steph Curry being ridiculous, though,…that one’s gonna do well.

Knowing your audience is probably the hardest part, especially if you have a diverse crowd like our class, because you never know where you should fall on the serious, funny, informative, and randomness scales, but seeking out commonalities within your audience can help. Whether it be age, geographic region, interests in TV shows/movies/music, or whatever it was that drove them all to your post–there’s always something. 

But, again, you have to keep it relevant. For example, one of the business programs I’m in on campus requires me to send out emails to about 120 CSOM students pretty regularly, and because I know that my emails are boring but important I always try to spice things up with a fun gif. Because I can’t know everyone’s gif/humor preferences, I’ve been using a series of businessanimal gifs this semester, because cute animals are generally fail-proof. (Though the internet surprisingly lacks gifs featuring cute animals in business businesspenguinclothes/settings, so if you’ve got any good ones, feel free to drop them in the comments). Relevance is also really important to making sure your gif is a value-add, not just a fun distraction. Like this one, which was paired with a “dress to impress” caption, that *hopefully* directed my program members to check out the dress code requirements I’d just outlined.

A few pro tips

  • Emails to listservs/big groups don’t always support large gifs– use this site to cut down on frames and file size
  • You don’t always have to know what kind of gif you’re looking for, these sites break down gifs into categories to meet emotion/theme/situation
  • Making your own gif is actually pretty easy, try these options:
    • CloudApp  & RecordIt let you record a screen capture from your computer in gif form
    • Gif Brewery is a Mac app to edit your own videos with fun effects
    • Giffer converts your iPhone videos into gifs
    • Google Photos App can compile your photos into a gif

“I got bored and scrolled to the bottom–do you have a sparknotes version?”

Well, yes, my friend, I do. And I appreciate your honesty.

  • The use of gifs in blogs, email marketing, and/or social media posts is proven to increase engagement.
  • People only retain 20% of text without visuals & 90% of all information processed by the brain is visual!
  • Gifs can act as great transitions or information reinforcers if you use them correctly.
  • Make sure you keep your gifs relevant, appropriate, and to a minimum.
  • Send me fun business animal gifs


  1. Great post Danni. Firstly, your title was great, simply reading it made me want to read more. Secondly, I have never actually used Gifs this far, but have always laughed and enjoyed the Gifs my friends send me. I liked the fact that you mentioned the importance of them being relevant, which also makes them that much more funnier. I realized that when my RA at BC has added them to her emails, I have been more inclined to open/read her email than when they were not in an email. I do believe it makes people much more engaged and interested simply because it stands out and is easy to process, and that finding the right balance in using them is important too.
    Have you checked into other countries’ usage of Gifs? And since when have they become popular in the U.S.? In Israel, for example, none of my friends use them, and I’m actually not sure if they are familiar with them.

    1. Thanks Danna! And I actually haven’t looked into that at all– I honestly didn’t even think about the difference in gif usage globally but that’d be really interesting to research. I wonder if companies that use them on social media see less significant engagement with international consumers? Maybe that’s something I’ll look into for my next post!

  2. mollyshields44 · ·

    I think this was a very informative blog post on a medium of information/entertainment I see everyday! If I had to give one suggestion it would be to have put a GIF in your blog post title! I have found that you can include a GIF just as you can include an image- would have been a nice hook even before I got to your blog page.

    GIFs, as you mentioned, are a great way to grab peoples attention as it is condensed to a few short seconds. Especially with the rise of social media our attention span is rapidly decreasing. The New York Times, Telegraph, and TIME (and I’m sure many more) have written articles regarding a recent study that says humans’ attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish! At only eight seconds, we are constantly being distracted and having more difficulty stay focused. See below for the article from TIME magazine for a quick (given the subject matter they were smart to condense it) article regarding the study.

    Not only was this post informative but it was fun thanks to the variety of GIFs. I will keep a look out for any business animal GIFs and be sure to tweet at you if I find any gems!

    1. Definitely a good idea to include a gif as the featured image–I thought about doing so but wasn’t sure how the formatting worked, but I’m glad to know it works just like an image! Thanks for sharing the article and for that great dog gif on twitter :)

  3. CarbNatalie · ·

    Awesome post! Extremely creative and using gifs has always been fun but I never knew it was so popular and how much more information was retained because of them. Keeping them relevant is definitely the fun part, but is actually slightly difficult! (picking the right gif isn’t easy when there are so many!) And the end of your blog, hilarious! Never thought about the blog skimmers until now but you definitely targeted a new market of readers.

  4. jordanpanza29 · ·

    Great post! I loved the title- it drew me in for sure! I have had emails where the subject has said “Cute animal gif included” and that had made me want to read it for sure! But I do agree that there is a time and place for GIFs. For example, bad news emails are not the place for GIFs. Yes, they can lighten the mood but it can also seem like one is not taking the situation seriously or that they do not care about the person who is being affected by this bad news. The group emails can be difficult to put GIFs into it as sometimes people enjoy them while others do not. I do wish more group emails would include GIFs as that would make them slightly less boring sometimes!!

  5. Nice post. I do always wonder, however, what the shelf life is for some of these stats. Yes, GIFs are the thing of the moment, but for how long. As they become more ubiquitous, with they have the same attraction power, or will we get sick of them?

    1. I definitely think they’ll eventually lose their value. They’re popular right now, but eventually some new form of media or commenting style will take over

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