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The Ultimate Guide to GIFs

Choosy marketers choose GIFs

It’s funny that a few years ago, people thought GIFs were a thing of the past. Today, you can’t scroll through any social feed without seeing one. Twitter is dripping with them, and Facebook is starting to let brands test 'em out.

Hell, even the House Judiciary Committee is using them in this listicle on immigration policies.

GIF repositories, like Giphy, make it easy for everyone to tweet them, attach them to emails and embed in presentations. It’s like the GIF never went out of style.

Essentially a GIF is just a short video that loops over and over and over. That said, I have a lot of people ask me why they shouldn’t just use videos instead. But, there are some benefits to using GIFs.


5 Reasons To Use GIFs in your Marketing Strategy

WHY you should be using GIFs in your social media marketing

Source: Inside Amy Schumer (Giphy)

Source: Inside Amy Schumer (Giphy)

Easy to Consume

First of all, GIFS can be consumed really, really quickly. They get the job done in seconds. Or, as Mike Isaac of the New York Times said, “GIFs have become a mainstream form of digital expression, a way to relay complex feelings and thoughts in ways beyond words and even photographs...” Well said.

They’re also great for social platforms that offer autoplay without sound (like, everyone), because GIFs don’t need (or even have) audio. They don’t need it to make a point.

Plus, unlike a photo, the motion within the GIF offers a natural way to focus viewers’ attention on your product or point.


Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Personality Packed

GIFs make it insanely easy to show off your sense of humor.

For example, anyone who sees the GIFs I use on Twitter will know that I’m a big fan of HIMYM, Harry Potter and classic teen movies.

For people who might have a harder time being authentic on social media, GIFs are a great way to show off your fun side.


Source: CultureNLifestyle.com (Giphy)

Source: CultureNLifestyle.com (Giphy)

Absolutely MESMERIZING!

Maybe it’s just me, but there are some GIFs I could watch for hours.

There's just something about the flow of the format that makes it possible to watch forever...Like this one of Vincent Van Gogh!

See what I mean?


Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Image File Format

Although I described GIFs earlier as a short looping video, technically speaking they’re just a series of still image frames coded into one single image file. That means they can be posted places where videos can’t. For example, before Pinterest allowed videos, you could still add GIFs.

One place GIF files still offer substantial benefits is via email, like in your newsletters and e-blasts. Adding videos to your emails makes it more likely they’ll get filtered out as spam for their size. In fact, most mail services, like Mailchimp, recommend just posting a thumbnail linking to your video.

Here’s a compelling argument from Wistia about why you should just link to the video.

But, maybe you want to capture attention with some motion in your newsletter? A thumbnail of a video isn’t going to do that. But a GIF can.


Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Source: Reddit (Giphy)

Easy to Use/Make

GIFs are also really, really easy to make. You can search GIF repositories, like Giphy Buffer Mood Board, Tumblr or Imgur, to use GIFs made by others. Though, I would recommend reading this post on Forbes on the legal use of animated GIFs.

Although there haven’t been any U.S. cases definitely stating whether creating a GIF from copyrighted material is or isn’t copyright infringement, it’s super easy to make your own GIFs.

Now that you know why GIFs are so amazing, let’s talk about making your own GIFs!


How do you say GIF?

There has been sofreakingmuch debate about how to say the word “GIF.” As someone who has to say it in front of large audiences over and over again, I’m sort of tired of seeing half my audience snicker because they think I’m saying it wrong. So, let’s put this to bed once and for all.

According to Steve Wilhite (the inventor of the GIF format), he named his new file type GIF with the JIF peanut butter brand slogan in mind. That is, with a soft G. His coworkers at CompuServe in the 1980s would often say, “Choosy developers choose GIFs.”

GIF. Say it with me…GIF.

6 Ways To Use GIFs in your Marketing Strategy

WHEN you should be using GIFs in your social media marketing strategy

Okay, so now you know why you should be using GIFs. Now you’re probably asking yourself when you should be using them. As Ash Read wrote in this post on the Buffer blog, “Anywhere there’s a message, there’s a chance for a GIF.”

Here are a few ideas to get you started…


1) Repurpose existing content into GIFs.

This option is insanely easy. There are tons of tools that can turn the videos you’ve posted to Instagram, Vine and YouTube, as well as raw video files, into GIFs. Gifs.com is one example, and Giphy offers an entire GIF-making suite of tools.

You can use Giphy’s GIF Maker tool to paste the URL of your YouTube videos and select the part of the clip to turn into a GIF. Then, your GIF is hosted on Giphy and can be easily shared to all your social platforms.

You can also use Giphy Slideshow to turn a series of still images into a GIF, and Giphy’s GIF Editor tool allows you to add stickers, filters and captions.


2) Use as a website background.

Because GIFs can be really subtle and are smaller files than videos, they can be used as a slight motion background to your website to add visual interest.


3) Amplify your customer responses.

Have you ever read a text and assumed the sender’s tone? I am so, so guilty of this nasty habit. Okay can simply mean “Okay, sounds good,” or it can mean, “Okay, asshole.” It’s all in the tone. And we miss that via text, email and on social media.

Adding a GIF to replies to customer questions and comments are a great way to show they’re heard and provide a bit of emotional context to your response, as well as show your personality and sense of humor.


4) Use GIFs in text tutorials.

You know the old adage, “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand”? It is so true! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found detailed text tutorials that I had to supplement with less awesome tutorials on YouTube. Wouldn’t it be great if I could find both in one place? On your website, maybe?

I understand that not all brands have approached video yet. Even though I disagree with the idea that video is hard, time consuming, expensive, etc., it’s an unfortunate reality.

Even if you are really, super duper against video (why?), you can at least improve the text-based tutorials on your blog with GIFs.

CloudApp and RecordIt both allow you to easily record a portion of your screen and save the file as a GIF to later post to your blog. This is great for adding value to your blog’s tutorials, like we talked about earlier.

Since I record my own video tutorials, I’m no expert at this, but I really recommend you read the section of this blog post outlining tools to turn screencast videos into GIFs.


5) Illustrate a point.

One of my favorite ways people use GIFs is sort of like a visual, “Amen, sister” on blog posts. It’s like a quick visual that helps people understand where you’re coming from.


How to make a tabletop tripod out of cardboard

How to make a tabletop tripod out of cardboard

6) Show how to do something.

GIFs can also be a great way to show your audience how to do simple tasks. Here’s an example showing how to build a makeshift cardboard tripod for your iPhone.


7 TOOLS To Create GIFs for Social Media

HOW to make your own GIFs for your marketing strategy

In addition to Giphy, CloudApp and RecordIt, here are four more tools to create your own GIFs.

1) GifX

GifX is a versatile app that allows you to add motion overlays to any photo or video on your camera roll. If you buy the pro pack for $4, you’ll be able to export photos and videos as high-res GIFs without a watermark, and it unlocks all the designs available in the app.

2) Burstio

Burstio is an app that allows you to turn burst photos into GIFs. It also allows you to reverse them, retime them, and add a boomerang effect.

3) LiveGif or Lively

Both apps turn your live photos into gifs. LiveGif is $1.99, and Lively is free, but $2.99 to remove the watermark. I usually shoot either video or photo, but if you DO shoot a lot of live photos, this is a great tool for you.

4) GifBoom

GifBoom allows you to add text to videos, photos and gifs already on your phone, and save them as gifs. You can also add multiple photos into one gif using this app. However, you can’t change the font or color of the text.

By now you know exactly why you should be using more GIFs, when you can use them and how to create your own. If you’d like to see a tutorial of the apps I mention, as well as a bonus app (my personal favorite!!!), sign up to get the free video tutorial below.

Face it. GIFs are here to stay. And they are awesome



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hey, I'm Sarah!

I love teaching small businesses and solopreneurs to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for?

Connect with me on TwitterInstagramPinterest andLinkedIn.


3 Videos You Can Make (Without Being On Camera)

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Some people really hate the idea of being on camera. For people who don't crave the limelight, appearing on video can feel more like a prison spotlight.

Believe me, I hear you! I, too, don’t enjoy being on camera very much. Despite that, I’ll grin and bear it, hopping on Periscope (@SarahRedohl) most weeks for mini webinars and being a “face” for StoryLab when I need to be.

But for a lot of video newbies, the idea of appearing on camera is enough to make them never try video at all. And I think this is the wrong way to approach things.

Yes, it’s super easy to shoot a Twitter video reply, hop on Periscope or shoot a “talking head” expert video. But there are other ways to create video content without the need to put your face in it. Here are a few options.

'Hand-imated' videos

I don’t literally hand puppet videos, necessarily. I just mean a video in which your hands are the only cast members. These are just as easy—if not easier—as hoping on Periscope! All you need to do is have a concept. One brand that uses these types of videos a lot is Google.

Want to go behind the scenes at Google? Follow the adventures of #NatandLo → youtube.com/natandlo

Posted by Google on Thursday, July 23, 2015

Paper cut-out videos

They print out images (that of course they have the rights to use) and basically use them to illustrate a story, like this one above.

Other times, they’ll just write out a story on a white board or a piece of paper:

White board videos

To shoot a video like this, all you need is to write out your storyboard and decide the best way to tell the story. Prepare your materials, set up your camera facing directly down on your “stage” and record your story and voiceover on your Smartphone. Of course I suggest using a microphone if you have one available (even if its just the mic on your earbuds).

Since you want to keep your videos short anyway (about a minute or so), it will be really easy for you to repeat your video a handful of times and choose the best take.

The act of just doing the video a few times and choosing the best option will save you loads of time trying to edit everything together from bits and pieces of video clips.

Estimated time, from story concept to clicking ‘Share’: 30 minutes

Animated videos

These videos require NO filming. None. You can create one with nothing more than a story to tell.

There are also all sorts of resources that make production super easy for people who’ve never created an animated video before in their lives.

GoAnimate

(Or PowToon, Moovly, or Animaker)

Probably the most well known video animation option is GoAnimate. Using the service is exceptionally easy.

You can add text, icons and charts to illustrate your point without ever picking up a camera and clicking ‘record.’ The GoAnimate library comes with a handful of pre-built templates, customization options, and thousands of icons, so you can really make each video your own.

They offer a 14-day free trial to the service to see if it works for the types of videos you want to create. After the two-week trial, GoAnimate costs $39 per month, but if that’s too steep for you, there are a ton of other options.

PowToon is a free option, but there’s also cheaper options like Animaker and Moovly. I’ve used GoAnimate and PowToon, and while I like GoAnimate’s interface better, I do think $39 for the benefit of a prettier interface is a little much.

The best option? Create one animated video in each before you decide which star to hitch your wagon to. If, after it all, you don’t choose a favorite, you’ll still end up with four animated videos to start sharing!

Adobe Voice

This is a super sweet app you can use to create animated videos on the go. Although the amount of information you can put on one video slide is limited, the interface is so easy to use it’s perfect for beginners. It’s so easy most people may not even need to write a storyboard before getting started on production.

Simply choose the type of story you want to tell and narrate your story sentence by sentence, choosing one or two of hundreds of available icons (or your own original photography from your phone) to illustrate your points.

In just a few short minutes, you’ll be able to explain abstract ideas quickly and directly, using just your phone (and hopefully a microphone if you're narrating)!

Estimated time, from story concept to clicking ‘Share’: 20 minutes

Photo slideshows

Another option to add some motion to your social feeds without appearing on camera is to turn your photos into a photo slideshow. This is a great media type to show off an event or other photos that may not necessarily tell a story on their own.

Often, you may not even need to narrate the slideshow; you might just be able to add some music and you’re done!

With more than 100 photo slideshow apps, you’re sure to find one that has themes you like and a simple workflow.

Flipagram

I’ve used Flipagram, Animoto and PicFlow, but Flipagram is probably my favorite for the control the app gives you over changing layouts, timing, music and narration (and it’s free).

Estimated time, from story concept to clicking ‘Share’: 10 minutes

3videotypes.jpg

Even if you hate being on camera, hopefully these three ideas will give you enough of a push to get started with video. If you do, I think the benefits you’ll see will make you see how worth it video can be!

 
sarahredohl.jpg

About The Author

Hey, I'm Sarah!

I love teaching online business bosses to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results (more traffic, more customers, more money) in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for?

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

 

The 7 Files I Always Keep On My Phone (For Content Marketing on the Go)

filesonyourphone.jpg

When you’re a solopreneur, you often get to see every detail of your business—from the innovation process, to selling your services or products, to watching your customers succeed. Every step of the way is a story.

I work with a lot of large companies that are implementing a more agile content marketing strategy—one that’s based more on the moment than ever before. For once in marketing, the big guys are trying to do what the little guys like us could do all along—be there for all the small details so they can share them to show their humanity AND their expertise online.

If you’ve been around the blog for awhile, you know that I love to turn every thing we do into an opportunity to create cool content, from videos to fun gifs to memes—and I love to do it all (or as much as I can) using just my iPhone.

But to do that, there are some consistent branding tools I like to have on my phone at all times so I can quickly check that everything I do fits my brand’s colors, fonts, message and goals. Here are the seven files I keep on my iPhone at all times to produce cool content really quickly on the go.

storylablogo.jpg

My Logo

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many solopreneurs don’t keep a copy of their logo readily available. And I know the frustration of not having one when I need it. Try having to cobble together a video intro with a 72 pixels-per-inch screenshot of your logo! Don’t be that person.

Instead, I like to keep a handful of high quality logos on my phone always.

  • One transparent PNG version in my signature dark gray
  • One transparent PNG version in white
  • One gray version on a white 16:9 background
  • One white version on a dark 16:9 background
  • One transparent PNG version of my brand icon (the colorful circle)

With these five versions of my logo, I’m ready for anything that comes my way. I can quickly add my icon to blog images, I can watermark my original photography, or I can add branded introductions to the videos I produce on my phone. Not to mention, if someone needs my logo in a pinch, I can air drop it to them in just a few seconds.

Calls To Action

I produce a lot of videos between meetings, on airplanes, or generally in inconvenient places.

For example, whenever I do a training session that requires travel, I find that the plane ride home is a great time to produce a testimonial video about the training. Depending on how far I’ve traveled, I can usually produce the testimonial video and handful of direct-to-social promotional videos.

No matter what video I’m producing, I always like to add a call to action at the end.

Videos have an exceptionally high conversion rate, compared to any other medium. For example, landing pages with video have up to 800 percent higher conversions than the same page without video. And people who watch videos are 85 percent more likely to buy, 144 percent more likely to add it to their card, and 52 percent more confident in their product purchase.

Landing pages with video have up to 800 percent higher conversions than the same page without video.

Once someone has invested their time into your video, they’re primed for the next step. Make the ask! What do you want them to do? Follow you on social media? Sign up for your newsletter? Make a purchase?

The most common calls to action I use are:

  • Share the video on social media
  • Follow us on social media
  • Join the newsletter
  • Buy a course
  • Book a training
  • Book me as a speaker

As my aunt always said, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Get.”

Brand Style Guide

Trying to guess your brand colors never works out. So, I always try to keep the things I expect to need close at hand, including my brand colors, fonts and patterns.

I also keep any style guides for sub-brands I’m working on, too. I always like to know what I’m going for so I can be sure everything on-brand.

royalty-free-music.jpg

Royalty-Free Music

Although many video apps come with stock music for you to use, it’s important to note that most of it isn’t licensed for commercial (i.e., your business) use. To play it safe, I always keep stock music I’ve purchased on my phone to quickly add to my videos.

Music can quicken the pace of your videos, it can make people feel specific emotions. Use it to your advantage! Here are a few places I like to look for stock music:

  • Audiojungle
  • Incompetech
  • ccMixter
  • Beatpick

Evernote

You never know when inspiration will strike. Some of my best blog posts were written in just a few minutes when inspiration hits me. It’s always easier to write when you’re in the right mood.

Use Evernote to never miss out on those moments. Keep track of blog ideas, blog outlines, anecdotes and more. 

Asana

This is a new addition for me, but I am quickly beginning to wonder what I ever did without it. It’s easy to track your projects and to do lists for a variety of big picture goals.

So, you want to update your site? Tick off each item as you accomplish it, and keep track of upcoming deadlines and recurring projects. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Calendar

I used to be a pen-and-paper person, but I’ve seen the other side and I like it. If you’re still clutching to your paper planner like it’s 1995, at least start scheduling your annual events, like birthdays, doctors appointments, domain renewals and more.

You’ll quickly realize how keeping this info on your phone and at your fingertips can save you time and keep you organized.

sarahredohl.jpg

About The Author

Hey, I'm Sarah! I love teaching online business bosses to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results (more traffic, more customers, more money) in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for? Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

 

Camera App Tutorial for Android Devices

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Camera for Android is the best easy-to-use photography app for Android devices that also includes a wide range of control on focus, exposure and white balance. Learn the basic features of the app in this tutorial.

Finding the Right Video App

apple, android, tutorial, video, smartphone, video smartphone, content marketing, mobile storytelling, videography, storytelling, audio, apps, applications,

In the last installment of this three-part series on what to look for in an app, I'm going to share the top things I look for in any video camera app. For most people, the idea of shooting videos can be daunting. The right video camera app can make it significantly easier to get good video, and may even be smart enough to help you get it right along the way.

 

Four essential features of your video camera app:

1) Manual focus, exposure and white balance

As with your camera app, being able to independently set your own focus, exposure and white balance gives you a lot of control over the quality of your image. You can focus on your interview subject's eyes while setting your exposure on their shirt and dealing with whatever lighting color temperature possible. Just be sure that beyond being able to set your own focus, exposure and white balance, that you can also lock it in place for the duration of your video. Otherwise, your device will constantly be trying to re-correct your video as you film, which will make editing very hard.

2) 16:19

The ideal aspect ratio for your video isn't 4:3, the standard of years past. Today's videos—even on YouTube—are widescreen. Join the trend!

3) Manual and automatic gain control

Put simply, gain control is the volume at which you're recording audio. In some situations, we have to work with what we're given, whether that's a soft-spoken source of the sheer volume of a stadium full of people. Our device needs to be able to handle all these situations. So, gain control comes in handy. Under most circumstances, automatic gain control will do just fine. But, having a manual option will give you control over a wider range of situations.

4) The ability to monitor audio

Many of the mics made for smartphones and tablets connect to the audio jack. Although more and more options that include a splitter jack for headphones are hitting the market, many options still don't allow you to listen to your audio with your headphones (a big no-no in traditional videography). Until headphone jacks come standard on our smartphone mics, we will have to continue to work around this. The best option is finding a video camera app that at least gives you a visual idea of the audio quality you're recording.

 

Three features your video camera app should probably have:

1) The ability to lock focus right before the shutter just in case you forget to lock it

Not all video camera apps come with this feature. If you can remember to set focus, exposure and white balance—and lock them—each time, you don't need it. But we aren't all perfect. Having this option makes it so, even if your video would be better quality if you'd done it yourself, the video will still be clean enough to use if you don't lock these features.

2) Record with the volume buttons

This is even more important for video than it is for photos to avoid unnecessary camera shake! You may be filming on a tripod, but even still, not having to touch your screen and potentially shake your device will mean you can shoot shorter shots that will still be stable and shake-free. What a pro!

3) Battery and storage icons

This probably isn't a surprise, but filming video sucks battery life. And videos take up a lot of space. Having a visual indicator in the app that you may be running out of either will be really helpful so you know when you need to stop to recharge or transfer your footage to, say, DropBox.

4) Composition grids

These can be very helpful to keep in mind that composition is just as important in video as it is in photos. They can also be a helpful reminder of how to properly frame a video interview.

You might also have other features you think should come standard, or apps you recommend. If so, consider posting a comment here and helping us all learn how to be better iPhoneographers! I hope you learned some useful features to keep an eye out as you try to find great apps to help you tell digital stories from your smartphone.