How to add a GIF to your marketing text messages

October 20, 2023
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13 milliseconds. That’s how fast the human brain can process images. For reference, that’s about 10x faster than it takes to blink an eye—and practically turbo mode compared with how long it takes to read a short sentence. 

If this was a plain SMS message, there’s a chance your customers could've stopped reading by now.

But what if there was something snappy before the message that could instantly capture customers’ attention? Something like (you guessed it) a GIF.

Using GIFs for text messaging is a straightforward way to keep your audience engaged with your marketing materials. Even better, GIFs are an opportunity to showcase your brand personality and build deeper customer relationships at scale.

Below, we’ll explain how to text a GIF, including helpful tips for maximizing your SMS marketing. 

What is a GIF?

Whether you pronounce it “giff” or “jiff,” GIF or graphics interchange format is a type of image file. But unlike other image formats, like JPEG or PNG, a GIF can either be a still or animated image. 

A GIF can store multiple pictures at once, then load these pictures sequentially to generate a flip-book-style animation. Often containing larger file sizes, GIFs don't have sound, and you can't fast-forward or rewind them like a video.

It’s also critical to note that an animated GIF isn't the same as a video file, like MP4 or MOV.

Why use GIFs?

The reason is simple: modern media is reactionary. Like emoji or stickers, GIFs are ideal for communicating emotions in as few characters as possible. 

Picture the love and like react buttons on social media platforms, like Facebook and TikTok—those same functions now appear in SMS messaging for iOS and Android. GIFs follow the same concept, which is to convey an emotion or reaction with minimal words. Most modern cell phones even include an option to directly reply to texts with GIFs. 

Additionally, GIFs for text messaging are particularly beneficial for business-to-consumer marketing. With 15+ billion phones around the world and most equipped to receive GIFs via text, these are a popular image format to reach consumers.

Plus, since you can make GIFs with any image sequence, you can incorporate personality (like jokes and pop culture moments from popular movies and TV shows) into your SMS marketing for a more personalized customer experience.

How to text a GIF

GIFs are sent through text as MMS messages or images instead of plaintext. 

When deciding how to add a GIF to a text for marketing, you might find it more convenient to use messaging software to avoid the ins and outs of coding. 

Twilio’s communication APIs, software, and professional services empower businesses to leverage MMS by building on our infinitely extensible and developer-friendly platform.

Additionally, with a no-code solution like Twilio Studio, you can send GIFs for text messaging without configuring an MMS solution. Our drag-and-drop user interface allows you to select the GIF most appropriate for your message, send it, and forget it. 

Tips for using GIFs in marketing texts

It's critical to be careful and considerate when using GIFs in marketing. Choose the wrong GIF, and it could confuse (or upset) certain customers. But if you choose the right one, you could win a customer over.

The key to using animated GIFs in marketing is to select media that's on brand for your business and on target with your audience demographics. GIFs can drive serious customer engagement, but only when contextually fitting the message. 

Consider these six tips for using GIFs in SMS messaging. 

  1. Use GIF files for product demos or instructions: The flip-book style of GIFs makes them ideal for showcasing step-by-step demonstrations. 
  2. Leverage existing marketing materials to create GIFs: From customer testimonials to social media posts, convert videos into animated GIFs
  3. Ensure your chosen GIFs are brand appropriate: Like any asset, GIFs in marketing initiatives must align with your brand and audience.
  4. Include GIFs in interactive campaigns: A GIF in SMS polls, contests, and other types of interactive campaigns can drive customer participation. 
  5. Take an omnichannel approach: GIFs in marketing are pretty ubiquitous, so don’t restrict yourself to SMS—embed GIFs in your emails and more.
  6. Deploy a solution to streamline sending GIFs in texts: Learning how to text a GIF at scale can be tricky, so explore business messaging solutions. 

Start using GIFs in your texts with Twilio

Want to engage your audience more with your business using GIFs? We've got you covered. Twilio's Programmable Messaging API can help you launch and scale your next marketing campaign with GIFs reliably.

Plus, with over 157+ billion messages sent and received annually, Twilio's a platform you can trust. Explore our messaging solutions to get started.