Guest post – DigiLearn Sector: Five reasons why you should be using AniGIFs (Animated GIFs) to share quick tips
Author: Matt Coombe-Boxall – Online Learning Technologist, Staffordshire University
- They stand out
It has long been reported that images and visual media can boost the reach of social media posts. Twitter even make this claim on their Analytics page:
It’s now unusual to look at a social media feed without seeing numerous images and videos. If you want someone to really engage with your post, you need to stand out – colleagues are busy and research has suggested we have an attention span of less than nine seconds! Of course, the content needs to be the focus of the post, but the way you share the content can also influence its success. AniGIFs auto-play and loop, so they stand out against other types of image. Even if someone scrolls past and misses the first part of the animation, they don’t need to manually rewind or replay it.
My own statistics suggest that AniGIFs have impact. A Tweet with an AniGIF about including computer sound in Teams that I shared in March gained over 12,000 impressions (the number of times users saw the Tweet on Twitter), nearly 2,000 media views and over 320 total engagements. That Tweet alone accounted for over half the impressions of all my 25 Tweets in March. Another AniGIF about Teams Live Captions got over 1,600 impressions, over 400 media views and 81 engagements accounting for 20% of my impressions for October. Last September I shared three AniGIFs with combined totals of over 2,500 impressions, over 720 media views and 165 engagements.
2. Use them everywhere
Once you have your AniGIF, you can share it as an image file on multiple platforms. As an image file, AniGIFs are very versatile! Many of the well know social media platforms that you might use professionally, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, allow the uploading of AniGIFs as image files (Instagram doesn’t allow the use of your own GIFs). You can upload the AniGIFs to a Teams message/conversation by uploading the GIF to your post as an attachment, you can add it as an image file to your VLE (I’ve done this on Blackboard) and you can share it on your SharePoint site, personal website, or internal communications site (we use WorkVivo at Staffs).
3. Size does matter
AniGIFs are smaller files than videos, so they don’t take up as much storage space and they don’t take as long to upload. Bear in mind that the size of your AniGIF may depend on the software you use to make them, the resolution of the file and the number of animations you include, so play around with your file if it’s too large to upload at first. Twitter’s image upload limit is 15MB (5MB via mobile), and Facebook’s appears to be 30MB (although I’ve seen different figures around the web and I uploaded a 27MB AniGIF successfully). LinkedIn’s image limit is quoted as 8MB (although I managed to upload the same 27MB AniGIF).
4. The ultimate sharable resource
One of my favourite things about AniGIFs is that, unlike online videos, you can save them to your local device. With video files, you can’t download them (easily). You can always share a link to the post with others, but if your audience doesn’t have an account for that platform, they might not be able to access it. Keeping tabs of useful online videos across social media platforms is harder than storing AniGIFs locally – you may end up with a whole list of links or find yourself going back through all your likes and retweets (tip: tools such as Wakelet will make your life easier if you do this!).
As an image file, AniGIFs can be saved to your local device. You can then share it on platforms for your own audience, where you know they have access to it, such as your own Teams tenancy or internal communications platform. If you save them all in a folder, you can easily identify them through the file name of thumbnail. Therefore, sharing an AniGIF is sharing in its truest sense – so other users can save them and reshare them with those who might not have seen or have access to your original post. Note: crediting the original author is always appreciated 🙂
5. They are easy to make (you can use PowerPoint!)
I first started creating AniGIFs for a freelancing client a few years ago. The client saw the value of using them to boost social media presence and engage your audience. For that client, I used Camtasia Studio to produce the AniGIFs for a few reasons: I was already using it to create video files for the client, you can use Camtasia to record your screen, you can add callouts such as text, shapes and highlighting to the project, and because you can export your project directly to AniGIF format.
However, you do not need Camtasia to create an AniGIF. You can use other screen-capturing software and video editors to create a file you can convert to an AniGIF (with some, you can export directly to the format). What is great is that if your organisation has a Microsoft licence, PowerPoint can do all these things! Fortunately, the fantastic Mike Tholfsen has created this video, so I do not have to provide a step-by-step tutorial! Watch the tutorial at How to Create Animated GIF in PowerPoint 
Of course, there are a couple of limitations you’ll want to consider if you want to use AniGIFs. The main one for me is their accessibility. As with all image files, alternative text can help make the image more accessible, but I’ve struggled to provide a comprehensive description for AniGIFs that would actually be useful to someone who needs it. In this case, a written guide, video or audio file might be a better alternative. The lack of audio is something else to consider. As it’s an image file, it won’t contain audio and you will have to compensate for this by adding text or effects that make the process you’re trying to demonstrate clear.
Despite these limitations, I believe that using AniGIFs for quick tips, especially in my own field of educational technology, can make a huge difference to the wider education community by standing out from other types of content and giving colleagues short, sharp doses of CPD across multiple platforms.
A big thank you to Sue Lee, e-Learning Manager at Staffordshire University, for feedback and comments.
 K. McSpadden, ‘You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish’, TIME [website], May 14, 2015 <https://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/>, accessed 16 April 2021
2 K. Olafson and T. Tran, ‘Social Media Image Sizes 2021: Cheat Sheet for Every Network’, Hootsuite Blog [website], December 11, 2020 <https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-image-sizes-guide/>, accessed 16 April 2021