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How to Add Animated GIFs to Your Emails

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It seems like animated GIFs are everywhere these days. In blog posts, on social media, in text messages from your friends—it’s a GIF-y world out there. And they’re becoming increasingly popular in email, too.

We’re big fans of GIFs in a show-don’t-tell sorta way, but they’re also great for conveying complex emotions and filling the void that is a general lack of video support in email. In a world where eyes are drawn to moving pictures but need information quickly, GIFs are here to provide.

Below, we’ll go over how to add animated GIFs to your emails, so you can easily capture the attention of your audience.

What is a GIF?

A GIF, or graphics interchange format, is a moving image that can be embedded into emails, word documents, and other types of content. Unlike other images, a GIF is soundless and loops endlessly. As a result, they add an eye-catching visual element to your communications, help accentuate your brand, and highlight your personality.

When GIFs first became popular, they were considered unprofessional because they were primarily used by younger people. Today, they’re widely accepted in personal and professional settings. GIFs are being seen as more and more of a legitimate form of communication. Whether you want to express frustration, excitement, or how badly you need a cup of coffee, there’s a reaction GIF for any situation.

In today's visual environment, a GIF is a good way to show who your brand is and leave a lasting impression on those looking at your emails.

How to add a GIF to an email

The first step in learning how to insert a GIF into an email starts with finding the right GIF and downloading it. Then, you’ll insert it into your email, preview your message, and hit send.

Find and download the right GIF

There are many ways to find GIFs. For example, websites like GIPHY and Tenor have an extensive library of GIFs. You can also look up GIFs with the help of a search engine. Many search engines have advanced filters so that only a specific image file type appears in the results. You can even make your own GIFs by converting your videos.

Once you’ve identified the most appropriate GIF, you can download it and insert it into the email.

Insert the GIF into your email

If you’ve downloaded your GIF, you can simply drag it to wherever you’re composing the email. You may also be able to copy and paste the GIF directly into the email.

In general, animated GIFs have pretty awesome support. They work well in all webmail clients and in most desktop and mobile email clients, with the biggest exceptions being Microsoft Outlook 2007-2013. GIFs in these versions of Outlook will display the first frame as an image rather than animating it (not the end of the world but less ideal).

Before you insert an animated GIF into your email, stop and make sure that it reflects the tone and voice of your messaging. Always keep purpose in mind when making GIF selections, which should help ensure that you don’t overwhelm your subscribers.

You also don’t want to go overboard with the GIF usage. Too many GIFs can make your email design look like a ‘90s webpage or an AIM away message. As fun as it is to relive the glory days of MySpace and GeoCities (RIP), a super busy email can turn off your reader. With GIFs, less is definitely more.

Preview and send

After you’ve finalized the placement of your GIF, make sure everything looks good and is working. If you need to preview your email, you can always send a draft to yourself. Some email builders, including Mailchimp, allow you to see how your email will look across different email providers and devices.

When to use GIFs in an email

Animated GIFs work well for just about any document. Here are a few examples of when it’s appropriate to use animated GIFs in emails.

To explain a concept visually/draw attention to key information

An email packed with information may cause readers to skim and overlook important details. Use GIFs to make pieces of information stand out—or to help explain concepts. Breaking up information with short, digestible visuals helps users understand challenging ideas without spending much time reading.

As an alternative to video

Most email clients don’t offer great support for video. On top of poor support, video files can be huge and slow to load if subscribers have a poor connection, which can disengage the viewer. Making subscribers download large files isn’t a great idea either because it can send users over their data plans if they’re not on WiFi.

That’s where GIFs come in: They can be used as an alternative to provide short previews of your video content that then link to the full video.

To promote your products or services

GIFs are a powerful marketing tool that can help you promote your products and services in a fun and engaging format. Plus, you can upload GIFs to GIPHY or another service, allowing consumers the opportunity to start using them outside of your email. This can be great for boosting your brand’s image and awareness.

Drawbacks of using GIFs in email campaigns

There are times when you shouldn't use a GIF. Here are some instances when GIFs can hinder an email or other document instead of improving it.

  • GIFs can be distracting. Flashing, brightly colored GIFs can lead to sensory overload and distract from the email message. If all the reader remembers is the GIF and not the message, the point is lost.
  • Can look pixelated. A computer only has access to 256 colors. Some GIFs, images, and animations can look pixelated or appear to be of poor quality if they have colors outside the scope of the computer.
  • Connectivity issues can interfere with the GIF. If there are connectivity issues, the GIF may be difficult to download, defeating its purpose.

Before adding any GIF to your email, ask yourself whether or not the graphic will actually add value to your messaging. Make sure to consider the drawbacks mentioned above as you weigh the pros and cons of using GIFs in emails.

Tips for using GIFs in email marketing

While GIFs can enhance an email, there are some tips to follow to ensure your communication resonates with subscribers.

  • Use GIFs to get prospects to click on the call-to-action button in the email.
  • Create custom GIFs to highlight your brand.
  • You can animate part of the GIF to keep the file smaller and easier to load.
  • All GIFs should serve a purpose.
  • Use GIFs to display a product in action.
  • Don’t overwhelm subscribers with too many GIFs.
  • Choose GIFs that are of good quality and don’t appear pixelated.

Enhancing your emails with GIFs

Using GIFs can be beneficial to an email campaign and help potential prospects remember your company and your brand. However, GIFs have the ability to make or break your campaigns. One or 2 of them can spruce up an email or serve as a good alternative to video, but they should be used wisely. Keep your GIF choices intentional, stay mindful of their size, and ensure the first frame could stand alone as its own image if needed.

With Mailchimp, you’ll have access to an array of GIFs from GIPHY, allowing you to quickly and easily source the best GIFs for all your campaigns. Use Mailchimp’s content studio the next time you’re creating an email to add high-quality GIFs and make your campaign stand out.

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