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If you’ve been paying attention AT ALL, then you know that GIFs are a huge deal in messaging today. Whether I’m wishing my best friend a happy birthday or I’m answering a message on Slack, GIFs have become my go-to for fun, concise ways of saying exactly what I want whenever I want. 

And I know I’m not the only one — there’s data to prove it. According to Forbes, GIPHY had 100 million daily users sending over a billion GIFs in 2016. That’s a whole lot of love (probably because if people can’t find what they’re looking for, they can also make their own. Pretty sweet, right?).    

So whether you pronounce it “gif” or “jif”, we don’t judge. What we’re really here for is to get down into the nitty-gritty and talk backstory. Where did GIPHY come from, and how long has it been around? To start, we have to go back a couple of years, with co-founders Alex Chung and Jace Cooke.

On February 1, 2013, GIPHY first stepped on the scene, but Chung and Cooke weren’t trying to go public with the search engine. Instead, it was created to be a private search engine for GIFs that the two founders could share with their friends. In fact, they never thought that GIPHY would be a worldwide phenomenon. But after about 1 million hits over the first weekend, it was anything but private. (Sounds like the origin story of another one of our favorite online inventions, right?)

Since 2013, GIPHY has grown into one of the most popular GIF platforms in the world with about 5 billion people using the search engine per day.

But more than just hosting, GIPHY is pretty proactive, too, having built partnerships with thousands of companies and brands. Did you know that they build custom gifs during live events like award shows? It’s a lot like live tweeting, except the gifs are infinitely more fun to use after an event than a tweet because GIPHY makes them searchable and categorized through SEO so we can all replay the best moments as often as we want.

In fact, about 90% of all the content on GIPHY is branded by companies like the NBA, Apple, and Facebook. It has become a new way for companies to create and share their brands with the world. And here’s a fun tidbit: It’s actually one of the most engaging, fun ways to speak to an audience. They’re easy to share, and they create a direct relationship with clients. Plus, if you’re trying to convey something difficult or “out there,” pictures are a great way to provide context or comparison.

Moral of my story so far: If you’re a storyteller of any kind and aren’t already using GIFs to promote your brand, it’s time to reconsider because they’re simple to make and have a HUGE impact.

Alright here’s where I address the haters.

I know that the growing usage of GIFs and emojis has been seen as devolution to the hieroglyphic era, with pictures replacing words and lowering our literacy comprehension.

But here’s my counterargument: GIFs and emojis aren’t really replacing the written word, they’re just providing emotion and context to our language when it’s on digital platforms (which is a place where language sometimes has the hardest time emotionally connecting with us). Plus, with at least 2 billion pieces of content released on GIPHY per day, GIPHY doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. In fact, the search company will soon branch into other types of short-form content, as seen with the 2018 GIPHY Film Fest, when it was announced that the platform will soon start showcasing 30-second videos.

With the integration of GIPHY on virtually every messaging app and social media platform in the world — cue our favorite Instagram Stories! — GIPHY has quite literally become a world of its own in which people and companies can create, distribute, and search for the perfect form of short entertainment.

But GIFs, and GIPHY, are bigger than that.

Through partnerships with companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Slack, these bite-sized moving pictures have altered how we speak to one another, how often we laugh or cry, and even how we consume the news. That’s a huge deal for companies, especially when they create their own GIPHY library with custom graphics because it means improving the storytelling and relatability of their brand. It means reaching audiences on a new level. It means getting down to where the conversation is being had, and not just hearing it, but interacting with it. And when we do that, we connect more authentically, more often, and to better returns.

Ultimately, when we do that, we win.

Victoria Green

Author Victoria Green

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