What gives? 4 reasons to rethink using GIFs in blog posts

4 reasons to rethink using GIFs in blog posts

Call me old fashioned, or just call me old, but I find those animated GIFs in blog posts distracting. And sometimes plain annoying.

They’re funny and effective in social media posts, and yeah I’ve used them. But in business blogs? Nuh-uh.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you one of the golden rules of creating engaging web content is to make it easy for readers to scan. Long blocks of text are overwhelming for the eyes and brain. The best way to break up all those words? Use things like subheadings, bold font, bullet lists… and of course, images.

BUT PLEASE! Those looping GIF thingies in blog posts are sending me spare.

I have to adjust the browser window size so I can scroll to text-only sections and avoid the GIFs. Yep – it’s THAT bad!

I get that they’re hip and cute and funny and punchy. But jeebus, they distract the HELL outta me when I’m reading! I can’t be the only one.

You see, not only am I a copywriter, I’m a Gen X-er, so I guess they’re not really my thaing. Reading a blog post peppered with GIFs scrambles my brain and eyes. The other thing is, using them in my content wouldn’t fit my brand personality. But maybe I’m missing out on all the fun, here.

Anyway, I’ve been pondering and reading up on the use of GIFs in content marketing. And I thought I’d share what I found.


1. Yeah, that copyright thing*

Numero uno, AKA the bleedin’ obvious: using images you haven’t created yourself, without permission, can be subject to copyright laws. So, you’d think it would apply to GIFs, right? Well, kinda…

While there are no hard and fast laws (yet) about GIFs and copyright infringement, their use can fall under the legal concept of ‘fair use’, as it’s known in the USA, or ‘fair dealing’ in Australia. There are important differences in the legal definitions in both countries. But basically, it comes down to things like:

  • the purpose of your use of the copyrighted material, whether for commercial, non-profit or educational purposes
  • the amount of copyrighted material you use
  • whether the copyright owner will be adversely financially impacted from its use without permission.

There’s much more to it though. You can take a look at this great explainer piece on The Conversation website comparing the US and Australian laws.

If you’re using GIFs with celebrity faces, you may wanna woah back on that, too. Unless, their number’s in your phone’s contacts for a quick call to get their permission. A cautionary article in Adweek says: “…the only way to post an animated GIF of a celebrity on your business page without risking legal trouble would be to get the permission of everyone featured in the clip, the copyright holder of the original recording and (just to be safe) the person who actually made the GIF”.

It goes on to say this applies to GIFs featuring non-celebrities too, so… yeah. Bit of a minefield, huh?

Love GIFs, but can’t get permission and need a way around? If you’ve got graphics skills, design your own. Or credit the source, like you would with a stock image.

I’m no lawyer, but it seems the gist of GIF use is the link to commercial use. With blogs (and social posts on your business page) being a form of content marketing, AKA commercial use, I’d be treading very carefully when using GIFs. I’d also be getting professional legal advice on their use in content marketing, just to be sure.

2. Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?

It’s not only the name of The Cranberries’ cool first album, it’s not a good enough reason to do… well, anything! Just because other businesses are using GIFs in their blog posts, please don’t leap on the lemming express. Why? Let’s look at the next point…

3. How well do you know your audience?

If you’ve worked on your brand personality and tone of voice and you feel GIFs are a snug fit, go right ahead and use them – cautiously (see point 1). If your audience uses GIFs themselves, they’re a great way to engage them.Then again, your audience may be more like me: thinks GIFs are funny and clever on social media, but finds they mess with their concentration when reading a blog. So maybe ease back on them if your target market’s like that. (Surely I’m not alone here?)

4. Bad internet days

Slow internet is never fun. And if you have GIFs in your blog posts, until those images load, your page is left with gaping holes in ’em. Not such a good look, eh? Your readers could get bored or annoyed and click away – I know I have. Nobody wants that.

Personally, I love a laugh-out-loud GIF in a social media post. But in blog posts, for some of us, they make it hard to focus on reading the copy. I’d rather see funny, punny still pics, so I can absorb the message of the words.

Okay, maybe it is just me, then…

What’s your take on GIFs in blog posts? Love ’em or leave ’em? Let me know.

 *Content in this blog post is opinion only and does not constitute professional legal advice.

By | 2019-07-22T17:51:54+00:00 May 20th, 2019|Content marketing, Content writing, Copywriting, Small Business, Writing|