Animated GIFs on Twitter: Nordstrom Shows You How It's Done

When Twitter announced that the social network would support GIFs, many brands moved quickly to jump on the bandwagon. Even though there were countless posts on June 18th, the more compelling story in this announcement is how brands will continue to take advantage of the new tool moving forward.

Will GIFs have staying power past the initial excitement? For a network that has shifted to put an increased value on visual content, it seems like GIFs could potentially add extra pizzazz to tweets. One key to giving the resource some staying power will be for brands to figure out how to incorporate it into a network that already has options for both still images and Vine videos.

To get a better look at how GIFs can work for a brand, we’ll take a look at Nordstrom. To date, the clothing retailer has excelled at both still images and Vines. The methods it is using with GIFs highlight some of the most important points for other brands looking to make them a part of their overall Twitter strategy.

GIFs or Vines?

One of the most intriguing elements to Nordstrom’s approach to Twitter is that the brand is still producing and actively tweeting Vine videos. This might seem redundant, having two different tools for video loops, but Nordstrom has actually demonstrated how Vines and GIFs could be used differently to highlight the same topic.

In this instance, the topic was a shirt featuring an ice cream cone print. Each loop had the text “We all scream for #icecream,” but the imagery differed. The Vine was a stop-motion animation of the shirt unrolling on the floor, waving its arms, then rolling back up. The GIF showed a woman wearing the shirt, but a lone ice cream cone has been animated to twirl.

Both loops appeared on the retailer’s Twitter feed, about a month apart. Interestingly, the GIF outperformed the Vine. The GIF had 15 retweets and 37 favorites, while the Vine had only 12 retweets and 22 Vines.

What You Need to Know

Based on Nordstrom’s example, what can your brand learn about approaching this new tool? For starters, quality is paramount. If you want to post GIFs, make sure you can execute them well. Part of the appeal of Nordstrom’s GIF and Vine creations is the high level of polish.

Next, keep in mind that Vine videos are likely to be longer than GIFs. Even though six seconds sounds like nothing, Vines can pack a surprising about of content and information into that looping snippet. On the other hand, GIFs are just a handful of still images stitched together, so they’re usually between one and three seconds. The key to knowing which tool to use is making the right match for how you want to present the subject.

In the Nordstrom example above, the GIF may have generated more engagement because it was so short and simple. Punchy is the best fit for this medium. It also presented Nordstrom’s wares on a body, rather than as an art piece, so viewers could see the garment as they’d wear them.

It’s also worth noting that on the Vine app, the ice cream loop garnered 77 likes, the best performance for the topic. So in addition to knowing the best tool for the topic, your company should also understand the type of audience you have on both Twitter and Vine. Fans following you on Vine might expect more imaginative videos that capture your company’s voice, be it humorous, artistic, or inspirational. Twitter, thanks to its real-time nature and high volume of tweets, needs either Vines and GIFs to stand out.

This also means that Vines allow your company to stage more extended artistic creations than the GIFs do. For instance, one recent Vine video showed a Nordstrom shopping bag placed at each of the brand’s half-yearly sale. This was a creative way for Nordstrom to promote its campaign with the social tool that would allow for the inclusion of so many different locations. A GIF couldn’t have combined them all so cleanly.

A company that understands their subject matter and their available tools will be able to create video loops that will best resonate with their social followers. That’s true of any medium and any network. Take the time to think about whether GIFs make sense for your brand, and commit to the tool if it does.