GIFs are often looked at as silly and unprofessional, but they can actually be used thoughtfully to help your serious organization—from high-end retail to nonprofits—stand out on social media and better connect with your audience visually.

The key difference between a GIF of dancing cats that likely has no value for your business and a GIF that helps your campaigns succeed is investing in this form of media correctly.

GIFs can be used on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and elsewhere to make content more compelling and provide context better than words or a static image would be able to.

Using GIFs on social media can work to spur engagement, as adding visuals to your Tweets boosts Retweets by 35%, while Facebook posts containing photos accounted for 87% of all network interactions in 2014.

Currently, most organizations overlook the addition of GIFs into their social strategy, which only creates more opportunity for your content to succeed. So let’s look at how to regularly incorporate this visual media into your messaging with purpose.

Adding visuals increases Retweets by 35%.
Source: Twitter, 2014

Create GIF-Specific Guidelines

Start by making an addition to your existing social media guidelines to outline the best ways to use GIFs for your brand and incorporate best practices.

This process should align the creation of GIFs with your brand’s identity visually in terms of color palette, font preference and logo treatment as well as your strategic approach to serving the right messaging to the appropriate audience. That is to say, jumpy, jerky and overly repetitive GIFs are probably not the type of GIFs your organization should be producing.

Keep it simple when it comes to developing GIFs that engage and add value to what you’re sharing on social. The UN Climate Change Conference shared a straightforward GIF on Twitter that animated its name, hashtag and the date of its event, which all aligned with the visual branding of the conference used across other channels.

Add Value by Educating

GIFs applied with purpose can educate your audience, illustrating each step of a process, acting as a how-to guide or even adding a bit of humor to an otherwise dry subject.

Educational GIF
Credit: designmodo

Educational GIFs can showcase the features of a website or an app, which are often hard to describe with words or static images and usually require video production. The looping aspect of a GIF is more helpful when trying to educate your audience on certain subjects, allowing them to review it as many times as they’d like until the concept resonates.

Partner With Influencers

To start creating GIFs that will resonate, work with influencers who are known for creating this type of media, whether that’s on Tumblr, Vine or Twitter, which depends on the type of audience you’re trying to reach.

Jansport GIF

JanSport recently worked with Tumblr influencer FashGif to develop a set of GIFs that featured its backpack product in a fun and interesting way that appeals to the younger demographic found on the blogging social network.

Ahead of the “Terminator Genisys” movie release, Paramount Pictures partnered with six GIF artists on Giphy, the GIF search engine, to reimagine the characters and moments throughout the movie from their perspective. Their expertise in GIF making, coupled with a unique angle to the iconic movie series, yielded a suite of visuals prime for social sharing.

Terminator GIF

With a built-in audience and an expertise in GIF making, partnering with an influencer can ensure a campaign with this type of media drives results.

Use Cinemagraphs to Create Depth

An often overlooked form of GIFs to use are cinemagraphs, which are images where only a certain area within the photo is in motion. These are another way to showcase your content on social media, helping to better optimize it to stand out.

Fashion GIF

In the example above, cinemagraph makes the fashion-focused image more compelling by drawing the viewer’s eye to the featured product.

The point of using a cinemagraph is to not only stand out among the noise on social but also to bring more life to your brand’s story to better connect with customers. Review Giphy, Imgur and Tumblr to get inspiration from the existing GIFs being shared today both from brands and consumers alike to understand what your range of options are.

What hesitations does your organization have investing in GIFs? Which channels are you most likely to share GIFs with your audience? Share in the comments below.