Written with the help and guidance of Simon Gibson of GIPHY and Michelle Pigott of iris Worldwide

Is your head cocked to the side with that doe­-eyed look of confusion? Fear not. We’ll give you a quick primer. GIFs are animated images used in messaging and on websites to express feelings, emotions, and reactions. It’s rare that I’ll lean on a media instead of talking about a bigger idea, but animated GIFs are posing a huge opportunity for restaurant brands to become included in the consumer conversation in a natural way. In fact, the use of GIFs in conversation continues to increase rapidly amongst the most sought after market: Millennials

Confused? Blanked out? No worries, GIFs are your friend. Found on www.giphy.com

For those that don’t know, a GIF is a short animated image like the one seen here. They were insanely popular back in the heydays of the Internet when Geocities dominated then really hit their stride during the MySpace age. Remember those “under construction” blinking signs and digging stick figures? The mighty fell and GIFs became chintzy. One thing that reigned over the ages is that GIFs were never a good move for business. That is until now.

Reaction gifs, the most popular form of gif content, can extend a conversation on social media by relating, having empathy, or finding common humor with consumers in a unique way. Brands doing it right are those having tailored conversations with their fan base, and using reaction gifs in 1×1 conversations with consumers will only amplify your social content. Think of it as an extension of the direct relationship team member’s form with customers inside your restaurant, just on the Internet. It’s still customer service, just tailored to fit the online platform.

Think of it as an extension of the direct relationship team member’s form with customers inside your restaurant…

Apps like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are visual storytellers and are the most popular social platforms among Millennials. Gifs take this visual communication to the next level by animating feelings in a summarized manner — the millennial is all about efficiency.

Feelings. Found on www.giphy.com

GIFs have come back in a big way amongst the Millennial audience. They share them on their social pages and in their private digital conversations. Most often they use these animated wonders as representations of reactions and emotions. That’s exactly where restaurant brands can become inclusive in the moment. Just take a look at the biggest leader in the restaurant world for targeting millennials in their social strategy — Taco Bell. They just created a mobile first website entirely devoted to gif content:https://www.tacobell.com/feed

Most brands find opportunities then completely miss the mark by forcing themselves into the conversation. At our office we joke that if people spoke in real life how brands do online, it’d be a quite terrible world in which to live. The key to social media success is to become more human. Act like a human. Don’t be scared to have a personality. There’s a time and place to be serious, but playing it safe makes for a boring, flat experience. No one wants to be friends with that. Winning brands are using social media to extend their personalities in a way naturally fits.

Fitting naturally isn’t as easy as it may sound. Subway has attempted to hitch their wagon to the GIF craze, but has done so in a way that pushes their product instead of their brand attitude. Taking a step back, one can see why they missed the mark. Subway doesn’t really have a personality at all. They’re focused on pushing cheap subs and that’s where it ends. They did well by tapping talent to source new, fun animations, and the results are fun, zany animations that have a distinct look. Unfortunately they look distinctly not Subway. Afterall, what does Subway look like any more anyway?

Although cool and artful, Subway’s GIFs do little to promote sharing amongst friends. www.giphy.com/subway

Some brands, the ones who understand the strength of having a personality, are starting to crush it online including the use of GIFs in conversation. Brands like Zaxby’s have extended the reach of their content and brand voice by chipping away reactionary GIFs and making them available via GIPHY .com. They’re providing brand presence without overtly pushing themselves into the conversation. Instead they’re adding to a conversation that’s already happening amongst the fans new and loyal.

The fun-loving reactionary GIFs represent the same vibe at Zaxby’s. www.giphy.com/zaxbys

The brilliance of the reactionary gifs is they’re used to facilitate, or stand in, for the voice of the sender. When someone uses a brand’s personality to represent themselves a new level of advocacy is reached.

Consider gifs the elevated art form of the emoji. Who knows where brands will take these animated pieces of awesomeness? What we do know is that the Millennial market uses them, loves them, and wants more. They want new, interesting, and emotive ways to represent their personalities. If you’re a brand who has a personality that aligns, the time is right for offering them a way to champion your brand’s lifestyle.

Okay now, get to GIFing!