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The Evolution of GIFs
By: Jennifer Stack
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Graphic Interchange Format, more commonly known as GIF on the interwebz, has finally reached critical mass. The surgence of GIF creator apps has caused the Internet phenomenon to go mainstream, allowing anyone with a smartphone to manipulate their own images into fun bitmap image format animations.
Since their inception in 1987 by CompuServe, GIFs have evolved from their intended purpose of exchanging graphic files through computers to comical representations of pop culture and life concepts. GIFs have been utilized by every consumer target demographic online, from social networks like Facebook to LiveJournal to owned media, such as Perez Hilton. You can find premade GIFs to view the pop culture range in which they span.
To make your own GIFs, you can download Loopcam, which actually lets you create GIF loops on the go. Currently it is still free on the iPhone App Store; that is why it is one of the most popular GIF creators for smartphones today.
If you fancy yourself or your company’s target audience more of an artist (read: hipster), then Cinemagram is your GIF creator of choice. Billing itself as “a fun and beautifully way to animate your photos,” it is clearly the Instagram of GIFs. This app is also free on the iTunes App store, making itself accessible to the masses.
Both GIF creator apps highlight the importance of building in social sharing within the app, as both include promoted sharing functionality to Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
More evidence of the GIF apocalypse is the newest popular meme #WhatShouldWeCallMe. It's nothing more than a GIF gallery on Tumblr discussing all of life’s little truths that resonate with people across the Internet. This latest online craze provides cultural insights to marketers about their consumers. Primarily, consumers want to create and they want to create content that is either stunningly visually appealing or relevant to themselves and their peers with the ultimate apex of creating things that meet both requirements. The need people are fulfilling with these types of content creation apps is the need to define themselves publicly either directly, literally, or by extension. 

The lesson is that if marketers provide accessible tools to facilitate these goals in a way that these free GIF creator apps have done, then they will successfully engage with their consumers by allowing themselves to further identify who they are in a digital expression.

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About the Author
Jennifer Stack is a Social Media Strategist at a digital advertising agency. She was a 2011 Notable.ca YP Social Media Finalist. International Marketing Communication, MA. International Marketing Strategy, MSc. LinkedIn + Twitter.
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