How to Make GIFs, or 5 Ways to Supercharge Your Social Media

September 12, 2016 • 10 min read
Dustin Renwick

You’ve locked the doors of your business, eaten dinner, and settled in for some relaxation before bed. Your social media feed greets you with hilarious GIFs, jaw-dropping videos, and eye-popping photos. You’ve taken some nice photos in your day, but you haven’t a clue how to make GIFs. Or how to say “GIF.”

Think about your business again. Not having a digital footprint makes your business look less reliable, but having social media accounts that are full of cobwebs or boring content doesn’t help, either.

Much like the best farmers markets, social media and blogging success lies in providing a steady supply of fresh content that appeals to consumers in different ways. If you haven’t incorporated some eye candy into your posts, pins, and tweets, you’re not only losing out on brand awareness—you’re also losing potential customers.

Here are four compelling reasons to spend some quality time with your favorite social media platform.

But here’s the problem: small business owners already have a hat-rack full of responsibilities without trying to master professional design software like Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, or Final Cut in their spare time.

The solution: Five types of content that will infuse your company’s social media streams with posts people want to share. The theme is visuals, visuals, and more visuals. Photos, GIFs, and videos help you tell your brand’s story, illuminate the life of a small business owner, and share the products you’re selling. Knowing how to make GIFs and being able to tell a good (or delicious) story in images not means you’ve got content people want to share, it’s content that puts them in the mood to buy what you’re selling.

BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million (!) articles and found that Facebook and Twitter posts that included an image were shared twice as much compared to text-only updates. If you’re a retail or restaurant business, don’t forget about Pinterest. Social media consumers spend twice as much on product orders generated from Pinterest compared to referrals from Facebook or Twitter.

For each type of content, we’ve got tools to help you create it and make it look good, including how to make GIFs, without spending hundreds of dollars on a fancy design program you don’t have time to learn. The best part is that these tools will save you time and money — they’re free.

Snappy profiles

canva-sampleEver found the perfect image for your business’s Facebook cover photo, only to discover that you can’t get it centered properly? Or gotten that perfect image to look right on Facebook, only to have it go all pixelated and out of focus on you in Twitter? You don’t actually need a degree in design to get this right. Several tools can help you resize pictures for each social platform, from Twitter icons to Facebook covers. Social Image is a bare-bones web interface, but if you want an all-in-one tool, we recommend the website Canva.

This graphic design software will make your inner creative feel right at home. Templates provide inspiration for a range of visual products, from menus to posters to all sorts of social media posts.

Profiles are one place where Canva can really help you out. Don’t waste time trying to guess which parts of your photo or design each platform will hide. For example, Canva’s templates will show you that the Twitter search bar is going to cover up the new fall fashions you wanted to highlight in your cover photo.

Riff on Canva’s offerings or upload your own photos and add text and shapes. The website is user-friendly with drag-and-drop functionality and grid guidelines to keep your designs aesthetically balanced without spending all afternoon squinting a ruler.

Get photogenic

Prisma on Instagram

Now that your social media profiles have gotten snappy, razor-sharp updates, you can focus on cranking out quality visuals for your feeds. Photos are the easiest visual content to generate because you probably have a camera in your pocket every day. Put it to work pulling in new potential customers.

Once you have a photo to use, a variety of apps and websites can help you add designs and styles that reflect your brand.

Prisma morphs your photos using artificial intelligence, which is just cool, and allows you to borrow the techniques of famous artists. Touch the altered photo and slide left to increase the intensity of the effect you’ve chosen. The mobile app sometimes lags, but the final results are remarkable. Check out Prisma’s Instagram feed to get a feel for what it can do.

So says Oscar Wilde, via QuotesCover.

Ever wondered where those folks you follow on Facebook and Twitter get those cool images with inspirational quotations on them? QuotesCover and Picfont are websites that allow you to quickly add text to pictures and give them some extra flair before you share. Each site also has plenty of nitty-gritty features that have a steeper learning curve, once you’ve got the hang of the basics.

Over provides some of the most robust features at the free level. It includes some handy presets for social media sizes, including those for LinkedIn and Etsy, plus a nifty color picker that pulls from the photo itself. Like many of these apps, Over offers fonts and design upgrades for a few bucks.

Even if you don’t often use social media for your business, you’ll want pictures to give some life to your accounts. Images help on every platform—did you know that users stay two and a half times longer on Yelp business pages that have pictures?

How to make GIFs

make-a-gifPeople upload 95 million photos every day on Instagram alone, but spicing yours up with a little movement can make your business stand out on any platform.

Ignore the arguments about how to pronounce GIF, which stands for Graphics Interchange Format. All you need to know is that they exist on the spectrum between photos and videos, and they’re easy to create.

Knowing how to make GIFs can significantly increase your content’s appeal. Instead of a picture of the finished product hanging out on a shelf, you could upload a series of photos to one of the sites below to show how to use the product or even how it’s made. Arrange pictures in the proper progression and pick your animation speed. Voilà!

If you’re in the food industry, knowing how to make GIFs means you can showcase quick recipes. Sell landscape or construction services? Use GIFs to teach common household repairs or show the progression of a project from start to finish.

Websites like Make A Gif walk you through how to make GIFs from your pictures and videos or from URLs of videos already online. Giphy is strictly for snagging snippets of videos.

For on-the-fly creation, try the Google Photos app. Boomerang, an app from the Instagram team, will create a GIF in real-time after you snap some pics with a simple one-touch burst on your camera or smartphone.

All about the videos

quik video app
Quik video app screenshot

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth two million. Small business owners are taking note and putting more resources into video. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed plan to increase that commitment next year.

By now, you won’t be surprised to learn that research from Twitter showed photos and videos boosted the number of retweets by 30 to 35 percent. And that’s 35 percent more eyeballs on your business.

Videos work best to highlight action, a great tool for businesses involved in sports, animals, or travel.

Like their static counterparts, videos can be created easily with today’s technology. You’ve already got a device in your pocket capable of assisting your cinematic endeavors.

Capture shots from varying distances—some close, some far away—and angles. Shorter is better here, and 30 to 60 seconds for a finished video is generally long enough.

Vont is a basic app that allows you to add text over video. Change font and color and move the slider to the points in the video where you want text to enter and exit. Quik gives you pre-selected styles mix your chosen photos and video clips with a soundtrack you can change or mute.

A more nuanced app, Splice offers transitions, fades, and tutorials that flash on screen to help you learn as you go.

Because videos are the most labor-intensive of visuals, many apps cost money. If you plan on making video a significant part of your repertoire, however, they’re well worth the cup-of-coffee prices. (And while a $5 app that increases your site or foot traffic is a good investment, you can’t drink a latte twice.)

Advanced infographics

Infographics have a long history that includes one famous admirer from the Oval Office — Abraham Lincoln. Infographics tell a story by using data to illustrate and inform.

Human beings find this combination of numbers and pictures so compelling in part because our brains move faster when we interpret visuals than when we’re reading text (but don’t believe that 60,000x figure).

Infographics are the perfect way to showcase data-heavy businesses, but you can also use these tools to create fun decision charts for some of your products or services.

With some thought and a little planning, you can create infographics that blend the lure of visuals with the narrative power of written information.

social-network-infographicIf you’ve never dipped a toe into the data visualization ocean, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Remember to simplify. Pick a visual palette and stick with it. In other words, choose complementary colors and two fonts, three max. (Understanding how to choose the most effective typography is another post entirely.) To get you started, here are some free icons and Creative Commons pictures from Unsplash, which you can use (without copyright fears).

Websites like Piktochart,, and all provide free templates to get you started creating these delightful or terrifying visual stories. For a price, each offers the flexibility to customize all the details, including adding your own logo.

That’s a wrap

We have an apparently insatiable appetite for visual content, whether it’s cat pictures or an infographic about the universe of fake brands in movies and television—or something slightly more pragmatic, like “Small Business & Social Media.” If you want to kick your brand awareness and web traffic into high gear, it’s time to go visual. It means a bit more time on your part, but these apps and websites offer some shortcuts without short-changing the quality of your content. Done well, any one of these visual additions will make your social media accounts sparkle. And who doesn’t love a bit of sparkle?


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