On May 30, 2018, I managed to get approved for an Artist account and have gone from the 8 GIFs I originally submitted to 259 uploads amassing 160.2M views.
For nearly 3 years (at the time of writing this) I have been creating GIFs that are largely reaction-based or showing off the city of Milwaukee. I’ve also helped local companies get approved Brand accounts; so let me break down how you can start making your own GIFs and how you can improve your chances to get verified.
First of all – no, you don’t have to be “verified” to make GIFs. I use the GIPHY app (you can also do this through their website) to convert video files into GIFs, just create an account and you’ll be able to start creating.
The idea to create GIFs came from seeing @WarwickABrown and @TonyDoesAds using them in Twitter chats and noticed how much their tweets stood out as a result. Tony Christensen actually has a great video on YouTube that explains “How To Create GIFs For Twitter Using GIPHY” and it got me started!
Basically, you just need to create a video that you want to turn into a GIF. To make the process easier, set up your camera on a tripod and record multiple ‘reactions’ (if that’s what you want to make), then cut them up into individual videos after.
The shortest video that GIPHY will allow you to upload is between 0.10 to 30.0 seconds. But I would recommend something between 1-4 seconds if you can, this typically has the best upload quality. Once you have your video(s), you can upload to GIPHY via their mobile app or directly on their website (base this on wherever your internet connection is strongest, for the best quality).
Pro Tip: rather than using GIPHY’s tools to add captions and edits, do it all to your videos before uploading them to the platform. I find that the quality tends to be better and you have a little more control over how the GIF turns out.
Once you start uploading your GIFs, you’ll be able to see them on your own channel. You can also share the link to your channel with others (i.e. @MartinMoorejr) – they just won’t be publicly searchable on GIPHY-powered platforms until your account gets verified.
Generating Ideas for GIFs
For me, I think about the kind of GIFs I want to use and either recreate them (i.e. the ‘success kid’ meme) or if I can’t find a reaction, then I create my own (i.e. the sneezing one… there weren’t many options for it, and as obscure it is, it has 3.2M views to date).
I also saw a big gap in city-specific GIFs and wanted to provide more options for use within the city of Milwaukee. Everything from the People’s Flag of Milwaukee blowing in the wind to the Hoan Bridge after Light the Hoan lit up one side at the end of 2020.
I have since seen local brands pop up with accounts like OnMilwaukee, Summerfest, the Brewers, and the Bucks. I’ve also created Brand accounts for 103.7 KISS-FM, 99.1 The Mix, and Cardinal Stritch University.
In my first 3 months of creating verified GIFs (June 1 – August 31, 2018), I uploaded a total of 93 original GIFs that received over 10M views. Fast-forward to April 2021 and I am sitting over 160M views. But what counts as a “GIF view”?
It’s not about how many times someone watches your GIF ‘loop’ (like how Vine operated their view count), rather it’s when your GIF populates in the search results, no matter the platform (GIPHY, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder…).
If you were to search “buh dum tss” – a GIF of me playing an imaginary drum set will pop up (oftentimes, as the top of the results). This GIF is my top GIF with 6,361,128 views. It was just a sarcastic idea I had and uploaded in 2019, I didn’t expect it to gain as much traction as it did.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t track the actual uses of your GIF by others. I have an assumption that hasn’t been confirmed – the more that users select your GIF from specific keywords in the search, your GIF ranks higher in future searches and thus improves your view count for that GIF. This then brings in the importance of selecting the best tags for your GIFs.
Tags on GIFs
A big reason for your potential reach is assigning appropriate tags (or keywords) to your GIFs that would help someone find them in the search. For me, you can search “@JMattMke” in any GIPHY-powered browser and you’ll see all of my GIFs – but… the average person won’t find my GIFs this way, since they don’t already know me.
GIPHY limits you to 20 tags, so use every single one as long as you can come up with relevant keywords or phrases. The nice thing is that you can always go back into the GIF at any time and edit/add tags if you think of more later on.
Dashboard + Analytics
I’m a statistics guy, so I love that official channels receive a dashboard filled with analytics, which includes a quick glance at your Top GIFs, as well as a more thorough report of all of your GIFs from a downloadable full CSV file.
Not only do the analytics show the total views, but it shows which keyword phrases are leading to the most engagement from users in the search. I can select “Show More” to see my top 20 GIFs and use that information to make future content too.
Tips for Verification
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are ways to improve your chances to get an approved Artist or Brand account (but it’s not a guarantee).
- Create a GIPHY account with an email address that matches your website (if you can).
- Complete your bio, upload a picture of yourself (or your brand’s logo), include your website. If you’re a personality within a brand (i.e. I was a radio DJ for a radio station), use a page within the brand’s website that talks about you.
- Upload 5-10 GIFs before submitting for an approved account. This shows whoever is vetting your account the kind of content you’ll be uploading. Put yourself in the GIFs or if you’re an animator, show your original work.
- Apply with GIPHY for either an Artist or Brand account. If you apply during a weekday, you should hear within 1-2 business days.
IF you successfully get an approved account, delete and re-upload the initial 5-10 GIFs you uploaded. Every time I’ve created an account, those initial GIFs just never perform as well as everything uploaded after approval. Also why I wouldn’t suggest uploading ALL of your GIFs before submitting yourself for approval.
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