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There are some new but still tried-and-true ways to build brand awareness—like through digital advertising or partnerships with influencers. There are old-school methods, too, like getting the product placed in a movie or television show, sponsoring an event, or good old-fashioned earned media coverage.

But in this age of innovation, why not try something new? The social media management platform Hootsuite is attracting eyeballs in a way most marketers might not have considered yet: by creating GIFs and stickers and putting them up on Giphy.

Giphy, which bills itself as the world’s first and largest database of GIFs—very short, animated clips that can be used on social media, Slack chats, and elsewhere across the internet—boasts some 700 million daily users. Hootsuite’s idea for getting their attention was to create shareable GIFs featuring the company’s logo and a cute little owl, and then load them up onto the Giphy platform. This offering did not draw much engagement at first—just a couple hundred downloads on a good day. Then Hootsuite’s head of social, Nick Martin, had the idea to optimize the GIFs.

Martin pursued optimization in a number of ways. First, he put himself in the shoes of a GIF user and tried to imagine what they’d want to download and share—the reaction GIFs, for example, that so many of us use to express a thought in place of words. But he didn’t just imagine what someone might want to use in, say, a Slack message today. The mission he set out for himself was to think of the GIFs someone could still be using five years from now—then he created and uploaded them.

Second, he aimed to “optimize for discoverability.” That effort meant tagging each GIF to make it likely to come up in searches. Martin told the website that spikes in usage came from optimizing tags—and that in Hootsuite’s experience, the more tags, the better.

The proof is in the downloading and sharing: Hootsuite now enjoys 55 million-plus views of its GIFs and stickers, with over 500,000 views per day. Tell you what, we’d add a shocked face/thumbs up reaction GIF here, if the format allowed

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some other unconventional and innovative ways for companies to build brand awareness?
  2. What are some emotions and reactions that you could see still being used in GIF form, five years from now?
  3. Do you think that Hootsuite is building brand awareness in a meaningful way through its GIFs?

Sources: “How Hootsuite Uses GIPHY for Free Awareness (55M+ Views),” Marketing Examined, March 14, 2022; https://giphy.com/gifs/hootsuite-jsHXlTn1O2NOuAHB7A, visited on April 17, 2023; Megan Marrs, “18 Sneaky Ways to Build Brand Awareness,” WordStream, February 7, 2023

Photo from iStock.com/Dezein