Great Social Media Idea: Spiffy Gifs

If you've spent any time on the internet over the past two years, you probably can relate to the timeless power ballad by Tesla (which actually is a cover of a Five Man Electrical Band song): "Gifs, gifs, everywhere there's gifs, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind..."

Yes, gifs are everywhere. And they are pretty annoying for the most part, unless you happen to be a teenager who really loves Tumblr. But they are also very popular, and can indeed serve a purpose in the right circumstance beyond reaction faces and movie/tv quotes. 

The best purpose I can see them serving in the higher ed world is in athletics. Yes, athletics... that murky place whose marketing and social media work is usually operated by people across campus. But in the immortal words of High School Musical: We're all in this together! Right? Right!

So with that spirit in mind - and with a desire to experiment a bit with something cool and different - I stuck my oar into the gif world in a big way this past weekend, posting in-game gif highlights on Twitter from a basketball game and a soccer game.  

The results blew me away. Nearly 2,000 total clicks on the highlights (WAY above normal for links posted on the athletics Twitter account), and a gif game recap I posted for the basketball game (using examples like this and this as inspiration) ended up getting nearly twice as many pageviews as the typical game story. I'm still wrapping my head around the best way to put these to use, but one things for sure... as 'Sheed would say, Click don't lie!

Goooooooooooooooooal Pilots!!! 

Goooooooooooooooooal Pilots!!! 

So, how did I do it? First off, I used the website imgflip to create my gifs. I picked that one because it allows users to create gifs from sites like YouTube as well as from uploading your own video and/or still images. Crucially, I needed a site that would host the gifs and provide me a shareable link. I wanted something very user friendly, and this fit the bill. It also has the bonus of providing metrics for how many views each gif gets. I decided to spring for the $10 for a premium account for the ability to post longer and better quality gifs, but that definitely isn't a necessity.

Next, I needed to find good software that could capture streaming video from the internet. My college (and most others) provides pretty good quality live-streaming of home athletics games, and this was going to be the basis for most of the gifs I posted. (I also took a few videos with my phone and uploaded them to imgflip directly.) After a bit of research, I settled upon SnagIt.  It's a $50 cost to purchase it, but I downloaded a trial version, which I can use for free for 30 days. I found it to be quite good and very easy to use, so if I continue doing stuff like this I will probably just buy it. All you have to do is set a bounding box on your screen, and it will record that space as long as you tell it too. Very handy!

Students are fired up! Took this video with my phone.

Students are fired up! Took this video with my phone.

Any time there was a big play, I would stop the recording, save the video file, and then upload it to imgflip, where I would set start and stop points and it would create a gif lickity split. Then I would Tweet out the link as fast as I could, so I could get back to recording the game.

With two games under my belt now, I recognize that in an ideal situation, I would actually have two computers recording at the same time, which would prevent me from missing a big play while I spent time creating the gif and posting on Twitter. Not a make or break thing by any means, but it would have made things a bit less stressful.

Also, I'm not entirely sure if it's worth the effort to write a full "illustrated" recap of a game. It was cool and pretty fun to do, but I think it's probably more effective as a real-time thing on social media than as an after-the-fact recap. Then again, it did prove to be pretty popular, so maybe it is worth it. Still figuring that part out. 

But I know this - as attention spans continue to shorten and as the internet continues to transform into primarily a graphic medium from primarily a text medium, providing quick, visual ways for people to process information and get to the "nut graph" of the story without reading anything will become increasingly important. And when it comes to athletics highlights, at the moment I think gifs do a better job of it than anything else we've got available to us right now.

Viva la gif! 

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