The magic began in 1987, when the first GIF was created. It was originally generated as an image format that had lossless data compression, which meant images generated had a smaller file size than alternatives like BMP.

The magic continued in 1995, when Netscape made it possible for GIFs to loop (when they launched Navigator 2.0--hello, blast from the past). In 2003, there was another boost, when Myspace let people start using GIFs to trick out their personal pages.

But GIF joy became truly worldwide in 2008, when smartphones like the iPhone made texting such a part of everyday life that we can't even imagine a world without it.

Now, the New Oxford American Dictionary includes GIF in its lexicon, and Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, Kik, and iMessage all offer seamless integration with GIF platforms such that they have become a major part of modern life.

But does that they-are-everywhere mentality extend to the workplace? Where are GIFs appropriate, and where aren't they? 

According to Alex Chung, CEO and co-founder of Giphy, "the average GIF contains 60 frames, and is capable of conveying 60,000 words."

When you're marketing to people with a limited attention span (which is basically everyone at this point), the ability to say 60,000 words in a few seconds is pretty appealing--and this is borne out by a single example from the world of marketing. 

When Dell launched its XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook, it used a GIF to demonstrate its unique properties in its email marketing campaign. 

The Ultrabook was a laptop that converted quickly and easily into a tablet. But instead of telling people that, they showed them:

The result?

Dell saw a 6 percent increase in its open rate on the campaign, a 42 percent jump in its click rate, a 103 percent increase in its conversion rate, and a 109 percent increase in revenue.

Yes, you read that right: a 109 percent increase in revenue.

GIFs are no joke when it comes to engaging your audience. Whether you're using them as a quick product demo or just a fun addition to your email, they're extraordinarily effective.

They're also a smart and easy addition to emails because what made them so convenient to use at the beginning still holds: data-wise, they're small. A lot of email service providers don't support videos very well--so if you try to embed a promo video in your email, a whole lot of your list might just get a big, bad broken link.

But a GIF is almost always supported. Its origins are part of what still make it awesome--most email service providers support them, because of their small file size.

The first step in your email marketing is getting noticed. Using GIFs helps you do just that.

Then it's just a matter of counting those dollar dollar bills.

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Published on: Jul 16, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.