(from Billboard Magazine, March 9, 2013) Within 24 hours of releasing the video for “Kiss You,” One Direction scored 10.4 million Vevo views, almost breaking the record for most views in a single day. This achievement highlights a growing trend in the digital music realm—the use of Graphic Interchange Format or GIF files to engage fans. GIFs are short, looped video clips often featured on photo sharing apps like Tumblr. About an hour after the release of “Kiss You,” One Direction’s Tumblr started reblogging fan-made GIFs from footage of the video. Those GIFS then went on to garner anywhere between 25,000 to 40,000 repostings, much higher than the average 2,000 to 6,000 for static posts. “By encouraging fans to reblog their favorite content, artists are joining the conversation with their fans in a direct and more engaging manner,” says Nate Auerbach of Tumblr.
The simplicity of GIF files has its disadvantages. For instance, it is difficult to measure user interaction with GIFs because they don’t have cookies, clicks, or video views. One music marketer who spoke with Billboard says GIFs present a very real opportunity for the music business. “GIFs have exploded, especially with fans under 25,” says the marketer, “they’re fun and this is about fan engagement. While it may be difficult to draw a direct line to the return on investment, this about the sizzle rather than the steak.”
Although there is still much debate as to whether or not it sells more albums or concert tickets, digital marketers cannot deny the importance of fan engagement within social media. In addition to One Direction, acts such as Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, and Snoop Lion are using GIFs to capture the attention of millennial fans. “With email, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds, we’ve become a scrolling generation,” says Ricky Rollins, Talent Manager for Schumacher Management, “and GIFs deliver the most bang for the buck: a visual, verbal message in a fraction of a second.”