Presenter: Jon-Stephen Stansel
GIFs are the lingua franca of Twitter. They can express complex ideas and emotions that can’t fit into a Tweet, create humor and levity, or add a personal touch to a reply. In higher education, we use them constantly to congratulate students when they’ve just been accepted, share the excitement of the school year starting, or wish students luck on final exams.
But what happens when your audience doesn’t get the pop culture reference or worse, the celebrity featured in the GIF becomes the topic of controversy you do not what associated with your institution? To solve this the University of Central Arkansas created a GIPHY channel featuring university branded GIFs and GIF stickers featuring the school mascot, logos and even the university president.
Speaker: Thank you so much. How is everybody doing today? There have in some great sessions. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m Jon-Stephen Stansel, you can call me Jon-Stephen or JS.
I’m the Digital Media Specialist at the University of Arkansas, and my pronouns are he/him/his. Join the conversation on Twitter. Here is my handle. You can use this tag. I have some tweets lined up and scheduled to hit at key times during my presentation, fingers crossed. There are supplementary information on the Twitter feed, so feel free to follow along there. I am Team Hard G. I pronounce it “GIF” not “JIF. ” If you pronounce it “JIF,” don’t feel left out. We can have a conversation later.
My background is in literature and linguistics. I have references and data to to back myself up in a debate. We can talk about that later. Why GIFs? Why do we have use GIFs? Why, in higher ed., should we use GIFs? I used to be against GIFs and emoji. I came around to them. Gretchen McCulloch came out with this book. If you’re interested in the Internet and logistics, I recommend this. “We use emoji less to describe the world around us . . . “
We do the same for GIFs. GIFs allow us to be human online. They cut through some of that difficulty in communication of words alone or still images. GIFs give us the tools to be ourselves online. “GIFs offer a way to indicate more activate listening responses, , like ‘I hear you’ and ‘I understand you. ‘” This is vital for university students. It is better than hitting the “Like” button and saying “Congrats. ” Students will post an acceptance letter, and we will say, “Congrats! ” They don’t know it’s me. This is special. The university has GIFs? Wow? This is something special. Sometimes, we don’t use a branded GIF. This is an example posted by a student who graduated. She was emulating the final scene of The Breakfast Club. We replied, “Congrats. Don’t you forget about us”. ” An y’Any ’80s kids in here?
With all of the GIFs out there, there are millions that exist and are used, and there’s a language of GIFs . . . Why do we need to make our own? Why not use those that are there? First, it’s easy to use branded content for your campus stakeholders, right? All those tiny little By making the GIFs readily available to use, they have easy-to-use branded content, they can pull the content up right there. They can use a branded GIF. This might be Maybe you don’t have an image. Here’s a blurry photo. You can give branded content for them to use. Also, you use your brand. It’s better to get the name of your institution out there rather than Arrested Development, which I love.
Also, GIFs can mitigate the risk behind pop-culture GIFs, right? Iiyama’ cheesy iI’m choosy about using GIFs in culture. Is what I’m using appropriate? Sometimes, I don’t know where a GIF is from. It’s the perfect GIF, it’s the perfect expression. It has the perfect sentence. I don’t know what movie it is, I don’t know what TV star it is. I have no idea about the current state of boy bands. Right? So, we can use ones that are from our brand, and we don’t have to worry about that. We don’t have to worry about the Milkshake Duck. It comes from this Tweet. The Internet loves milkshake ducks . . . We regret to inform you, the duck is racist. You’ve got a post planned, you’ve got the perfect GIFp to go with it, you post it. Almost every day, celebrities are in some turmoil, and you’ve posted something, and the first response is, “That guy is horrible. Why did you use that GIF? ” By having branded content, you can avoid that. Sometimes, not everyone gets the reference.
I know every single word of the film The Big Lebowski by heart. A current student probably has not seen the movie. If I reply, “The Dude abides”—WTF. What is this? Everyone at the university can relate to what you have, what content you have. You can be assured they will be able to understand that response. I’ll give you an example. This is You’ll get this GIF. I posted this because I thought the new season of Dr. Dr. Who is starting, it’s the first female Dr. Who. Are you ready for the new season of Dr. Who? No. I loved this GIF. It totally fell flat. When we use pop-culture GIFs, we don’t know whether the audience will understand that. Engagement, engagement, engagement. We see so much engagement behind these GIFs, not only when we post them. We see our audience post them, we see the smaller accounts post them, we see our president post them. When we use them, we get results. I’ll show you data on that. That brings us to Giphy, a website that hosts all of The the GIFs. It’s basically YouTube for GIFs. It’s also search-enabled. When you search for GIFs on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram stories, most of the time you’re utilizing Giphy.
You can have presence in all of these places. Something I’ve heard repeated in the sessions today sis, “You don’t have to be a presence member to have a presence on that platform. ” I heard someone say, “We’re phasing out our Snapchat. I don’t have the time to.o be There. ” You can still have a presence there, by having usable GIFs and GIF stickers on those platforms. This is our page for the University of Central Arkansas. Not a lot of people go through this page. I might be one of the only people who do. This is where our GIFs are hosted. The majority of people find it through GIF search. A few things about having a verified Giphy account . . . So far, getting verified is incredibly easy on Giphy. They want content creators. They want people creating original content on their channel. It’s a two-step process. You get a brand, a Giphy channel, you apply for it. They have an e-mail you sent to: “I’d like to be verified on Giphy. ” We got our verification within a day. It’s pretty quick.
Everyone I talked to had a similar experience. You need content on the Giphy channel before you apply, so they can look at it and see what GIFs and content you will use. That will help your verification process. Once you are verified, your GIFs will show up in the Giphy search. There are GFI IF packs, for finals week, say, and our credential GIFs. More importantly, you get data. Yay, data! Right? Our Giphy channel, we’re just over—I; 15 months old. We’ve got about 32.8 million GIFs used. There is a big caveat here. Ioway not I want to be transport about our data, to our stakeholders, my boss, everyone. A GIF view is not the same as a GIF used, or when somebody sees a GIF that is shared. When you search on Giphy, Twitter, or Instagram, and you see all those GIFs come up, each appearance is a GIF view. That juices your stats a bit, and gives you some numbers that are a little falsely impressive, a little misleading. However, I see this as indicating; success. I don’t know the full extent of the use of our GIFs, but at 32.8 million, they’re getting used and seen.
These are our top five GIFs. They are all stickers, which I’ll talk about. Making GIFs is incredibly easy. The Giphy interface is a simple drag-and-drop. Drag and drop your video clip in Giphy. Set your duration and start time. You see how long it will be before it repeats. At that point, you can be prompted to decorate your GIF. You can add text. They give you a few different text options, from memes, to eight-bit pixels. You can add animations to it. At fsrt,irst, I thought I would never use this. It’s so basic. We can do better. We have a videographer that can add animated text and make something really cool. He did one and I was like, this doesn’t look like a GIF. This looks really professional. This doesn’t feel right. So, we went for a less polished approach for our GIFs, using the native tools. It gives a more more of a GIF authenticity and speaks the GIF language. That is a personal aesthetic. When we tried to do too much, it didn’t match the language of that GIFs. And then, tags, tags, tags.
We tag our GIFs as much as we can. Giphy will penalize you if you use spam tags. If it’s not related to the GIF, don’t put tags there. We use anything that helps students find our GIFs. We use #UCA. It’s also the United Cheerleaders Association, which has their own Giphy channel and GIFs. There’s a Catholic University in Argentina. We’re using #UCABears. We For a long time, and still right now, if you searched this in Giphy, you would find our school. Our president loves that! Other schools in Arkansas caught on, but our GIFs are better. An important thing [to remember are rating GIFs.
I haven’t perused or made R-rated GIFs for the university. Ours are all G. If you don’t rate them, they won’t show up in search. Easy, right? That brings us to President Davis. This is our university president, Houston Davis. President Davis is awesome. The students love him. He’s with it, he is on social Instagram, he goes to Jack White concerts, I think he tweeted live from Bonnaroo. We did an Instagram survey: “What GIFs would you like to see? ” Overwhelming, people wanted to see President Davis GIFs. I said, “Can we make GIFs with you? ” He said, “You mean JIFs?” “No, sir. The proper name is GIFs.”
He was totally game. In planning for it, the original idea was to take commonly used GIFs and re-create them with our president. We have this Rambo, thumbs-up, the mic drop, the blank Justin Timberlake stare, and others. I showed the president the GIFs and said, “Do this . . . Do This.this.” He had a post-it note of GIF reactions he wanted to do, like “non;Nom-nom-nom-nom-nom. Eat it up.”
This concept worked well. I didn’t want to waste his time. He was like, “I have time. Do you want to do a couple more?” He was generous with his time on this. This happened about a week before HighEdWeb last year. In a way I was really excited to put this together. It was about an hour in the studio, then a day going through the footage and going through the GIFs. The time going through it was not a lot, and the cost was nothing. We posted it, and let students know, and put it on Twitter and Instagram. I told the students, you have to see this. Search this. Reply with your favorite President Davis GIF. The replies just rolled in. [Laughing]
This is from departments , students, faculty—they all just really loved using them. ove using them. Quickly, other departments wanted them. This is our Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. Our president and his wife came in and dressed with purple Shakespeare garb, and made comments with specific Shakespeare quotations. The first is The second is “I am not bound to please thee,” also from the Merchant of Venice The The Merchant of Venice. The last is from Hamlet. It is a fun and cheeky way to be snarky on social media. We have several more we did for the theater, and those were successful and a lot of fun. But aren’t you worried that someone will use these GIFs inappropriately? No. [Laughing] My apologies to President Davis. We talked about that, and the conclusion was, if students want to make fun of the president, they have the tools to do it. Right? We have photos . . . I did this on my iPhone.
They have are a million times more sophisticated than that. They can grab a video clip from a website and re-edit that. They can take photos we have and reuse that. They can By putting something out there and showing that we want to interact on social, and we are giving the president the tools to interact with the student, keeps us from having this problem. This is why they love him, because he does things like this. I don’t think this is exactly for everyone, if your president is unpopular or controversial in certain ways, or not very charismatic. I see it working as almost awkwardness-ais-funny. It gives the president the tools to interact with students. A student says, “It’s snowing. Cancel school!” and uses his GIF. He responds, “Nope.” When I went to college, he the university president served turkey on Thanksgiving. That was it. I don’t even remember his name. Now, students can reach out. I’m glad he’s getting this snow-day question and not me. Right? So, that’s great. But our president would never agree to this! You have other options. Here rare things from a few other schools.
Texas A&M has used their live-mascot GIFs. I wish we did, to wed but we’re the bears and that would be dangerous. The University of Florida has polled students. I could look at this GIF all day. One looks for campus character. Every school has that lady in the cafeteria line that everybody loves, right? Or that unusual character out on a unicycle on campus every day. This was Bubble Guy, who sat outside the library every day, shouting out nice things and blowing bubbles. “You look great day! ” “Good luck on your test today!” If you can’t use your university president, there are other options. Use B-roll. Look at the extra footage and repurpose that for GIFs. Throw some text stuff on it. Boom! Instant GIFs.
You’ve got it there. Usually, it looks really good. It’s shot with professional equipment rather than a phone. You’ve got really good B-roll for recycled content. That brings us to GIF stickers. Up until now, we’ve been talking about the regular GIFs on Twitter and Facebook sometimes. GIF stickers you can create, that students can use on their Instagram stories. They can search for a sticker and put it on their photos, on TickTock and Snapchat.
Here’s a collection of stickers that I love. The University of Florida has some, Texas A&M. I love the data I was doing research to get into this project, looking at schools, thinking, these are great, . But we don’t have an animator. Our designers are super busy with other projects. I don’t know how we’re going to do these things. This is great for Texas A&M, but a team of one at the University of Central Arkansas, how will I make this happen? Recycle, recycle, recycle. Animate preexisting graphics. Here’s a graphic for our ’90s-themed homecoming. I’m so old already. Saved by the Bell. We were able to animate frames. This is just two framese, rames, making it shake, and repurposing that content.
Now that we’re doing that, I can sell that to those smaller accounts that want content from us as a value add. Not only are you getting this from our designer, but we’ll make you social-media GIFs. They eat it up. They love it. “Can we get a sticker for this? ” That gives us an instant sticker library. All of these are repurposed from other projects. This wis a simple animation. You can make it grow or shrink. I do all of this in Photoshop. It should be going up in a moment, but I live-tweeted a link to a video tutorial for how to make these. You convert layers to frames and animate in Photoshop. So, you have an instant sticker library. Our most popular one today, two weeks ago, had over eight million views. This is content I made for the admissions office, to encourage students to sign up for the ACT. We posted it on the admissions account, and it went nowhere. I converted it to a GIF, and this is used a lot more. The bubbles spell out “UCA. ” That’s, by far, our most popular GIF.
This happens. I don’t know if you know who this woman is. I don’t, either. I’m sitting at home, and I get a Twitter alert: “I saw one UCA ‘s GIFs on Love Island’s Instagram story. ” I think it’s a reality TV -TV show. I kIt had 80,000 views overnight of one GIF, a little sinker GIF. What’s the value of that? Of those 80,000 Love Island fans, and our tin;logo is the bear .. . . How many people saw that? Did it get us any students? No, it did not get any students. But of those handful of students who saw it, who were watching love Island, and see their school, that enhances I their experience, especially for a smaller school with little recognition. You see big school s everywhere.
People wear Harvard shirts but no UCA shirts. It enhances their experience. We make GIF stickers for every holiday, as many as we can. We reuse them, we repurpose them. We tried to go international, for the Chinese New Year. We have a large population of Chinese students. That went over well. This is a new part that I’m excited about, making things more interactive. International Pronoun Day is on the 16th We created this GIF, with a name badge. The student can use the text tool in Instagram and Snapchat and add their own name and pronouns. Right now, I’m looking for more ways to do this, so students can customize these GIF stickers. One thing I learned after the fact is, in order for them to write on it, you can’t do layers on Instagram. I made one and the background was white, and I was trying to write my name on it. My ink kept going behind the sticker. So you need to use a transparent area for people to write on. That worked out well for us. I’m really excited for this one, to see how our library is doing for Pronoun Day. I used this for them. I’m looking forward to this one coming out.
A quick note about accessibility . . . This is the biggest drawback behind GIFs. GIFs are not really very accessible. There’s no way to add alt-text for screen readers, yet. I can’t imagine why. It seems a pretty easy fix for Giphy to do, or for Twitter to add a way. If we can do it for photos, why not add alt-text for GIFs s? We try to add the alt-text in our Tweet. We describe what is going on in the GIF. Unfortunately, Twitter is limited on characters. If f I have to choose between the characters and the alt-text, the alt-text will not be there. When we use our GIFs, the message can be understood without the GIF, still. It’s not imperative to have the message. But we want to keep it as accessible as possible.
On that note, I want to say thank you. We have time for questions. Please feel free to find me on Twitter. I’m @jsstansel. You can learn more from my blog. Please fill out an evaluation. Thank you for coming. I will open up to questions now. Come on down!
Female Speaker: Question about the ones you do for homecoming, and those that are specific, like year-specific . . . Do you keep them up forever, or take them down after the event has passed? Jon-Stephen Stansel: If the year is listed on the sticker, we take it down. Last year’s homecoming, we had a different GIF. We want people to use the ’90s-themed and not the Mardis Gras-themed. Generally, content is not available after 24 hours. That hasn’t come up as an issue, either. Thank you. All right, more questions.
Female Speaker: Hey. I am from Kenyan College. Our students set up an unofficial Facebook group. As you can imagine, it’s amazing most of the time. It’s often very internal to students. If students come up with their own, do you work with them to add to your official library, or share back and forth?
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yes, by all means. One project I would like to do is make a design project for some graphic-design students, to give them a platform. If you want to help and create some GIFs, we’ll put the best on our channel.Giphy channel. I haven’t seen students-created GIFs yet. I would love to see that. That is a great way to see their content. I would definitely be open to that If I saw that. If you see it, jump on it.
Male Speaker: Hello. Just a quick question about the functionality of giphy. Stickers—is it a separate thing you have to specify to work as a sticker, or is it the same thing?
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Excellent question. All stickers have a transparent background, when you upload it, and automatically they will be kept as stickers. You can click GIF buttons and sticker buttons and see them divided.
Male Speaker: Thank you.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Thank you. Excellent. Well, last call for questions? No? All right, well, thank you so much for coming. I appreciate it. [Applause]