Express Yourself: Understanding Visual Languages

Talking about my love and making strategic sense of GIFs has been on my wish list for a blog for a while. Social trends shift often, but GIFs, Emojis and stickers have consistently remained relevant in pop/social culture as time goes by. When thinking about these mediums, it all boils down to self expression. 

let’s take a walk down memory lane…

Harp GIF by Ajeet - Find & Share on GIPHY

Growing up I adored Madonna and for the record, I still do. I taught my sister to Vogue, I channeled Material Girl down every set of stairs I walked down and as an adult, I sang La Isla Bonita while floating in the ocean in San Pedro, Belize. She was cool, bold and I appreciated how she expressed herself and empowered others to do the same. This is one of the many examples of how I gained an affinity for self-expression that remains one of my core values to this day. 

Professionally I quickly observed how individuals were tapping into GIFs and emojis to express their thoughts and feelings in place of traditional language. I noted how they could be used for adding context, gaining engagement and also adding additional layers of information. In the world of social media, especially higher education brand social media, the ability to humanize is critical to our work. In bringing a human and personal tone to our university voice on social media, we’re always seeking new ways to connect beyond traditional methods. 

To date, WashU’s Giphy account, which houses our GIF content, has garnered more than 55 million views of our GIF content. WashU’s social media strategy involves two key concepts:

  1. Creating engaging GIF content that supports our social efforts across platforms 

Evidence of our GIF use can be found across our social media channels. We tap into them on Twitter to provide context and additional flavor to research posts. We also plug this content to add more WashU sauce and pride to our efforts on TikTok and Instagram.  

  1. Providing a social media vocabulary for our community to discuss their life and experiences at WashU

Whether it’s pride or inside language unique to life at WashU we continue to search out new opportunities for our university community to express and communicate their experience to their connections via social. In the examples below you will see a traditional GIF and an animated sticker which is a transparent GIF that can be applied to other social content on Instagram, Messenger, Snapchat and TikTok.

How to get started with GIF content? 

  1. Incorporate existing GIFs and stickers from the WashU Giphy account into your social media content strategy. These assets have been created for our entire community to use and enjoy. Our GIF content is searchable on Twitter, Instagram and anywhere where GIFs are searchable. 
  2. While you are able and welcome to use GIF content from outside of our library, always understand the origin of the clip and the context of how users are using it. It is important to know that with GIF culture comes stereotypes and inappropriate/questionable use. It’s a general best practice to understand the context and how a GIF is used before tapping into it. (Bonus nugget: this goes for emojis as well)
  3. Want to make GIFs? It’s easy and anyone can do it on Giphy, there are multiple creation options for you to choose from. Have a cool research video or captured a fun moment via video? It’s “GIFable.” This content can be made, downloaded and used across almost every social platform. 
  4. Should you open an account? While we generally prefer all of WashU’s Giphy content to exist within the central account, we would love to speak with anyone who has interest in learning more and partnering within the central space. 

I hope you enjoyed this quick glimpse into our mindset around GIFs. Have ideas on how to expand our GIF library? Reach out anytime! Until next time!

Breaking News Turn Around Doctor GIF by Dr. Donna Thomas Rodgers - Find & Share on GIPHY

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