GIFs, emojis and stickers: Can it help you get the engagement you desire on social?

Facebook-owned photo-sharing app Instagram is in the news again as it is said to be testing a donation sticker. While Instagram has not yet commented if this is actually in the works to media outlets, the sticker trend is clearly on the rise. But scrolling through any Insta-story or private chat (guilty as a Millennial), you will no doubt come across numerous posts creatively executed with the use of GIFs, emojis and stickers.

So what does this new era of conversation mean for brands?

In a conversation with Marketing, GIPHY's head of revenue Alex Magnin said the company has seen significant growth in short-form visual content being shared across the web every year. Currently, GIPHY serves over seven billion GIFs and stickers to more than 500 million daily active users every single day.

Magnin said that advertisers now have the opportunity to connect the brand's identity to the sensibilities of its audience - and, connect it with something more human and emotional. More importantly, they get the chance to have those branded GIFs and stickers used within messaging platforms as users share them with each other to convey their emotions and feelings.

Social media players

Social media players Marketing spoke to such as the founder and CEO of Orion Social Media Shanker Joyrama said that branded social icons can increase engagement levels incredibly. They allow a brand to step out of its typical corporate identity and be bolder with their brand and even their mascot. Moreover, it’s a fun way of being consistently top-of-mind and visible amongst consumers by being cheeky and quirky.

“CIMB has come out with branded social icons and they help to create a fun disposition for the brand – think of it as an alter ego or Jekyll and Hyde experience,” he added.

Germs Digital managing director James Chua also sees the potential of branded social icons, which are low-cost but effective if done well. He said, "With increasing conversations happening in dark social, there is definitely value in branded social icons if brands can find a way to insert themselves seamlessly as part of the social vernacular. The first few who does it well usually gets the bragging rights and gain the reputation of being more relatable."

Chua however added that given branded social icons are still a new frontier, not many brands have effectively managed to execute the function given the challenges with aspects such as limited real estate, understanding consumer-talk, and balancing brand messages.

"Marketers need to assess and identify how their brand is relevant to a conversation, and insert themselves from the perspective of the consumer,” he said. Being quick to recognise trending topics, memes and slangs will give brands first mover advantage in creating relevant content assets, especially as the wave trends and passes quickly. Humor, added Chua, always helps.

"The challenge is in balancing assets that are informal and expressive, yet still represents the brand effectively. With so many stickers already on the market, creativity is key in making them stand out without the brand being overtly in your face. After all, there is little real estate in icons."

Joyrama, meanwhile, suggested playing on trends such as music and festivities to be relevant and identifiable.

"We’ve briefed clients that it should be more about the icon and the emoji, and less the brand. If it’s more of a brand – you can rest assured people are not going to use it. To win and to be engaging is to be bold and brave. If it’s replicating a typical creative brief, then it’s never going to work,” said Joyrama. Moreover, there needs to be a compelling reason why consumers would want to use it in my conversations in the first place.