As the world's largest platform for "professionals," LinkedIn recently made a curious move.
As explained by LinkedIn:
"For the next generation of professionals, visual communication using GIFs and emojis is second nature and a universal language. To make it easier for you to communicate on LinkedIn, we’ve teamed up with Tenor to integrate GIFs directly into Messaging. Now you can quickly search for GIFs straight within messaging and send on the spot."
Yes, you read that right - LinkedIn Messaging now features GIFs, which are normally found on Facebook, within messages from teenagers, and in various other "non-professional" forms of communication.
At the same time, according to LinkedIn:
"Seven in 10 Americans use GIFs and other visuals like emojis in their [online] conversations, and this trend has moved to the way people communicate at work as well."
LinkedIn Messaging = Lead Generation
Regardless of whether or not you like GIFs, you have to like how LinkedIn keeps enhancing it's 1-on-1 messaging features.
From real-time conversations that flow back-and-forth like text messages, to "smart" suggested replies and emojis, LinkedIn's aiming to replicate real-life conversations, as best it can, via its messaging platform.
And, if you're using LinkedIn for lead generation, nothing is more effective than personalized, 1-on-1 interactions with your ideal clients and customers on the platform.
For LinkedIn, adding GIFs is yet another nod toward how people - especially younger professionals - communicate online today.
So if you don't already have access, you'll soon see a "GIF" button in your LinkedIn messaging area, and clicking it will enable you to instantly insert GIFs into your messages.
GIFs - Good (or Bad) for Business?
As someone who has long deployed GIFs in my marketing emails and blog posts, I'd already been utilizing them inside LinkedIn messages as regular photo attachments.
And while I love using GIFs to bring an unexpected touch of humor into a conversation, they can definitely be a double-edged sword - many older professionals in particular think GIFs are childish or unprofessional, and that's where you could see LinkedIn suffer some backlash from users as a result.
Also, you run the risk of someone misreading or misinterpreting a GIF you include in a message, and having your attempt at humor backfire on you with a potential client or customer.
Make Your Messages Less Mundane
Regardless of whether you decide to utilize GIFs on LinkedIn, the principle behind them is critical to understand if you want to ensure more engagement with your LinkedIn messages.
“There’s truth in the cliché, 'Just be yourself.' Showing your humanness when you [communicate] is a great way to stand out," writes Nancy Duarte in her book Resonate. "It’s a quality that’s totally lacking in most presentations today - even though the entire audience consists of humans. What people are really looking for when they sit down [to communicate] is some kind of human connection.”
With their instant visual and emotional impact, GIFs are a great way to make your LinkedIn messages much more memorable. They can also help capture attention thanks to the repetitive motion of the images.
“The key to getting and holding attention is having something new happen continually," Duarte writes. "People feel compelled to watch visual events carefully because of our natural fight or flight instinct. Changes in media can create variety for the audience, and hold their interest.”
Whether or not you want to utilize GIFs in your LinkedIn lead generation strategy, it's critical that you insert some of your own unique personality and communication style into your messages on the platform.
You'll also want to make sure your messages create engagement, ask permission and deliver value to your prospects and customers as well.
If you utilize that approach, along with showcasing your personality and sense of humor in your 1-on-1 messages, you'll see way more engagement (and new business) as a result.