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Special Project

Special Project
From the 7th Annual Shorty Awards

STARZ’s live GIFing campaign for Outlander

Finalist in Animated GIFs


STARZ knew it had a social powerhouse in Outlander, a show that brought with it a large built-in audience that had followed the book series for many years. The challenge was how to engage this passionate fan base on social as each episode aired, since many of the viewers already knew what was going to happen after reading each book several times. On social media, our content had to continue to stoke the excitement of fans who were seeing their favorite books come to life, while tastefully complementing a viewing experience with no commercial breaks.

The team turned to the power of the GIF to accomplish this with Twitter's brand new GIF functionality, selecting key moments from each episode of Outlander to tweet live as the moment occurred. Nearly 40 GIFs were created for the first eight episodes of Season 1 and timed strategically to hit just as conversation spiked for specific scenes and the fans' excitement was evident: GIFs averaged more than 49% greater average engagement than other tweet types, helping Outlander trend multiple times and become a mainstay at the top of Saturday's Nielsen Twitter TV ratings.

Strategy and Execution

TV shows and GIFs go hand-in-hand, as fans can relive their favorite moments from each episode over and over again. Until recently, however, Tumblr was the only mainstream social media platform that allowed GIFs to be uploaded natively. This presented a challenge for networks that wanted to use them, since Twitter is usually the primary vehicle to engage fans during episodes and where 95% of public conversation about live TV occurs, according to Twitter Advertising.

But when Twitter launched the ability to upload GIFs, the social team at STARZ Entertainment and its agency Edelman Digital saw a huge opportunity for the network's flagship show Outlander. The team devised a plan to create and share live GIFs during each new episode so that fans could watch Outlander on their TV and then immediately turn to Twitter for a complementary social experience. Each week, 3 or 4 key moments of each episode were chosen to GIF where the community manager would publish the tweet exactly when the moment occurred. Scenes were chosen based on qualitative conversation analysis which allowed the team to predict which scenes the community was likely to react most positively to, such as the steamy moments from the wedding episode or the epic cliff-hanger in the midseason finale.

The campaign required very careful planning, but the results were Outlandish. The 37 GIF tweets used during the first eight episodes of Season 1…

Generated 49% greater average engagement than other tweet types

Helped Outlander crack the Top 5 of the Nielsen Twitter TV ratings for each episode, including No. 1 on two occasions

Outperformed in-season GIF content from competitor shows: The Leftovers (+477%), Vikings (+416%), True Blood (+92%) and Orphan Black (17%),

Helped Outlander outperform True Blood's final season in total Twitter engagements despite fewer outgoing tweets and 87% fewer followers

Drove conversation using specific keywords, resulting in seven different Outlander keywords or hashtags trending either worldwide or in the U.S. during episode airings

The GIFs were also added to a "GIF wall" on, where fans could view the entire collection and see exclusive ones not shared during the episode. The STARZ team also secured a partnership with Outlander fan site That's Normal to provide an exclusive GIF to share in their episodic recap each week.

In summary, careful creative selection, audience listening and real-time amplification combined to make GIFs a huge component of Outlander's success on Twitter. Take a look at some of the examples in the below link section – they might just sweep you off your feet.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

STARZ Entertainment & Edelman Digital


Entry Credits