The Ultimate Guide to Using Emojis in Social Media Marketing

T

If you are online on a regular basis, you are probably familiar with emojis. Emojis are the little graphical icons that accompany text. They come in a variety of forms, such as smiley faces, hand gestures, animals and objects.

Emojis first emerged in the late 1990s. They were initially created for Japanese mobile phones, to be used in their messaging programs. With the spread of smartphones, they took on a life of their own.

Given how pervasive social media is these days, emojis are instantly recognized by almost everybody. This is what gives them great potential as marketing tools.

Why Use Emojis?

Some might still view the use of emojis with skepticism. How could these silly little cartoons have any impact on attracting customers? The truth is, emojis have far more influence than you might expect.

Booming Popularity

Emojis are everywhere. Nearly every social platform and text messenger has built-in support for emojis. This is because a majority of people use them. In a 2015 study by Emogi, it was found that 92% of internet users reported using emojis.

Their popularity is not confined to the digital world. In any supermarket, you’ll find emoji merchandise somewhere. Emoji toys and plushies are particularly popular with kids right now. And, of course, The Emoji Movie is coming to theaters later this year.

Visual Communication

The key to any emoji is its ability to communicate information. Anybody who sees them should be able to tell what they are supposed to represent. A smiling emoji obviously indicates happiness, while a thumbs-up is a sign of approval.

This is a primary reason so many people use emojis. We live in an era in which speed is favored above all. A frowning emoji gets its message across much more quickly than a chunk of text explaining that you are sad or disappointed.

It correlates with an issue facing marketing today. Audience patience toward advertising is at an all-time low. Many try to avoid ads altogether, while others want them to be over as soon as possible.

Emojis help enable marketers to get their point across in a simple and concise manner.

Proven Successes

Numerous companies are already testing the waters in incorporating emojis into their marketing. A great many have found success in doing so.

One of the most innovative examples came from Domino’s Pizza. On their Twitter account, they decided to introduce a new way of ordering pizza. Users on the social platform were able to place orders by signing up to a service and tweeting pizza emojis to the Domino’s account.

On the first day of its implementation, over 500 users tried out the emoji ordering system. It also gained the company a massive amount of media attention.

It has been proven that using emojis tends to yield higher rates of engagement on sites like Twitter.

How to Use Emojis

It is not recommended to start using emojis without careful planning. Problems can arise if emojis are used in an improper context.

Here are some important things to keep in mind while using them:

Keep It Appropriate

Before using an emoji, you should be absolutely certain that you know what it means. This isn’t always obvious with emojis.

The eggplant emoji, for instance, has a suggestive connotation among users. Using it without awareness of this might result in an embarrassing faux pas.

Appropriateness also extends to the circumstances in which they are being used. In some situations, emojis should not be used at all. Putting a potentially humorous emoji in a message about a serious topic would be a poor choice.

Convey Emotion

The most effective marketing tends to evoke strong emotions in the viewer, whether it be joy, sadness or nostalgia. There can be some difficulty into tapping into these feelings on social media, though.

Tone is notoriously hard to convey in text. It isn’t as easy to discern emotion from writing as it is from a visual cue. This is where emojis come in handy. They give your viewers something visual to connect with.

Note that a large percentage of emojis are in the form of faces with a variety of expressions. Feel free to use these if they complement the tone of your message.

Be Relatable

As stated before, a majority of people online use emojis. It’s especially common in communications between friends and family. Emojis are good at expressing a playful or affectionate attitude.

For businesses trying to maintain a professional brand image, emojis might not be the best choice. However, for those trying to strike a personable and casual chord, they can work.

Observe how people tend to use certain emojis. Some emojis get used in specific ways, such as in ongoing memes that are popular on the platform. Emulating this sort of emoji usage might help your brand seem more savvy and approachable.

Interact with Customers

These days, brands are expected to engage directly with customers on social networks. These platforms are made for socializing, after all.

It wouldn’t hurt to use an emoji in a response to a customer, if it seems appropriate. A smiling or winking emoji can reassure them that they are actually talking to a person on the other side, and not just some faceless entity.

Emojis are also good when you are joking around with your audience. Using the “tongue sticking out” emoji tells them that your comment was in jest.

Show Personality

Does your brand have an established personality? Emojis can be used to reinforce this. For example, take a look at the marketing for the film Deadpool. The character of Deadpool is defined by his goofy, irreverent attitude. A billboard for the film utilized emojis as a way to highlight his sense of humor.

The billboard immediately became a viral sensation on Twitter. Users joked that the film’s title was actually “Skull Poop L,” which the marketing proceeded to latch onto.

Here the use of emojis evolved into a memorable and well-received campaign.

Strive for Clarity

A major issue that can arise with emojis is a lack of clarity. Sometimes, trying to communicate through them can result in cryptic, hard-to-decipher messages.

The #ChevyGoesEmoji campaign was notably polarizing, as Chevy had challenged viewers to decode its press release made out of emojis.

Some found this idea novel and amusing. However, many others found it obnoxious, confusing and painful to look at.

Puzzles can be fun, but some don’t have the patience for them. As a rule of thumb, try to be clear and succinct with your emoji usage. You want your audience to understand what you’re trying to tell them.

Communicate Precisely

Viewers value their time. Advertisements that ramble on for too long tend to lose their attention. Part of the beauty of emojis is their ability to communicate a lot in a small space.

This is why they are used extensively on Twitter. The 140-character limit restricts how much information you can pack into a tweet. Brands like White Castle demonstrate how emojis can keep things simple.

Target Your Audience

Marketing often makes a bigger impact when it has a specific target audience in mind. Defining your market helps with catering to their interests and needs, which in turn raises the success rate.

Each demographic group tends to occupy their own corner of the internet. Their communities develop their own unique communication habits. This includes the ways in which they use emojis.

Case in point: Millennials tend to use emojis more frequently and in different ways than older internet users.

It would be wise to study and analyze your target audience to see if you can spot any trends. This could assist you in reaching out to them. Be careful not to mimic them in a way that could be construed as condescending or insincere, though.

Tell Stories

Much like hieroglyphs, emojis can be used for storytelling. A line of emojis can work together to tell a full narrative. So, in a way, each emoji acts like a sequential panel in a comic strip.

McDonalds, in their Good Times campaign, used emojis for such a purpose. They designed a series of billboards with mini emoji-based stories that encouraged people to eat at their restaurants. It proved to be a big hit for the brand, and even went on to win awards for its creativity.

Create Your Own

Some companies—including Taco Bell, Tim Hortons and IKEA—have introduced their own custom emojis.

In the case of the Taco Bell emoji, it was something that originated with customer demand. Most platforms had food emojis such as pizzas and burgers, but there were no tacos.

So Taco Bell decided to petition the Unicode Consortium for an official taco emoji. The request was promptly approved and implemented, which was a major marketing victory for the company.

Utility is an important element to keep in mind when considering custom emojis. Are these emojis something that customers will actually use? Is there a demand for them? Do they fill gaps that other emojis couldn’t?

Incorporate Them in Contests

A marketing contest, when it is done right, can do wonders for boosting brand engagement. Given the malleable nature of emojis, there are many ways you can fit them into a contest.

Some companies like to ask their audience to create stories with emojis based on a given prompt, or using only a limited amount of them.

You could also ask viewers to design their own emojis. Disney and Adobe recently worked together to do just that. They launched a competition for students to create an emoji based on a classic Disney character. The 5 chosen winners were given a tour of Disney’s animation facilities in LA.

Don’t Overuse Them

Don’t feel pressured to use emojis all the time. Save them for when it feels natural, or when it makes sense.

Your audience can usually tell when you are forcing it. This could quickly turn you into an object of ridicule on a social platform. You don’t want to end up on a “most cringeworthy marketing campaigns” list!

Try to view emojis as a tool, rather than as the central focus of your campaign. They are communication aids meant to enhance your content and strengthen your message.

About the author

Neal Hallenbeck

Neal Hallenbeck is a graduate of Adrian College. He is a freelance writer, media critic and computer game designer.

Add comment

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Archives

Categories

Meta