When & how to use emojis on social media


You may (or more likely, may not!) be aware that this Friday is World Emoji Day… Yes, you read that correctly, there is actually a global awareness day for our favourite little icons!

As our attention spans become ever-shorter, we are relying more and more on visuals to get our message across quickly and effectively, and the overwhelming majority of us therefore use emojis on a daily basis, whether privately on our Whatsapp messages to friends and family, or by broadcasting publicly across our social media networks.

When it comes to brand communications however, there seems to be a discord, as marketers and business owners worry about seeming unprofessional and flippant. It’s an interesting dilemma, of course you want your communications to be respected, trusted and taken seriously, but you also need to put your audience first, and if you are not talking to them in the language that they are most comfortable, then you are missing a huge opportunity for deeper, authentic connection and engagement. The numbers paint a clear picture – Facebook posts with emojis get 57% more likes,  and 33% get shares and comments if they have emojis in them, at the same time 25% of tweets with emojis get more engagement, and the use of emojis increases Instagram engagement rate by 48%.

If you’re keen to utilise these effectively as part of your marketing strategy, rather than simply sprinkling a couple of smiley faces through your posts, then you need to think about incorporating these into your style guide and comms plans, just don’t forget the golden rules:

Be Relevant

You may want to use your social media to communicate conversationally, on an informal level, with your audience, but don’t forget who you are. Whilst your tone should be less formal, and you should be thinking about using hashtags, you need to make sure the communications are appropriate for your brand, your audience, and that particular post – we wouldn’t necessarily expect to see a blowing kiss emoji on a law firm account, however thumbs up, star eyes and celebration balloons may be appropriate at the right times (if you’re talking about awards won, positive media coverage, new staff, and birthdays/anniversaries for example).

Be Sensitive

Similarly to the above, stop and think before you post – be sure that the tone of the emoji suits the tone of the message – for example if you’re making redundancies, it would not be appropriate to include any kind of smiley, even a sad face. You need to keep objective and avoid using emojis for these kinds of posts. Also, make sure you understand all the implications of the emojis you use  - a lot of seemingly innocent little symbols and pictures are used to represent much more than you may at first think! As an example, only 7% of people who share a peach emoji are actually referring to the fruit – most people use it to represent their rear! Maybe not the message you were looking to send out!

Don’t overuse

As with all social media tools, just because you know something increases engagement, doesn’t mean you should be using it all the time, on every post. It need to add value to what you are saying, otherwise to your audience it becomes a distraction at best, and an irritation at worst. Look at your social media plans and think where the best places are to use emojis would be – to increase the engagement and resonance with a post, or to draw attention to it.

Think about your audience

At the end of the day, the only reason we are even talking about how to use social media, and whether or not to use emojis, is because you are looking for ways to engage with your audience, on their level. To do this successfully, you need to do your research, find out what tone of voice they use themselves, and what kinds of posts they engage with. What is the language being spoken, the words being used, the types of emojis that draw them in? If you’re trying to communicate on their level, you need to think about mirroring their communications styles.

It will probably take a while to play around with your emojis to establish the way that works best for your brand – which ones resonate most, whereabout in the post you use them, how often you use them, etc. If you’re not sure where to start and are not comfortable starting with smileys and love hearts to start with, think about incorporating objects such as the globe, country flags, megaphone/speakers/microphone, arrows, ticks, attention/warning signs, books, calendar pages, files, paperclips, coffee cups, stars, celebration balloons, thumbs up, eyes, footprints, ears, high-fives, handshakes. you can progress from there once you’re comfortable with the reaction you get…

We’ll be making a concerted effort to include more emojis in our posts this week and moving forward for sure, and hope you all get the chance to do the same! For now, Emoji Day!!

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