Love them or loathe them, emoji’s – or emoticons to give them their formal moniker – appear here to stay. This theory was compounded by the recently-launched Facebook Reactions, which enables users to add a range of happy, sad, angry faces as part of its ‘like’ option. Once the preserve of social media-savvy teens as an ultra-shorthand form of expression, some of the world’s biggest brands have taken to using the tiny symbols to promote their products. Sir Paul McCartney’s even in tune with emoticon. He composed music for a series of ‘audio emojis‘ to celebrate Valentine’s Day – a serious acknowledgement that this form of communication once viewed as mere child’s play is now an established part of our literary lexicon. So how can emoji’s help the world of business?
For more than a decade emoji’s have been used as colourful emphasis on social media postings – now cyber-based exclamations seems incomplete without them. Recent figures show 92% of the online population uses emoji’s, and Neil Patel, co-founder of the analytics companies KISS metrics, Crazy Egg and Quick Sprout, said the casual use of these colourful animations can be expanded upon by marketers to help bolster campaigns to the right audience. According to research, an emoji smiley face is equivalent to looking at a human smiling face, hence the relevance of a well-placed emoticon in a professional capacity. Their new-found acceptability means an emoticon’s use in a formal email could help create “positive expectancy” without hindering the sender’s credibility, the research found.
If emoji’s are to be used effectively in a formal communique or advertising campaign, Patel insisted they should not be used “for having fun” and users should consider their functionality before posting. He pointed to a recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) campaign retweets following its official launch – which featured emoji’s of 17 endangered animals and gained 34,000 retweets following its official launch – as an example of a well-executed emoticon-led awareness promotion. In another successful campaign, General Electric teamed-up with science educator, Bill Nye, to create short science videos using emojis.
To boost brand engagement, Patel offers some emoji-based examples of how it can be achieved:
- Use emoticons in push app notifications to announce product sales
- Use emoji’s to add colour and fun to official announcements
- Emoji usage can vary based on country and locality, so know your audience before applying emoticons
- Tag users next to emoji’s to get their special attention in your comments
Patel insists emoji’s are a form of communication and are processed in our brains as non-verbal communication. To get the right reaction from your content or promotion, he advises against applying emoticons too liberally. Just as verbosity should be avoided in word-from, so it must in emoji usage.
Ashley Sterland, Communications Director for The Change Organisation, said businesses would do well to embrace the Emoji Age. “There is no question more and more businesses are using emoticons to boost their brand”, he said. “Emoticons are now an accepted part of everyday communication, be their use private or commercial. From a commercial point of view, though, I think its important marketers ensure emoji-led campaigns are targeted to the correct audience. There is little margin for error, but a relevantly-placed emoji can say so much more than words, with the result being a very well-executed and successful marketing campaign.”
Although a few remain resistant to their charm, the future of emoji’s can be summed-up with a little smiley face.