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The Practical Emoji Guide for Social Media Marketers

Why do you need emojis? How can you incorporate them in marketing? Read on for emoji marketing tips.

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GUIDEThe Practical Emoji Guide for Social Media Marketers

The use of emojis is growing. Our analysis showed that in the first half of 2023, emojis received 7.5b mentions, a 30% increase from the previous six-month period. 

Emojis are everywhere, aren’t they?

And it’s no wonder – our brains love visual content. Research shows that we’re more likely to retain information when visuals are involved. We're literally hardwired to remember visual aids more than text.

We're always hearing about platforms focusing on visual content as it garners the most engagement. Emojis offer marketers an easy gateway to sharing visual content (no animation, illustration, or photography required!).

And it works. Industry studies found that

  • Using emojis in tweets can increase Twitter engagement by over 25%
  • Instagram engagement rate increased by 48% due to the use of emojis
  • Facebook posts with emojis received 57% more likes and 33% comments and shares

If you’re pumped to start using emojis in your marketing already, keep reading.

6 reasons why emojis belong in your marketing

1. Emojis make you relatable 🤤🥵💪

According to a recent study, 58% of consumers will open emails with emojis in the subject line, and 64% of emoji users are more likely to open emails or notifications if they contain their favorite emoji.

Emojis have become an integral part of the way your audience communicates. Speaking their language means you leave a lasting impact on them.

Emojis can help your brand communicate better and bring in a personal touch online, which brings us to our next point.

2. Emojis humanize your brand 👵🏼🧕🏼🤰🏼👦🏾

Building stronger relationships on social media starts with making it apparent to your audience that there’s a real human person — or people — behind the screen. 

Emojis are one way you can make this happen. They not only encourage emotional reactions from your audience, but also break the monotony of business speak and engage with your audience on a meaningful level.

Yes, even if it is an emphasis clap to remind you to hydrate.

3. They draw attention to your text 🚀

We mean it when we say emojis have revolutionized the way we talk online. Not only do they add a bit of personality to your text, but they also bring in a contextual understanding of emotions that a text-only post might be missing.

Think of it this way: Emojis are to tweets and posts online what body language and social cues are to your face-to-face communication. They help you land a message without breaking a sweat (or the character limit).

4. Emojis show empathy ❤️🫶🙌

A recent Adobe report found that 88% of global emoji users are likely to feel more empathetic towards someone if they use an emoji. There’s a reason the word “emoji” sounds so close to “emotions.” It lends emotional context to your messaging and helps show empathy. This is why brands often incorporate emojis in push notifications, social media posts, and customer service emails.

5. Emojis break language barriers and bring people closer 🌎🤝🏽

Emojis serve as a universal language, bridging communication gaps across cultures and allowing people from all parts of the world to communicate. That also means that brands using emojis on social media can get on the radar and resonate with more consumer groups than just those who speak the language of the posts.

That said, it's always worth thinking about how emojis will translate across different groups of people. See our 'Context is 🔑' section below.

6. Emojis help you connect with millennials and Gen Z (and other generations)

While emojis help you speak your customers’ language, remember that they help you connect with millennials and Gen Z more. This is particularly important if your customer base includes the two generations. 

We used Brandwatch Consumer Research to analyze the use of emojis between December 1 2022 - May 31 2023.

Using Social Panels, we dove into the data, and emoji use across generations is mixed.

Do note that the emojis the two generations prefer and their meanings differ quite a lot. While millennials love the laugh-cry emoji (😂), Gen Z says you’re out of touch if you use it and should use the loudly crying face (😭) instead. Be conscious of what works with each generation and target your messaging accordingly.

Do emoji marketing right, and you can: 

  • Make your tweets pop
  • Engage with your audience 
  • Come across as relatable
  • Show the human behind your brand 
  • Stand out on social media 💥

How to incorporate emojis into marketing

Emojis aren’t just a fun way of communicating online. Several brands have used emoji marketing to their advantage successfully. Here are a few creative emoji-based campaigns and post ideas you can try. 

1. Build your brand image with an emoji 

Is there an emoji for the product you’re marketing? Put it to good use on social!

Remember how Taco Bell once rallied for the taco emoji? 🌮 While that’s an excellent marketing campaign in itself, they also succeeded and went on to use the taco emoji quite a lot in their social media. You can’t scroll through Taco Bell’s social channels without encountering the taco emoji. 

Dominos, too, has a similar strategy with the pizza emoji. And that’s not all! You can also order Dominos by texting them a 🍕. How cool is that?

But what do you do if you’re selling bathroom tiles or insurance products? Unlike the above companies, not all brands have what they sell readily available as emojis. Emoji branding, however, doesn’t mean you need the exact emoji of your products. Instead, research your audience to see which emojis they tend to use a lot and map out how you can use the same to relate to your brand and capture their attention.

In this tweet, Humana, an insurance company in the US, used 💚🏡 to emphasize their statement of care for their customers. 

Pro tip: Having a set of preferred emojis to hand in your social style guide will help new team members stay on brand. These might be emojis that match your brands’ colors, or that convey emotions your brand wants to put out into the world.

2. Ask your audience to respond with an emoji

This is an evergreen idea for social media posts that will entice your audience to reply and help you engage with them. Don’t discount this strategy as engagement bait. Quite a lot of brands use open-ended questions to give their audience an easy way to reply. We’d even go as far as to say that this exercise can help you assess brand or product sentiment if you get enough responses. It all depends on the questions you choose to ask, though.

Inspo for open-ended questions based on emojis:

  • Describe your current mood with an emoji 
  • ⛰ or 🏖: Where would you like to vacation?
  • React to this [new feature/product launch/ latest video] with an emoji
  • What’s in your bag? 💄, 📕, 🤧...?
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Love it or hate it, there’s proof of several brands using these questions to garner staggering volumes of engagement. Sephora, for instance, uses Instagram captions to encourage users to drop a related emoji in the comments. This ranges from replying with a heart if you’re adding their latest product to your cart to dropping a 💄 in the comments if your lip balm needs an upgrade.

Personal care and cosmetic brands all seem to love this strategy. Maybelline, Morphe Brushes, Bath & Body Works, and several other brands use similar questions in their tweets and posts to engage with their audience.

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If you’re trying to market a personal care brand, you know what your next post should be now! And if you’re not? This is still a cool idea to try on a dry day to test if there is any spike in your social media engagement.

3. Use emojis in your paid ads

42% of global emoji users are more likely to purchase products advertised using emojis, according to an Adobe study

Emojis are always a hit in paid ads, mainly because they draw attention to the ad. Are you hosting a webinar or event? Pop a calendar or siren emoji in there to remind viewers of the time limit to register within.

Pro tip: Ensure you test emojis before launching your ads because emojis don’t look the same across all platforms.

4. Create a custom Twitter emoji

You’d have noticed custom hashtags on Twitter that include emojis during special events and occasions. These are called hashflags — almost like a hashtag, but they have an emoji at the end.

Brands often use easy-to-remember hashflags, so people are encouraged to use them more, ergo getting them in front of more eyeballs.Benefits of hashflags:

  • Their difference from your usual hashtags ensures they’re scroll-stopping.
  • They’re a great branding exercise and increase recall.
  • Their ephemeral nature adds to the excitement.

While Twitter does not publicly disclose how much hashflags cost, we can guess that they might cost a pretty penny. If you have the budget to cover the cost, hashflags are an excellent way to incorporate emojis in your marketing and make your brand memorable.

Pro tip: If you don't have the budget for a hashflag, hashflag piggybacking is an easy and wallet-friendly way to engage with your audience while staying true to your brand. If you've got something relevant and interesting to say about another brand's hashflag event, why not get involved?

5. Use emojis to tell stories and show your brand’s personality

Many brands use emojis to assist in general and brand storytelling. Again, this helps to both decorate and strengthen the message. For example: 

  • Dictionary.com chose to share a bit of history surrounding the rainbow emoji during Pride Month.
  • And Ryanair uses emojis to add sass to their online communications and how they position themselves from the social pages.

6. Create an engaging game using emojis

There are a lot of creative games you can engage your audience with on social media. Some brands have even gone as far as to create a whole escape room within a Twitter thread.

There are lots of ways to use emojis creatively in your posts. It could be this throwback to email chain letters from the 90s by Buffalo Wild Wings, or it can be an emoji-based trivia.

7 quick emoji marketing tips for your next social post

Now that you’re inspired and ready to start using emojis in your marketing, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

1. Context is 🔑 

Yes, a thoughtfully placed emoji adds emotional cues to your social media posts. However, have you thought about the linguistic context emojis carry across cultures and generations? A Frontiers study, in fact, states that cultural differences have an impact on how we use emojis.

Are you a global brand? It’s imperative that you be mindful of cultural differences while running a social media campaign or sending out a tweet. What’s a perfectly harmless emoji to you could carry a different cultural connotation in another country.

It’s not just cultures you must be aware of while using emojis. Generational differences matter as well, as we discussed early on in this guide.

In essence, the next time you’re designing an emoji-laden ad, be mindful of the different connotations emojis carry across generations and cultures.

2. A 🍑 isn’t a peach 

Tough luck if you’re trying to sell peach juice, but nothing is as it seems with this emoji. A peach isn’t a peach. An eggplant isn’t an eggplant; a taco isn’t always a taco. Even the “Italian hand gesture” has NSFW connotations, we’re afraid to say.

This New Zealand telecom provider even got in trouble for unknowingly using the eggplant emoji in their ads.

Always look up possible risqué connotations for emojis before using them to sell your products. Otherwise, you could get caught up in a potentially embarrassing social media crisis that could have easily been avoided with a simple Google search.

3. Minimal is chic ✨ 

Just because emojis can boost engagement, you shouldn’t stuff your social post with emojis. Aside from being an aesthetic nightmare, an emoji-filled post will fetch you a one-way ticket to being trolled mercilessly online.

4. It’s all ’bout the aesthetic 

Emojis don’t look similar across different mobile devices. What’s formatted correctly on an iPhone may have weird line breaks when you check the same tweet on the desktop. Make sure you keep formatting errors in mind while crafting posts dependent on a well-located emoji.

5. There is a 🕐 and 📍 for emoji use

And sometimes, they can completely change the meaning of your serious messages.We don’t think emojis are always frivolous, but they could water down the impact of your serious post and make you seem blasé.

6. Research your audience 🧐

Understand your audience to see what will fly with them. Monitor their emojis and emotions to target your emoji marketing campaign and understand their sentiment towards your brand.

7. Test, test, and test 📝

Do your emoji-laden tweets get more engagement than text only ones? Do emojis on LinkedIn drive more clicks to articles you share? Do your followers swipe up more when you include emojis in your Instagram Stories?

A/B testing will help answer all these questions, so you can fine-tune your emoji marketing plan.

Emojis are relevant as ever, and it’s high time that the last reluctant marketers got on board. We hope this guide will help you craft your next social post with just the right emoji it needs.


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