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Words Get in the Way: Emojis as a Marketing Tool

More than just a cute frivolity, emojis are becoming a legitimate way for brands to connect with their audiences.

For years, I’ve struggled with how to convey laughter when communicating via text. Many people use “LOL” or “hahaha,” but neither ever felt quite right to me. Writers can be tortured by the need for nuance.

Then, along came ? and ?. Brilliant! But then I had other feelings like ?and ?. Luckily, there was a wide range of emojis to help me communicate effectively in this digital age. How did people navigate such issues in olden times? Poor Shakespeare. He wrote, “The course of love never did run smooth” when he could have just said ?. OK, bad example. ?

All of this got me to thinking about my favorite college class, called Rhetorical Criticism, in which we studied great communicators from Cicero to Bob Dylan. If emojis are the new Cicero, what exactly does this say about how we communicate and why? Marketing and social media professionals want to know.

User experience

In a landscape where users need to convey complex thoughts in less than 140 characters, the concise nature of emojis can be rather helpful. The pace of modern life can be hectic, and it can be hard to be unique. So when everyone else is commenting “Happy birthday, Jill! Have a great day!” on Facebook, you can comment simply, “????.” So sassy.

Visual communication

Social media marketers have been studying their analytics and come to a clear conclusion: visual content performs far better than words. Scientists at MIT have found that the brain can process visual images as quickly as 13 milliseconds. When you’re scrolling through a sea of content on Twitter, your eye is more likely to be drawn to graphics than text. Like this tweet from the NFL:

emoji marketing example from NFL tweet

Engagement

Let’s face it: emojis are fun. They can make you smile or laugh or cringe. That’s the kind of engagement that any creative professional managing any communication platform hopes to evoke. Not surprisingly, 40 percent of Instagram posts now include an emoji. We’re all trying to get a reaction, apparently.
Brands have been eager to get on the emoji bandwagon, too. On World Emoji Day (yes, that’s a thing), the social media management platform Sprinklr took the opportunity to convey its company philosophy with very few words:

emoji marketing example sprinklr

Pretty clever, huh?
Even politicians and their supporters are trying to get in on the act. Consider the keyboard recently released by fans of the presidential campaign for Senator Bernie Sanders. Even when hollering, he looks pretty adorable here.

emoji marketing bernie sanders

Monetization

You didn’t think something big would happen on the Internet without someone cashing in on it, did you? Of course they have.

The messaging app Line has more than 600 million users worldwide, and many of them obviously don’t speak the same language. That’s not a problem. Line currently offers 140,000 sticker sets and 6,830 emoji, claiming, “You’ll be able to express yourself in ways you never thought possible.” For a small fee.

Perhaps you’d like the Family Guy sticker pack. That will run you 100 coins, also known as $1.99. But that’s a small price to pay for making your friend giggle by sending her an image of Brian the dog drinking a beer, right?

You can imagine the conversations in the Marketing department about whether consumers will actually pay money for emoji keyboards and stickers. That question has been answered: they will.

Conclusion

Some of you made it to this article because you received an email promoting it. The subject line included an emoji. Depending on the brand and the audience receiving its messages, emojis can offer a significant lift in open rates.

All of this is to say that you may want to experiment with emojis in one of your brand channels and see what happens. If you’re trying to reach the elusive youth demographic, campaigns like this one may pique their interest more than traditional approaches. Good luck!

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Written by Kirt Zimmer
Kirt Zimmer
Kirt Zimmer manages content marketing for The Creative Group and Robert Half Technology. As a former journalist and current digital marketer, for 25 years Kirt has been using storytelling to connect targeted audiences with information and experiences they value.

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