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5 Ways to Effectively Engage with Your Target Audience Online Using Emojis

It seems everywhere we look these days we see cartoon images marking our emotions. They’re in our text messages. They’re on social media. They’re in email subject lines.

Smiley faces. Hearts. Fist bumps. There’s even a smiling pile of poop. 💩

Yup. We, as a society, have become emoji obsessed. In fact, there are currently about 3,136 emojis floating around out there just waiting to be inserted into our messages. In the UK, emoji has been named as the country’s fastest growing language.

Emojis have become such a phenomenon that brands across the world are now starting to integrate them into their marketing campaigns. Of course, there’s a right way and a wrong way to leverage emoji marketing.

Let’s take a look at a few recent examples of brands that knocked it out of the park ???? …

…and others that fell flat .

Then, we’ll dive into a few emoji marketing best practices and go through five actionable strategies that you can use to start integrating emoticons in your marketing strategy right away. Ready? Let’s get started!

Why are emojis so popular?

Before you can begin leveraging emoticons in your marketing campaigns, it’s important to understand why they’ve become such an integral part of our culture. According to a research paper that explored the emotional effects of typographic facial expression:

Emoticons are effective in improving enjoyment, personal interaction and the perceived information richness of our messages.”

Another study found that seeing a digital smiley face is equivalent to seeing one in real life. Furthermore, a recent study conducted by University of Missouri concluded that looking at emoticons is much more gratifying than reading text.

More importantly, that same study found that even when used in formal emails, emojis can make the message more friendly, emotional and personal.

To test this theory, Texas Institute of Technology conducted an experiment using emoticons in business emails. Here’s an example of two messages they used:

sample-message-redWhat they discovered was that the very same message came across as much less negative when paired with a smiley face.

What this all boils down to is that emoticons can be a powerful tool for conveying information in a more personalized way, particularly in situations when word count is limited, such as in email subject lines or tweets. They are visually appealing and can cast brand image in a more human light.

A word of caution, though. It’s important to be careful not to cross the line. Using too many emojis, or those that are irrelevant to your message will not help you increase engagement. It will likely only demonstrate that you are out of touch with communication trends.

Take, for instance, Chevrolet’s recent press release in which they attempted to convey their entire message using only emojis. While this approach certainly generated some buzz, most people felt it went a bit too far. See for yourself:


Similarly, Goldman Sachs missed the mark in one of their tweets about Millennials:


The point is, you can’t just use emoticons for the sake of it. It’s essential that you also consider their context and functionality. Keep in mind that our brains process emojis as nonverbal information. They’re not meant to be the actual words, but rather add an emotional aspect to our written communication.

Now let’s take a look at a couple of brands that have used emoji marketing effectively.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) played on society’s love of animals and desire to give back by launching a fundraising campaign called #EndangeredEmoji, through which users could tweet any of the 17 endangered animal emojis to help support the organization’s conservation efforts.


As you can see from the tens of thousands of people liking and talking about this tweet, the campaign generated a ton of positive engagement.

Or, how about Domino’s Pizza? They’ve successfully made it possible for customers to place delivery orders via text message using only emojis. Talk about making the purchasing process quick and easy!

Emoji Marketing Best Practices

Emojis are particularly effective in marketing because they can be easily grasped and quickly understood regardless of language. They help to condense information and tell stories with more emotion. And they work well with the authentic communication style of social media and mobile messaging.

So, now that you have more of an idea of why emoticons can make a nice addition to your marketing campaigns, here are a few best practices to hone your approach.

  • Be careful to avoid miscommunication or misunderstandings. Make sure the emojis you’re using a relevant to the message you’re trying to convey.
  • Only use emoticons if they fit your brand and your content. Just because you want to incorporate them into your marketing doesn’t mean they’ll fit with every campaign. Be strategic about it.
  • Use emojis that will appeal to your target audience and on the channels where they are most likely to spend their time and interact with your brand. (i.e. Instagram or Snapchat for younger demographics, Facebook or email for older age groups, etc.)
  • Monitor and test your emoji campaigns. If you’re not getting a response or you’re generating any type of negative feedback, go back to the drawing board.
  • Don’t overdo it (see Goldman Sachs example above). When it comes to emojis, less is usually more.

4 Real-World Strategies for Integrating Emojis into Your Marketing

As mentioned, in order for emoji marketing to be effective, you have to be strategic about it. You have to use the right emoticons in the right context to support and deliver the right message to the right audience. Easier said than done? Not necessarily. You just need the right plan. Here are a few simple ways you can get started.

      1. Use emoticons in your push notifications and other mobile marketing campaigns.

Mobile has officially eclipsed desktop for the majority of digital media consumption and that scale is expected to continue to tip in that direction. Chances are – hopefully – you are already taking advantage of this with mobile marketing.

In particular, mobile push notifications are like marketing gold because they provide direct interaction with your target audience. As Urban Airship’s Chief Marketing Officer Brent Hieggelke put it, the smartphone home screen is “the most valuable real estate on the planet.”

And because studies have proven that consumer purchasing behavior is strongly influenced by emotion, what better way to tap into that than with emoticons?

Emojis used in SMS and push notifications can help to personalize your promotions, improve the clarity of your messages and more accurately convey certain emotions. And since they’re small, they’ll help you to keep your messages short and sweet.

When choosing which emojis to use in your campaign, try to look for those that most accurately represent the product or service you’re trying to promote. Let’s say you own a restaurant. You could use various food and drink emoticons to announce an upcoming special you’re offering:


Or, if you’re a fashion retailer, you could use emoticons to spread the word about flash sales:


You get the idea.

You’ll need to check your mobile content management platform to find out how to include emojis in your push notifications. Or, check with your digital content marketing partner to get assistance.

       2. Unleash the power of emojis to skyrocket your Instagram engagement.

Emoticons account for more than half of all captions and comments on Instagram. And according to one recent study, using emojis on Instagram posts can increase engagement by 47.7%, so if you’re not doing so yet, the time to start is yesterday.


Thomas Dimson recently performed a semantic-based measure of the similarity between emojis and English words. What he discovered was that certain popular emoticons have meanings that are aligned with certain internet slang words or terms. For instance:


What this all means is that emojis have now become an integral part of Instagram vocabulary. To leverage these symbols to boost your own engagement on Instagram, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Understand who your audience is and how they communicate with emojis. (If you need some guidance, here’s a helpful emoji translation guide from Hubspot.)
  • Start with the emojis that have already been proven to generate the most engagement. (Here’s a list of the top 10 most used emoticons on Instagram.)
  • Be mindful of the country and region you are targeting. Users from some places, like Finland, love emojis while others, like the people from Tanzania, don’t use them nearly as much.
  • Include emojis in three key areas: your bio, your calls to action and in your comments.
  • Use emojis and tag people to create visual brainteasers for your audience. One user tripled his Instagram engagement level just by doing this.

       3. Include relevant emojis in your Twitter and Facebook updates.

Let’s face it. Plain text is boring, especially when it comes to social media. Thankfully you have emoticons to help express emotion and breathe life into your social updates.

And doing so really works. According to one recent study, Facebook posts containing emoticons generate 57% more likes, 33% more comments and 33% more shares.

Again, you need to be careful with your relevance, context and quantity. Don’t stuff your updates or try to use the more popular emoticons in every post. Sprinkle them where they actually fit and add value.

On Twitter, emojis can be a great tool for keeping your messages within the confines of the character limit while also injecting emotion and increasing social engagement.

One study by WordStream compared two tweets – both with the same text but one with emoticons and one without. The emoji version generated 25.4% more engagement.

      4. Use emojis to liven up your LinkedIn presence.

Emojis have even begun making their way into the previously stuffy world of LinkedIn, and for good reason. They’re eye-catching, colorful, creative and a great way to enhance your brand and liven up your LinkedIn presence.

Using emoticons can be beneficial, both in terms of highlighting yourself or your company page as well as marketing your products or services to other users through LinkedIn content marketing.

There are a number of ways you can incorporate the use of emojis into LinkedIn, including your profile.

You can also use them in your headlines and throughout the content of your posts. Check out the headline of this relevant post by Brynne Tilman as an example:


Those little extra visuals can really help your profile and content to stand out.

Adding emojis on LinkedIn is super easy. All you have to do is copy and paste whichever symbol you’d like to use into the text area you are populating. For an exhaustive list of available symbols, check out this online emoji keyboard. You can do a search and simply click on the image to auto-copy.

Keep in mind that while all emoticons seem to work fine in post headlines, some may not render and/or display properly when used inside the body text of a post. Hopefully, this is something that will be fixed at some point, but for now, keep it in mind as you’re planning your content.

     5. Use animated symbols in your email subject lines.

A recent study on Gmail’s animated emoticons revealed a boost in unique open rates by over 20%. But the truth is, even using unanimated emojis in the subject lines of your emails will boost your open rates – again, provided that the images are relevant, of course.

Which emoticons are the most popular? Here’s a list compiled from data gathered by the folks over at MailChimp:

Credits to:

The most important thing to remember is relevance. Take the following email subject line examples:


Now, take a look at a few more:

You can easily see that the first set of examples makes sense whereas the second set does not. That’s because the emoticons used in the latter example were not relevant to the subject matter at hand. Therefore, they could potentially cause confusion and even reduce open rates.

For best results, be sure to do your research and test the preferences of your audience to see what works and what doesn’t.

Also, be aware that not all email providers will support emojis. For instance, a symbol that appears bright and bold in Gmail might show up without color on another platform or not show up at all on another. Keep this in mind when creating your subject lines.

In Conclusion…

Emoticons can be incredibly helpful in setting the tone of voice for your brand, establishing more meaningful connections with your audience and increasing social engagement. All of these things can lead to growth and increased sales for your business. You can get yourself a piece of this profit-generating pie by implementing one or more of the above strategies.

Want some help? That’s what we’re here for. Get in touch today and let’s discuss how we can bring your emoji campaign to the next level. 

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