To Emoji or Not to Emoji: That is the Thinking Face

Emojis are hot right now… or are they? I’m not completely sure. At Upstate Social Sessions, emojis were listed by Andrew Knoblauch and Jon Alhart of Dixon Schwabl as being one of the top trends in social media (listen to it live here!). My news feed is filled with articles like “The Untapped Potential of the Emoji” and “The Complete Emoji Guide for Social Media Marketers“. There is a social media award that specifically rewards the best use of emojis. I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t really sold on the emoji- it didn’t seem to fit the personality of the brand I was building, nor did it fit with the institution that I work for. But I’m beginning to buy in, I was seeing the light (or rather the sun emoji shining through the forest of text).

Then, yesterday, I received an email with the tagline: “Is it time to rein in emoji use?

This is where I release a primal scream to the social media gods, scaring the emoji poop right out of my cat meme.

Let’s take a moment here then to talk through the emoji arguments.

Yes Emoji

  • Emojis give inflection to text: This is probably the area where I see emojis having the most impact and being beneficial to our personal social media accounts, but also to institutional ones. By adding a smiling face, heart, thumbs up or whatever you choose, you can show the emotion behind the sentiment. It can demonstrate intention, like sarcasm or appreciation.
    • Thanks for sharing 😀 ; I can’t tell you what the next exhibition will be… yet 😉  
  • Emojis provide personality: Adding an emoji in a response to someone’s comment, or sharing them in a humorous manner can add a human element to your accounts. Being playful with emoji helps build a more genuine connection than text alone. If you have a carefully crafted brand (which we’ll talk about next week), doing something off-brand with emojis can really increase engagement and show that there is a human behind the account. Don’t believe me? Turns out their are actually scientific papers that back this up!
  • 03c-2Emojis can be fun: Museums are beginning to use emojis in fun ways that create connections with their exhibitions. On World Emoji Day, the Smithsonian shared emojis and related objects from their collections, such as a trumpet emoji and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet. If you send an emoji to @NYPLEmoji (a bot account made by the New York Public Library) it will send you a corresponding image from their digital collections. On #MusEmoji Day (June 22), museums around the world played with creating connections between emojis and their museums. These are great examples of using the emoji to inspire learning and engagement, whether it be with your business, non-profit, or personal brand.

Looking for other cool uses of emojis in museums? Check out Museum Hack’s Emoji + Art mashup, Emoji Art Masters, and Emoji Museum.

No Emoji

  • Emojis can appear immature: Emojis are not accepted by all generations, and they tend to be more appreciated by individuals who have grown up with digital communication. Emojis can appear to be unprofessional when used in certain contexts (probably shouldn’t insert them into your resume or emails to your boss).
  • This tweet by House of Fraser is a good example of "trying too hard". Emoji Overload: Overuse of emojis is causing fatigue according to a YouGov survey, and there is a feeling that institutions and brands that use them can be ‘trying too hard’. Their use can come off as fake or insincere. According to DigiDay: “For people who use emojis on a daily basis, it’s cringeworthy to see their new visual language co-opted by those outside their circle.”
  • Emojis can be Misread: Just as an emoji can be well-placed to add emotion, they can also be mis-interpreted or seen as being insincere: a great example of this is when USA Today used emojis on their front page to convey the emotion you should feel.
  • Emojis can be Misused: The meaning of emojis can change based on popular use, and its important to know what the emoji is and how it is being employed. A great example is the eggplant emoji. Sure, it could mean that you like eggplant… but it is more often used to convey a specific part of human anatomy (I’ll let you figure that one out). Another great example is the peach emoji used above by House of Fraser (Urban Dictionary has a fabulous description).

My Takeaway- Think Before You Emoji

Yes, they are cool and new and millennials like them (whatever that is supposed to mean), but you need to think before use. What this is adding to the brand, how the viewers are going to read it, is it appropriate? Personally, I like using them in off-brand communication and in conversation, but not in my general messaging. You need to be critical about whether this adds value and be aware that not everyone appreciates them.

I want to hear from you! What do you think are the positives and negatives? Do you have emoji success stories (or emoji fails)? 

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