Facing up to the impact of emojis

Posted on October 3, 2016


Emojis may seem like a gimmick, but with studies showing that 92.4% of us use them more than once a year, they’re an important part of the way most of us communicate online. Businesses should be no exception to this, and while we’re not recommending that you fill your posts, tweets and emails with hundreds of tiny faces, cartoon animals and pixelated food items, you should certainly consider how the small graphics can embellish your text.

After all, when we interact with people face to face, we can deduce a lot about what they are saying from their pitch, tone, gestures and facial expressions. Online, our written communication is reduced to words on the screen, meaning that we have to choose them carefully, and might still not be understood as we hoped to be. That’s where careful use of the Japanese ideograms can help us to be cheerful, blunt, angry, sarcastic, or whatever else we’re trying to get across.

They resonate with the people who see them too. In 2012, business services company Experian revealed that more than half (56%) of businesses it analysed were experiencing higher email open rates having started using emojis in their subject lines.

Experian gives no particular reason for this, but it might be simply down to the ‘oooh, look at that!’ factor of seeing an image amid a large ream of text. The researchers discovered that emojis of suns and planes were particularly effective in encouraging recipients to open emails, although they do stress that any emojis included need to be relevant if they are to be effective.

Emojis have started to fully embrace diversity too. As Sky News noted last week, the latest iPhone update has allowed for a lot more female representation among the characters, with the likes of policewomen and female builders now able to be included in texts. Previously, emojis of women (she-mojis perhaps?) have verged rather on the stereotypical side of princesses and dancers.

Another peculiarity of emojis is the flag symbols. During the Euro 2016 tournament, I noticed that flags of the individual home nations were not available. Emoji flags of places like the Aland Islands, Faroe Islands and British Indian Ocean Territory are there to choose from, but Englishmen, Welshmen, Scots and Northern Irishmen have to make do with the Union Jack Flag, which isn’t ideal during sporting tournaments. However, on March 1 this year (St. David’s Day, appropriately), Wales Online did reveal new ways that frustrated Welsh emoji aficionados could express their patriotism.

Emojis have certainly come a long way since their 1997 birth, and will no doubt continue to reflect societal changes as we become increasingly immersed in digital communication.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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