Whether you can’t finish an online conversation without at least one emoji, or you find emojis to be a total nuisance, these little pictures can be worth a thousand words. In fact, there are now 2,666 distinct emoji icons (talk about #options), and nearly 92 percent of online consumers now use emojis on a regular basis.

But how and why should your brand use them? And how should they factor into an overall social media strategy? It’s never a one-size-fits-all solution, but this quick guide to emojis will get you started developing a strategy for using them and using them smartly.

The first thing I’ll say is that while emojis can and should be used in a variety of ways, you need to make sure they fit into your brand voice and (most importantly) you need to  make sure you fully understand the context behind what some emojis mean. Ready to cringe? Here are some brand fails you can laugh at and learn from. One of my favorites was this Chevy press release created entirely in emojis. Was it a bold move? Yes. Did it earn them a ton of positive and negative media? It sure did. Did it help connect with their audience? The jury is still out but when you consider all the attention this new product release got versus a typical press release, I’d say the results are impressive.

But don’t dive in head first and pull a Chevy. Start small and see how the results work for your brand. The easiest first step is using them in social. You want better organic engagement on social (who doesn’t?) and using emojis shows increased engagement across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

  • On Twitter, using emojis results in 25.4% more engagement.
  • On Instagram, nearly 50% of all comments and captions contain emojis.
  • On Facebook, using emojis results in 57% more likes, 33% more comments, and 33% more shares
  • Just do us all a favor and keep LinkedIn professional. Some people use emojis to showcase creativity in their profiles, but personally, I think your creative work should speak for itself.

The question I always get is why are those ~millennials~ always using emojis? Well, think about it this way. Emojis help communicate complex messages that can be harder to say with words. A recent study shows emojis have even become akin to nonverbal cues like facial expression and hand gestures and help convey tone which often gets lost in digital communications. In other words, if you’re not using them, your message could come off harsher than intended, teasing could come across more like bullying and jokes can fall flat.

Where to Start

The most intuitive way to begin incorporating emojis into your social strategy is simply in copy. I’m talking captions, responses, tweets, descriptions and more. But be careful that the emojis you use are adding something to the meaning and are not just there to show people your brand knows what an emoji is. Engage with fans through humorous responses incorporating emojis showing that your brand has a human side.

Instagram

You probably already know that hashtags are king on platforms like Twitter and Instagram and they should already be part of your ongoing strategy for increased followers and engagement. But did you know that emojis can serve as searchable hashtags? Enter an emoji into the search bar on Instagram and posts incorporating it will pop up. You can use this feature to see what conversation is already taking place around specific topics and emojis and find people to interact with that might be organically interested in what your brand is posting about.

Many influencers also use emojis to help outline their profile descriptions and keeping them shorter and easy to skim.

Twitter

On Twitter emojis play an even bigger role with the new release of emoji ad targeting. That’s right, you can serve up ads to people based on whether they’ve interacted with tweets incorporating different emojis and based on which ones they’re using in their own tweets. Twitter says this helps understand that person’s mood or mindset and can help brands reach people based on their passions.

Last year Twitter introduced a Stickers feature, which allows users to add Stickers to their photos. You can then search each Sticker to see how other people are using the content and to get an idea of how trends are building and reach out to people using that content.

Snapchat

Using emojis on Snapchat pictures and videos is fairly common, but does it add anything to the value of the content? It’s debatable. If you can incorporate them into the Snap in a way that adds context or humor, it might just be worth your time. But avoid throwing emojis all over a Snap just because. Like all social media, strategy should come first and tactics second.

Facebook

Emojis are all over Facebook even in how consumers react with content. With the release of Facebook reactions last year, emojis pop up on basically every post. Since the launch of Reactions, they have been used over 300 billion times with the “love” Reaction accounting for over half of those. This shows the Facebook users are already organically using emojis and you should be too. Other than the increase in engagement I noted earlier, emojis can bring your content to life and grab a reader’s attention as they’re scrolling through newsfeeds. Use them in ads to bring attention to a specific message and use them in responses to comments to add that little touch of personality consumers love to see from brands.

SEO

Google has gone back and forth on whether to include emojis in search results, but as of May 2016, they are showed in search results in two ways:

  1. If an emoji is present in a piece of metadata (like a title of website, a rich snippet, etc) it could show up in a Google search, if the algorithm deems it relevant to the search. It’s still unclear why some are included and others are not, but it’s good to keep in mind.
  2. Searching for a specific emoji will showcase results relevant to that emoji. Type in the pizza slice and your search results will likely come back with a listing of pizza places and other content that uses that emoji. In order to get your content to show up for this type of emoji related search, its actually better to use keywords that relate to the emoji than stuff your site full of emojis since keywords tend to have more weight in SEO.

At the moment SEO is possible for emojis but is it really worth the time and tweaks? As of now, emoji queries are still relatively new for Google users so it may take a year or two for them to really take off.

Email Marketing

An often easy-to-forget and easy-to-ignore platform for getting your message across, email marketing is actually more effective than you may think. So when organizing an emoji strategy, don’t forget to consider email content. Adding emojis to subject lines and content call outs can be a way to help increase open and click through rates. But here are a few things to consider:

  • Does your demographic skew to the under 30 crowd? Give it a shot and use relevant emojis to add interest and context to your subject lines. If your audience is slightly older, that doesn’t give you an automatic reason to discount emojis (#sorrynotsorry). A recent survey showed email subscribers between the ages of 45-64 found humor in email marketing to be more acceptable than their younger counterparts. Obviously people in this age group might not find the humor in emoijs, but try out an A/B test using emojis and without to see if it helps.
  • Some email clients just flat out don’t support emojis so it could show up as an empty box in the subject line. Plus emojis can look differently across different platforms and email clients (Apple, Adroid, Mobile and Desktop all look slightly different). Consider this in deciphering open rates on mobile versus desktop.
  • Unlike with social, you should shy away from using emojis to actually replace a word in subject lines. People are more likely to open an email if they know exactly what will be inside, and if your emoji makes the subject ambiguous, you’re more likely to go straight to the recycle bin.
  • Whether or not emojis help increase rates in your email marketing will depend, but some brands report increase in click through rates from 1-30% just by adding an emoji. With those stakes, A/B testing is the best place to start when considering whether emojis are right for your email strategy.

Sales Funnel

Finally, consider how emojis might play into your sales funnel and reach those elusive millennial and Gen z markets. Take Dominos’ 2015 emoji campaign for example. They created a “tweet to order” capability within the Dominos app. Users created their pizza profiles in the existing Dominos app, connected their Twitter and then could order pizza with the simple tweet of a pizza emoji. Genius. For a demographic that craves ultimate convenience, Dominos hit the target gaining over 500 sign ups in one day (and thousands more later) and tons of earned media coverage.

It will take some careful thought, testing and planning to make sure a program incorporating emojis is right for your brand but, you can see the results speak for themselves. Drop a comment below and let me know how you are using emojis for your brand or how you see emojis evolving in the future!