Emoticons have evolved from text-based happy faces—:)—and frowny faces—:(—to pictograms known as emojis. And if you're not familiar with them, it may be time to get acquainted: These fun, tiny images depicting people, places and things may be the next big thing in online marketing.
"When anything becomes popular in the mainstream, businesses want to pick it up. Through traditional text messaging, emojis have become incredibly popular," explains Jason Parks, the owner of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency based in Columbus, Ohio.
Although Apple introduced emojis to the American public in October 2011, the keyboard characters—which were invented in Japan in 1995—have already had a huge effect on the way we communicate today. Nearly half of the text found on Instagram are emojis, the company reported, prompting the platform to include a new feature that lets you search photos by emoji. At press time, "face with tears of joy" was the most popular emoji used on Twitter, according to Emojitracker.
These varied characters are starting to appear in brand messages across social media platforms as way to relate to consumers—and to pick up some PR buzz. Domino's just announced that on May 20, customers can begin ordering their "usual" pizza online by tweeting the pizza emoji to their Twitter handle. Bud Light's July 4, 2014, tweet of an American flag made of fireworks, flag and beer mug emojis went viral. Even celebrities making major reveals are getting in on the act. It's safe to say that online branding has been emojified.
"Emojis humanize messages by demonstrating the emotion behind them," Dayna Rothman of Marketo wrote in a recent blog post. "They add a dynamic edge to digital interactions. Just think—in person there are hand gestures, tones of voice and facial expressions, but online, there are emojis."
Thinking about incorporating business emojis into your branding? Don't do anything that could lead to someone using the "speak no evil monkey" emoji on your company. "You just have to analyze the type of product and service you’re offering," says Parks of The Media Captain. "I’m sure there are some industries where [using emojis] can be offensive if it’s a serious industry.
"If businesses utilize text message marketing or if it’s a small business and they individually text message their clients, incorporating emojis [there] would be a good way to do it," he continues. There's also email marketing and using emojis in your blog posts (WordPress even lets you use emoji in your URLs).
"[Using emojis] makes it more personal and more fun," Parks says. "Sometimes businesses can fall into the trap of being a little stuffy, and this gives them an opportunity to show off their personality more."
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