Is there a place for emojis in corporate communications?

There’s no disputing that in the past few years the use of emojis in conversations has exploded even though they were first created in the late 1990s in Japan. However, although the majority of the world has adopted this alternative visual language, many businesses are still yet to harness the emoji as part of their customer communications. So, the question is, should businesses being adopting these as part of the tone of voice strategy or are there just some industries that should avoid them all together?

The global use of emojis

So far, since the last release, there are 2,823 emojis in the Unicode Standard as of June 2018. Even when looking at Twitter alone, through this website, the 😂 emoji has been used 2,338,792,650 times with the ❤️ second with 1,122,090,950 uses.

There is no doubt, with over 3 billion uses for just two emojis on Twitter alone, that the global audience is considering these as part of their communications with friends, colleagues and family. The World Emoji Day website reported that; over 900,000,000 emojis are sent every day without text accompanying them on Facebook Messenger; 700,000,000 emojis are used on Facebook posts daily; and that by mid-2015, half of all comments on Instagram included an emoji – although these figures have probably increased now. One useful statistic shows that 86% of emoji users on Twitter are 24 or younger suggesting that the use of emojis maybe focussed at a younger audience, therefore giving brands, who focus on younger audiences, more reason to use emojis in their content. As with all statistics, different sources will give different usage amounts based on different algorithms, however, they all have one thing in common; usage of these graphics is huge!

Breaking through language barriers

Many businesses now work globally and therefore language and cultural barriers can be a genuine problem for marketing and customer services departments. There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, which means that for a global business, explaining their brand message or simply communicating with customers can have its issues. However, the beauty of the emoji is that it is image based, and emotion led. Across the world, different levels of etiquette are expected culturally – a simple statement such as ‘Thank you for your custom.’ may come across as very polite in some countries, however, to some customers, this may be incredibly blunt and abrupt. Therefore, if you added an emoji to this statement, ‘Thank you for your custom 😊’, suddenly it adds a human emotion to the text, something that is globally universal. Obviously there are numerous emojis and some have developed their own alternative meanings, so for businesses looking to use them, it is important that they understand the subtleties of the emoji language.

Research on their usage

Ember Real Results, in a recent article, said that ‘Penn University showed that use of emoji’s increased customer satisfaction by 78% compared to plain text.’ This suggests that customers may actually prefer these icons in the messages they receive. They reported that due to their informality, social media, live chat and text messaging may be a more appropriate place for emojis rather than email, however, they still should be used an appropriate time and sparingly. However, The Drum has reported that “95% of Brits are more likely to open emails from brands if they contain emojis and sarcasm”, suggesting that their usage could be more wide ranging rather than live conversations. They reported that the tears of joy emoji, which was named as Oxford Dictionaries’ ‘Word of the Year’ for 2015, led to an improved open rate for customer emails from a study conducted by MailJet.

Additionally, various academics including Professor Sophie Scott, who was named as the 2017 Royal Institution Christmas lecturer, stated that using emojis in communication enhances human interaction by placing “emotional, non-verbal information back in”.

Good practice from companies

A recent article by Social Seeder showed the Top 8 campaigns using emojis. Included were some of the largest brands in the world; Domino’s, Diesel, Disney and the WWF. Many of these campaigns either used existing emojis or created special ones linking to releases or announcements in that year. Their usage also grows during special events including Chinese New Year, the World Cup and events such as the SuperBowl.

Monzo – Tone of Voice

One brand that really has caught my eye with their use of emojis in the bank is Monzo. Typically, banks are traditional in how they speak to their customers, yet Monzo has really taken hold of the emojis in their very public Tone of Voice guide.

I thought it would be useful to share their ‘Monzo tone in a nutshell’ as I think businesses can learn a lot from the new bank on the block.

·       We use the language our audience uses, and make technical stuff as clear as we can

·       We’re ambitious, positive and always focused on what matters to people

·       We’re transparent about what we’re doing and why, and we don’t hide behind ambiguity

·       We’re open, inclusive and welcoming to everyone

“Sprinkle a little magic dust”

Let positivity ring through in your writing. The odd exclamation mark or confetti emoji is great! 🎉 But if we use them in every other sentence, they start to feel a bit forced and insincere.

This tone of voice guide, created by Monzo, is a fantastic example of best practice for the use of emojis in marketing and customer support and should be something that anyone in charge of tone of voice should look over if they are looking to overhaul their communications.

“We love emoji 💌”

Emojis set us apart and reflect what we’re like as people: colourful, friendly and open to new ideas. So feel free to use them, but please bear a couple of things in mind.

·       Use emojis to add context, not replace words

·       Think about the situation you’re using them in

So where do we go next?

Online, there are hundreds, even thousands of guides on how to use emojis in your emails, marketing campaigns and even customer service strategies. However, I think looking back to one of Monzo’s key principles “use the language our audience uses”, businesses need to assess what their customers want and expect from them, and talk to them how they want to be spoken to. In some industries and situations, they may enhance the communication but at times they may seem inappropriate and out of place.

Do you use emojis in your corporate communications? Are you reluctant or scared of introducing them? Do you think they should be confined for personal conversations only? Are they only needed in B2C communications or is there a place for them in B2B too?

Something else to read? Here’s an academic article on the global use of emojis.

Comment below and start the conversation . . . use an emoji in your comments if you want too! 🙌

Follow me on Twitter for more updates . . . @BradTheCommsGuy

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