Emoji characters are fun and interesting and, according to one study at least, up to 92% of online consumers use them. But the big question for social media marketers is should brands use them? What do consumers think when brands start putting emoji into their tweets? Can those little smiley faces help build better relationships with audiences?
To get a better handle on this, mobile marketing company Appboy recently examined emoji use in more than six billion brand messages, and surveyed over 500 consumers to get some perspective on both the usage rates and response to emoji characters in marketing.
And their findings show that definitely more brands are using emoji in their campaign messaging. A lot more.
"Over the past 12 months, the number of active customer messaging campaigns that include emoji has increased by 609%."
That's a lot of little faces staring back from our mobile screens - but are they effective?
Evidently they are having some impact, Appboy also found that:
"...since June 2015, the open rates for iOS and Android push notifications containing emoji have increased by 210% and 1,063%, respectively, year over year."
And while that doesn't definitively suggest that using emoji characters is leading to more conversions, it does show that users are responding well to them, that they're not simply being ignored.
In order to get more insight into the consumer perspective, Appboy then went on to ask more than 500 people across the U.S. and the UK (69% of responses were from the U.S.) for their thoughts on brands using emoji in their outreach messages. They found the majority (52%) found them "Relatable" or "Fun", while 23% found them to be "Childish" or "Inappropriate".
The findings raise some interesting questions. Sure, the overall numbers might suggest that people think they're okay, and open rates have increased as a result, but the fact that 23% of consumers find them to be inappropriate is still significant - you need to understand your unique audience and what they're interested in before you go rolling out the smileys.
On that front, Appboy also found that female consumers are more receptive to emoji than males.
While messaging is where consumers feel emoji use is most appropriate - but don't put them in your e-mails.
It's an interesting study, though the relatively small sample size on the consumer research leaves it a little too constrained to be highly indicative. The results do show, however, that certain groups and demographics are clearly more open to emoji use, and that could serve as a relevant starting point for brands looking to reach those audiences.
But any way you look at it, emoji use is on the rise. Facebook and Twitter have both introduced processes to capitalize on the trend, an emoji movie is set to be released next year - those little characters aren't going away any time soon. Whether they're relevant for your business comes down to your audience - but they could be a viable option. You could even use Twitter's emoji-targeting for ads if you find they really work for your target market.