We need to talk about 'Kimoji'. Not because I want to talk about Kimoji, mind you, not because you or I necessarily care about the latest evolution of the emoji craze which involves an assortment of images based on 'cultural icon' Kim Kardashian and her assets. But because it's a thing. Because the Kimoji app became the top grossing entertainment app in the App Store within one day. Because, no matter how you might feel about emoji use, those little cartoon images are massively popular - and as with all aspects of social media and social media marketing, the only true rule is 'your audience rules'. Maybe your audience uses emoji, and will use Kimoji, or maybe they won't. But based on sheer weight of numbers, the evidence suggests that they probably will, they probably are already, and as such, we need to talk about Kimoji.
So, here we go:
Kimoji is a new app that gives users "access to 250+ exclusive emoji and sticker designs - along with an integrated QWERTY keyboard - all of which work with your favorite messaging apps: iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, email, and more", all based on celebrity businesswoman Kim Kardashian.
The app's promo image provides a teaser of some of those 250+ options:
A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on Dec 20, 2015 at 9:43pm PST
Pretty great, huh? To help you understand how you can use them, Ms Kardashian herself has provided a few helpful screenshots on her Instagram account:
A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on Dec 21, 2015 at 4:26pm PST
The app costs $1.99 on the App Store and people have been buying it in droves - The New York Times reported that, at peak, the app was being downloaded at a rate of 9,000 times per second, generating a gross income of around $1 million per minute.
As noted in this piece on entertainment site 'Lightly Buzzed':
"Even Star Wars: The Force Awakens, practically the most money-sucking thing ever, was never averaging $1 million per minute"
There's no denying the Kardashian machine, and for them, working with the emoji trend makes perfect sense - the app was downloaded so many times their servers crashed as they struggled to keep up with the increased demand.
We worked so hard on this app & we know there are some issues due to the massive downloads that the whole tech team is so working on!- Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 21, 2015
And while many of us might sit back and laugh at the absurdity of so many people wanting to insert a cartoon image of Kim Kardashian's butt into a (theoretically) civilized conversation, the popularity of Kimoji once again underlines the massive popularity of emoji more generally, and highlights why all marketers need to be paying attention to the rising emoji trend.
As with the Kardashians and their popularity, there's no way to deny the emoji trend that's taking over modern communications. A study conducted by Instagram, which was published earlier this year, looked at the rising use of emoji on their platform, finding that, in some nations, emoji characters are now present in the majority of Instagram text.
In their summary of these findings, Instagram's research team also note that:
"If the overall trend continues, we might be looking at a future where the majority of text on Instagram contains emoji."
The study provides an interesting kick-off point for where we're likely to see the further examination of emoji characters lead in the coming months - Instagram's study looked at not only how many emoji are being used on the platform, but how they're being used and what the common sentiment of each emoji is, in context. For example, Instgram's researchers found that the rising instance of emoji correlates with a decline in use of internet slang - terms like "omg", "bae", or "lol".
That makes sense, right? These abbreviations can and are being replaced by emoji characters, and they're therefore not being used as much. But the findings also highlight an important trend for anyone conducting social media monitoring - which, really, should be every business. Do you know which internet slang terms are used in conjunction with your business and what they mean? Do you know the context of such conversations? Can you convert that info into actionable insight? These questions will become increasingly more important over time as emoji use increases, and that aspect - analyzing the actual meaning and logic behind the use of emoji characters - will become a big focus for brands and analytics providers over the next year.
It's similar to how you might use hashtags and conduct hashtag analysis - what emoji you use can also play a part in optimal communication practice, and the subsequent spread of your brand message because of those elements. On that front, Instagram's researchers graphed the below chart which looks at the relationships between different emoji, in terms of how often they're used in conjunction with one another.
Such investigations provide additional understanding of how emoji are being applied, and that will only become more important as we see more platforms looking to introduce more emoji and work with the rising trend of emoji use.
If you're still not sure why emoji are important, you need to consider how social networks are working with this trend. Back in October, Facebook announced 'Reactions', a new emoji-based tool that will enable users to respond to Facebook posts with a cartoonish 'reaction' image, as opposed to simply pressing 'Like'.
As that functionality's rolled out to all users (it's currently only available to those in Spain and Ireland), it'll add a new level of complexity to your Facebook analytics, to understanding how people are choosing the different reactions and why. Is it good that people are attributing the 'haha' emoji to the majority of your posts? If people are selecting the 'sad' or 'angry' emoji, does that mean they want to see more or less of that type of content? These questions can only be answered by examining your own analytics - but more important than that will be understanding their use on a deeper level in regards to engagement, how each emoji character aligns with click-through rates and, ultimately, conversions. Which emoji responses drive more people to want to read more, or share? Is there a definitive correlation that can help boost your marketing efforts through the emotional response triggered by specific types of emoji characters?
On a small scale, this'll be impossible to ascertain - 100 or so users choosing different emoji responses will lead to them taking different actions as a result, and those correlations may or may not show any real trends. But on Facebook, we're talking about 1.55 billion users, and at that scale, we will, eventually, see definitive correlations between how people choose to respond and how those responses relate to further actions. As the Reactions toolbar is rolled out, such analysis will become increasingly relevant - Facebook's already built capability into your Insights dashboard to deal with this new data.
Twitter, too, is working on an emoji response tool - as noted by Twitter in their recent 2015 review, emoji use has become increasingly popular on their platform also, so much so that it even warrants specific mention for 'Most Used Emoji' in their annual wrap-up:
The popularity of emoji was likely behind Twitter's decision to switch their favorites 'star' to a 'heart' icon instead - as you can see, the 'heart' would be the most popular, logical replacement based on Twitter's on-platform emoji use data. And now Twitter looks to be extending that to the next iteration of emoji use, with testing underway on a new emoji response function which would enable users to replace the heart icon with an emoji of their choice.
In this sense, both Twitter and Facebook are looking to work with the trend and provide functionality that facilitates the way in which people are already communicating - they have the data to underline this, they know how popular emoji are on their platforms. The fact that they're working to provide more functionality on this front underlines the rate of use and relevance the major platforms see reflected in the data that they have on user behaviors, and as more emoji are used, more analytical tools will be required to interpret trends and get a better understanding of the context and sentiment attached to each. They might seem silly, ridiculous, even worthless to you. But there's data in them 'thar emoji, there's audience insights to be extracted from their use. Ignore them at your own risk.
Variations on the Theme
So where does this leave us with Kimoji? That's an even more complex question. Does the rising use of branded emoji, or variations on emoji options, also mean that we'll need to extend our interpretations and analysis of emoji to depictions of Kim Kardashian's hourglass figure and what they might mean for buying intent? In a word, 'yes' - if any new variation of emoji is being used enough amongst your target audience, then it's relevant, and analyzing it's use will likely yield sentiment data that'll help you formulate and construct your marketing plan to best reach your target audience. I'd suspect those instances will be in the minority, not many apps and additions are going to see significant enough usage rates to provide relevant statistical insight. But big ones, like Kimoji, likely will.
And this, of course, goes back to the original point of discussion in this post, looking at the use and popularity of Ms Kardashian's new app - how you or I might feel about the use of Kimoji, or emoji more generally, is largely irrelevant. It's how your audience uses them that matters. This is the same with all of your decisions in social media - trends and behavioral patterns are dictated by your audience. The platforms you should be active on, the hashtags you use, the content you create - your success or failure on all fronts hinges on your ability to understand and interpret the signals from your target consumers and work with that data to provide compelling material, relevant to them.
Does that mean it's time for you to download Kimoji and get familiar with its finer points? Maybe.
That's up to your audience to decide.
You can download Kimoji now at the App Store.