Getting to Know Your Community, One Emoji at a Time

Opinion: With the exponential spread of content and chatter, emojis have become our social interpreter

Can a smiley face actually impact your social strategy? Yes, when it happens to be an emoji.

What used to be seen as a frivolous tween communication method now has real business value. Currently, about one-half of all Instagram captions contain at least one or two emojis—proof that emojis are no longer a fad. In fact, they are one of the best tools you have for effectively communicating with your audience.

From a publishing standpoint, emojis can enhance your tone, thereby deepening your connection with your audience. Plus, with the right tools in place, they are the key to authentic sentiment analysis.

Emojis aren’t (just) for fun

At this stage in the game, emojis are a meaningful part of our universal social language. Social media is inherently visual, and emojis have become the default way for people to parade their emotions on social. With the exponential spread of content and chatter, emojis have become our social interpreter.

The right emoji can help fill in comprehension gaps caused by social’s inherent lack of tonal cues. Social users crave ways to engage with a feeling. Proof? When Instagram rolled out emoji hashtags, emojis were hashtagged more than 6.4 million times in just a one month period.

Monitor and listen for all the feels

Given the ever-growing popularity of emojis, it is important for brands to leverage their use not only in their publishing strategies, but also in their sentiment and opportunity tracking. By monitoring conversations and tying emoji usage to sentiment, brands can visualize when a campaign is on a hot streak or when it’s time to dial back the approach. This approach isn’t just creative: It is efficient.

Due to their lack of ambiguity, emojis enable direct insight into the true feelings of an audience. Therefore, they’re a quicker and easier way to identify sentiment, tag each of those messages appropriately and respond. See a smile? You can bet you’ve got a happy customer. On the flip side, that frown means you’ve got some work to do. From there, your team can track sentiment over time.

As emojis become directly integrated into social listening, brands need to evolve their strategy just as quickly as the avocado and bacon emojis made their debuts. If sentiment analysis is the next phase of social business, social media managers have to be on top of effective measurement.

The emotional characteristics of emojis provide a unique chance to engage through emoji search.

Social media monitoring, like emoji marketing, is one of those tactics that is just as much art as it is science. Since emojis provide explicit context, the tone of your outreach has the chance to be as informed and personalized as brand outreach can get.

Every social community is a unique amalgam of personas. While some may be quickly turned off by cheesy praise hands, others may be glad to see a brand has personality. Be sure to understand your community’s habitual use and preferences before you go emoji-wild. In order to build brand loyalty and awareness, take this unique opportunity to create a stronger bonds and richer relationships.

Suit your situation

Just as you put thought into what image you publish and the caption you give it, think about the emojis you’ll use in conjunction with or in place of your text. Users have designated meanings to emojis that weren’t necessarily intended by their creators, so it’s important to know what your audience means and potential secondary meanings of these visuals.

While the peach emoji may take on a cheeky meaning for a lingerie brand, it might mean something else entirely to a hospitality brand in Georgia. Assess the tone of the situation first, avoid trend-jacking and know the weight that emojis carry within your brand’s social ecosystem.

Consider the circumstances before searching for the perfect emoji. If you’ve got a customer with a serious support issue, it might not be the time for levity. However, if you’re responding to a hilarious GIF sent by a known brand advocate, the tears of joy emoji might be all that’s needed. Find a happy medium and an approach that works for your brand. Be strategic about your use of emojis, injecting them into conversation carefully—emoji overload is a real thing.

There is an art to using emojis to optimize your messaging and a science to reinforcing their usefulness. One main challenge in social is the need for an approach that balances pragmatism and personality. Knowing when to use emojis takes pragmatism, while knowing which emoji to use is where creativity comes into play.

Emojis are a piece to the puzzle of modern social business, so recognize this and use them wisely. As long as you’re creating a relevant and engaging experience, go forth and emote.

Rachael Samuels is the social media specialist at social media management platform Sprout Social and the social media voice for employee advocacy platform Bambu by Sprout Social.

Image courtesy of aleepiskin/iStock.