When Scott Fahlman first introduced the smiley in a 1982 message board post, he probably didn’t think that his invention would one day become a staple of digital communication. Since that emoticon’s debut, emojis have taken on a life of their own, appearing in messaging apps, social media platforms, and even email.
While some may see emojis as a fun way to communicate, others view them as unprofessional or childish. However, there are certain situations where using an emoji can be perfectly appropriate in a business setting, and may even result in better business results. This blog post will explore when and how to use emojis in business communication.
What are Emojis?
Dating back to Wingdings, emojis are the result of the popularization of emoticons, particularly in Japan. Emoji eventually gained global popularity in the early 2000s, initially seeing a release on Apple devices before Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Facebook, Twitter, and others began to offer their own versions. While there are many different interpretations of each emoji, there are some universal uses too.
Emojis can be divided into several categories, including:
- People and faces
- Animals and nature
- Food and drink
- Objects and symbols
- Travel and places
These little icons have become so commonplace that they even have an unofficial holiday: World Emoji Day, celebrated every year on July 17th. A movie about them, “The Emoji Movie,” was also released in 2017.
Pros and Cons of Using Emojis
As human beings, we use a variety of languages to convey ideas. Some of them are verbal, while others are nonverbal. Emojis are a type of nonverbal communication. Like any other form of communication, emojis have advantages and limitations. Let’s take a look at some of each.
Emoji add emotional context to a message
When writing, we can’t always convey the intonation or inflection we would use if we were speaking. This can often lead to misunderstandings, as the reader may interpret our words differently than we intended.
Emojis can help to mitigate this problem by providing an emotional context to a message. For example, if your boss Slacks you “Can you talk?” you might not have the context to know what kind of meeting you’re stepping into. On the other hand, “Can you talk 🎉?” might help you remember you’re planning a surprise party for a team member.
We often use body language and intonation to provide this context when speaking, and emojis can serve a similar purpose in written communication.
Emoji make messages more engaging
Emojis can also add a touch of personality and fun to otherwise mundane messages. In a business setting, this can help build rapport and make colleagues or external audiences feel more comfortable communicating with you.
For example, imagine you’ve just completed a project with a team member and want to let them know the job is done. You could simply write “The project is finished” in an email or Slack message. However, adding a celebratory emoji like confetti or champagne glasses can add a visual cue that makes the message more engaging and memorable.
Emoji are visually appealing
When writing for customers or clients, using emojis can help to keep their attention focused on your message and let them know what your message is about at a glance. Emojis are visual, which can help break up long text blocks. This can make messages easier to read and more enjoyable to consume.
Emoji can be misinterpreted
Since emojis are often used in place of words, there is always the potential for them to be misinterpreted. The meaning of an emoji can vary depending on the context in which it’s used.
It’s important to consider how an emoji might be interpreted before using it in business communication. For example, the “thumbs up” emoji can convey a positive message in some situations. However, it could also be interpreted as a dismissal if used in the wrong context.
Emoji can feel unprofessional
Depending on your industry, using emojis in business communication may be seen as unprofessional. In more formal settings, emojis are typically reserved for personal correspondence.
Industries like healthcare, government, and law often have more formal communication guidelines, and emojis could be seen as violating those guidelines.
Finally, some age groups may be either less likely to connect with emojis, or may have a different, generational interpretation of an emoji. Like slang in verbal communication, not all groups use terms the same way.
It’s important to be close to your specific audience and their language use. See how other colleagues use emojis, if at all, via Slack, email, and other communication platforms. You might also follow influencers who fit your marketing persona and join relevant online communities to better understand your audience’s interests, trends, and use of language.
Emojis in Internal Communication
There are two business communication in which you might deploy emojis: internal and external. Internal communication is typically between company employees, while external communication is with anybody outside the organization such as agency partners, prospects, or customers.
The use of emojis in internal communication will largely depend on the company culture. In many cases, using emojis can help build relationships and make colleagues feel more comfortable communicating with you.
Power dynamics or hierarchies might also influence whether emojis are appropriate for internal communication. For example, communication between peer employees may look different from communication between an employee and their direct manager.
While you’re unlikely to get fired for using an emoji in an email to a colleague, it might be unwise to add them to, say, your job application. It’s always important to consider the relationship between the sender and receiver when deciding whether or not to use emojis in business communication.
Another type of internal communication is communication between departments. Once again, company culture will largely dictate whether or not emojis are appropriate. In some cases, using emojis can help to build relationships between departments, break down defenses, and make communication more efficient. Be sure to read the room and watch how others communicate in similar situations.
Finally, company size might also influence the appropriateness of using emojis in internal communication. In smaller companies, employees are usually more familiar with one another, and there is less need for formal communication. As a result, using emojis in internal correspondence is more likely to be accepted.
Emojis in External Marketing Communication
Next, let’s take a look at emojis in external marketing communication. This is any type of communication that is sent from a company to its leads or customers. Using emojis in external marketing can be an effective way to connect with customers, build trust, and convey messages quicker. Emojis can help to humanize your brand and make your correspondence more personal. You can use them for:
Marketing emails and newsletters
Emails have also come a long way since their inception, evolving from purely text-based messages to a multi-media format perfect for emojis today. Adding an emoji to your subject line can help your email stand out in a crowded inbox. Just make sure that the emoji is relevant to the email content.
According to Adobe’s Emoji Trend Report, 60% of respondents said they’re more likely to open an email or push notification if it includes an emoji.
Social media posts
Perhaps the most appropriate place to use emojis in business communication is on social media. Emojis are an integral part of social media culture, and using them in your posts can help you connect with your audience.
Adding an emoji to your website content can help to break up the text and make your page more visually appealing. If you’re unsure where to place your emoji, try adding one to your headline. Blog posts are also a great place to use emojis.
Finally, you can also use emojis in your advertising. Emojis can help catch people’s attention and make your ad memorable. You can use them in online and offline advertising, such as billboards, TV commercials, and print ads.
Get creative with emoji use in advertisements. They should be relevant to your audience but ideally also related to your offering. For example, if your SaaS product introduces an in-app messaging function or your business upgrades an inter-personal touchpoint for customers, like customer service wait times, these might be great opportunities to leverage emojis in your ad copy.
6 Tips for Using Emojis in Business Content
Now that we’ve covered when and how to use emojis in business communication let’s take a look at some tips for using them appropriately.
1. Use emojis sparingly
While emojis can be a great way to add personality to your communication, it’s important not to overdo it. Using too many emojis can make your correspondence overwhelming and challenging to read. A general rule of thumb is to use no more than two emojis per message.
Of course, there will be exceptions to this rule. If you’re sending a social media post or email blast, you might use more emojis to grab attention.
2. Stick to classic emojis
There are thousands of emojis to choose from, but not all of them are appropriate for business communication. When in doubt, stick to classic emojis, such as the smiling face, heart, and thumbs up. These emojis are generally recognized and less likely to be misinterpreted.
Apple has also released more diverse customizations of emojis, including varying skin tones, hair styles, and even some gender neutral variations. These have been a great improvement to inclusivity in visual expression online. However, unless your brand and messaging targets a specific group, it might be best to stick to the classic emojis to avoid excluding members of your audience.
3. Avoid emojis with multiple meanings
Some emojis, such as the winking face, can have multiple meanings. In business communication, it’s important to avoid emojis with numerous meanings so your intent isn’t misinterpreted. This will help to avoid embarrassing or otherwise awkward outcomes from misunderstandings.
4. Use emojis that match your brand’s tone
The tone of your communication should match your brand identity. A playful, bubbly B2C brand might use more emojis than a more serious, premium B2B brand. When choosing emojis, make sure that they fit with your brand’s tone.
5. Test your emojis before you send them
Before you hit “send,” you might test your emojis to ensure they appear correctly on all devices. Many email marketing and CMS platforms offer built-in A/B testing functionality. This can help you better understand your specific audience’s reaction to emoji use.
You’ll also want to test how they render across email providers and web browsers. Emojis can look different depending on your device, or they may not appear at all. Test different devices, platforms, and browsers to ensure your emojis are visible to everyone.
6. Outsource your content writing
If you still feel out of your element writing copy or using emoji in your content, or you just don’t have the time to write your own copy, consider outsourcing your content needs to a partner like Draft. We can help you create high-quality blog posts, website content, emails, and more. Our writers know how to use emojis appropriately, so you can be sure that your communication will be on point.
From marketing and social media to SEO and sales, Draft helps thousands of brands with their content needs across different formats, channels, and surfaces.
Emojis can be a great way to add personality to your business communication. However, there are right and wrong ways to use them. Following the tips above will help you use emojis appropriately in your business correspondence. 👋😃