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Three ways emoji are changing social marketing

07 Mar 2016

Marketers are still wrestling with the value of a social media “like” and whether it’s worth more or less than a “share”. Now we need to wrap our minds around a whole new mode of communication and audience feedback—emoji. They’re everywhere. From Domino’s enabling customers to order online with a pizza icon to Facebook’s recent launch of Reactions, featuring emoji buttons. Emoji can make it easier for social media users to tell others what they really mean, but what do they mean for marketers?

Here are three ways emoji are changing social marketing:

Richer insight from social analytics

Facebook page owners can see Reactions to all posts in Page Insights, adding depth to the “like” and revealing more about how the audience is responding to content. Facebook does its own analysis through Facebook IQ and serves up trends that can help marketers shape campaigns. Reactions will no doubt enhance that analysis. Also, brands may eventually get richer data and insight from social listening, monitoring and analytics tools, as they incorporate that data into their dashboards, possibly showing how reactions correlate to campaign results.

More visual storytelling

Once a hallmark of teens, texts and messaging apps, emoji and emoticons - their type-based cousins, are a legitimate part of social media conversation and should be considered fair game as part of social marketing content. But, proceed with caution. Make sure they’re relevant to your brand and audience, you understand what they mean and how they appear on different device types and you’re sensitive to any related controversy or confusion. For instance, Always #LikeAGirl ad campaign challenges emoji that primarily represent women in stereotypical roles.

Branding potential

Ikea, General Electric, Coca-Cola and others are going beyond using emoji to creating their own branded emoji. But beware - creating a character won’t make it part of the emoji keyboard that comes standard on most smartphones. You will need your own app or a partnership with a social media messaging app. Or you could try to add an unbranded emoji that is highly relevant to your brand, like Taco Bell, which organised a petition to add an unbranded taco emoji to the universal keyboard to take advantage of how people naturally engage.

Don’t develop an emoji strategy. Do observe how your customers - not all customers, but specifically your customers - are using emoji in their communication and how others brands within and outside your industry are incorporating emoji into their marketing. Even if they’re not relevant to your audience today, they’re becoming more commonly used and could be adopted by your customers in the future. If your customers are using emoji, don’t just jump on the bandwagon. Figure out how you can naturally and appropriately include emoji in content and conversation and gain insight from those interactions.

Article by Jennifer Polk, Gartner research director

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