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Are Emojis Right for Your Brand on Social? :)

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If you came to our recent Social Media Workshop, you learned ALL about emoji 101 from the wonderful Christian Herrmann. And if you didn’t: 👎🏻

But, that’s okay. I’m here to steal a little of what he discussed and share how we incorporate emojis into our social strategy for Colorado State University.

DISCLAIMER: I’m pretty sure “emoji” is much like “moose.” It’s both the singular and plural version of itself. That being said, please excuse my grammatically incorrect usage of “emojis” throughout this entire blog. You can take it up with my lawyer. (Just kidding. I don’t have one. Please don’t contact any lawyers about this.)

There are so many great reasons to use emojis. They can say what you want to say without any words, they can add humor, they can add context, they can add emotion. People process images much faster than words. (Christian is the best at explaining why emojis are so great in life. I’ll make sure to link to his blog when it’s posted.)

Should your brand use emojis on social media?

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Emjois may or may not be for your brand. And that’s perfectly okay. Don’t force it. You don’t want your social communities to turn on your brand because of an ill-timed emoji.

Something to ask yourself first is, “Does our audience use emojis?” For CSU, it was an obvious yes…but not at first. Three years ago, you wouldn’t have seen any emoji in any of our posts. Emojis were well-known, yes. But their popularity was only on the rise. It wasn’t until 2015 that we realized a lot of our audience on social actually communicated with emojis, especially those 18-year-old students. Since a large majority of our primary audience understood and used emojis, we knew we should communicate with them how they communicate with each other.

Next, we asked ourselves if emojis fit in with our brand personality. This is a really important question to answer honestly. As I mentioned earlier, emojis aren’t for every brand personality. For CSU, the brand personality on social is witty, laidback, genuine, fun, and a million other things. But most importantly, we try to create a brand personality that is friendly; like someone you would actually want to grab a beer with. Emojis work perfectly with our brand.

How often should you use emojis?

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This is important. Use emojis sparingly. And with content that makes sense. We don’t use an emoji with every post and that is very intentional. We typically use emojis with our brand-engaging content, like pretty campus pictures or even with our sports teams (there are plenty of sports emojis to choose from). We likely wouldn’t use an emoji if, say, there was a crisis on campus. We rarely even use them on newsy posts. Knowing when to use them is typically intuitive.

The beautiful part about emojis is they can often say what you mean without you even having to say it. Here’s a good example of how we use emojis to get information across to our audience. Daylight Savings was last week. Rather than saying, “Don’t forget to move your clocks forward one hour for Daylight Savings today,” we used the clock emoji so our audience would know we were talking about time. Then, all we had to say was, “Don’t forget to spring forward, State.”

We also really like using emojis when engaging with our communities. When we reply to a tweet or a comment on Instagram, we don’t shy away from emojis. The face/reaction emojis can really bring your brand to life for your audience.

Do emojis work on every social media platform?

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Definitely…not. I don’t know if we’ve ever used an emoji on LinkedIn, and I doubt we ever will. LinkedIn is a professional social networking tool. If you wouldn’t use an emoji on your resume, don’t use it in a LinkedIn post.

Otherwise, emojis are pretty safe on almost any other platform. We use them constantly on Snapchat and Twitter, where our brand voice is really informal. CAM the Ram uses them almost constantly across his social channels. Other platforms, like Instagram and Vine, are also 👍🏻

Determining how your brand’s voice changes from platform to platform will help you better decide where to use emojis.

5 emojis you should definitely use

Now, just because emojis fit your brand personality doesn’t mean all emojis are safe to use. Here are five emojis we enjoy using across our platforms.

💚💛 Green and gold are deeply rooted in CSU’s culture, much like any university. We use green and gold hearts mostly when posting pretty campus pictures or anything to do with Ram pride.

🏀🏈 Using emojis like these tells our audience exactly what the post is going to be about: CSU athletics. It’s a quick way to say, “Hey! If you like CSU sports, look over here!”

🐶 CSU has one of the world’s top veterinary schools. It’s no surprise we use this emoji.

🐑 We’re lucky our mascot has its own emoji. Does yours? Use it! CAM the Ram uses this one constantly on his social media accounts.

☀ Colorado has 300 days of sunshine. YES we’re going to capitalize on that for recruiting purposes. Again, perfect for pretty campus photos.

5 emojis to stay away from

👎🏻👎🏼👎🏽👎🏾👎🏿 Stick to the generic “Simpsons” yellow-hand emojis. Only using, for example, the white emojis can be incredibly exclusive and might be offensive to your audience. The yellow emojis are more cartoon-like and, while not the perfect solution, can help your brand be more inclusive for its audience.

🍆 I really don’t want to explain this one. Use your imagination and then never use the eggplant emoji.

💦 Probably not this one either. Similar reasoning. (I feel like a middle school-er right now, and I don’t hate it.)

🍁 While we have used plant/leaf emojis before, especially during autumn, we definitely think before we post it. Colorado is a marijuana-friendly state. We never want our emojis to be misinterpreted as CSU condoning the use of drugs.

💩 I don’t know if you necessarily need to stay away from this one. But I can’t think of a time when any brand would ever use this. (Not saying there would never be a time to use it. I mean, I love the poop emoji as much as the next person. But, you get what I’m saying.)

UPDATE: I stand corrected. I was recently shown there IS a reason why a brand would use the poop emoji. Thanks FortZED.

Every emoji situation is different. If you want to talk emojis, feel free to contact me at ashley.manweiler@colostate.edu, or via Twitter: @AshleyManweiler.

Get creative

Think outside the box on how you can use emojis to engage with your audience. One of my favorite ways CSU used emojis came from the mind of the sickeningly talented Evan Moore.

He created CSU’s iconic Oval out of emojis, and then we asked fans what additional emojis we should add to it.

It’s simple. But it’s also a totally different, out-of-the-box way to use emojis.

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Ashley Manweiler
Colorado State alum. Graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in journalism and technical communications, concentration in public relations. I’m not a science genius, but I write about it a lot. My favorite social media platform? Buzzfeed.