An emoji is a small icon used to represent an emotion, symbol or object. Emoji commonly appear in communication applications, such as social networking apps and text messaging systems. Over the years, emoji have appeared on everything from Instagram and Facebook to business communication systems like Slack.

In 2015, professor Vyv Evans from Bangor University named emoji the fastest growing language in the UK. Since then, the popularity of emoji has continued to grow as people look for more ways to express themselves online.

Where did emoji come from?

Emoji have been a part of the digital landscape since 1999 when a Japanese designer called Shigetaka Kurita designed the first emoji for a cellphone. The concept of emoji reached global popularity in 2012, when Apple released their iOS 6 system, complete with an to send icons in their text messages. Now, it’s possible to access a library of emoticons on virtually any app by tapping on the smiley face on your phone’s keyboard.

Because emoji typically represent a specific feeling or thought, they’re used to give depth and context to a message. Many people use emoji to:

  • Introduce humor to a message
  • Express themselves online
  • Communicate beyond words or enhance the text in their messages

The benefits of using emojis

Emoji are powerful in both everyday life and marketing strategies. Brands who use emoji in the subject lines of their emails see a 45% increase in open rates on average. The main reason for this is that emoji represent a universal language that almost every customer resonates with. Beyond the universal appeal of emoji, additional benefits include:

  • A better way to connect with customers: Though emoji appeal in the digital world, they provide companies with a way to introduce a more “human” experience to online interaction. -By mimicking facial expressions and emotions, companies use emoji to convey the nuances of face-to-face interactions.
  • Enhance communication: It’s often difficult to determine the tone of voice or meaning behind a message written on a smartphone or a social media post. Emoji help to give context to information and show what a person was feeling as they typed.
  • Demonstrate personality: Many brands today use emoji to convey the human side of their businesses. In a world where customers struggle to trust faceless corporations, emoji give companies a playful side.
  • Drive responses: The use of emoji to convey feelings often convinces other people to share their own emotions in response. Many social media sites are now using emoji as “reactions” to let people demonstrate how they feel about posts without words.

When to use emoji

Although emoji are beneficial in many online interactions, it’s essential to use them correctly. Emoji are best suited to conversations with younger generations who have grown up using the icons to express themselves. The best time to use emoji is:

  • When you know your audience feels comfortable with them
  • When you’re adding context to a post
  • When you’ve chosen your images with care
  • When you’re creating an engaging experience for customers

Be careful not to use too many emoji in a single post and remember that certain icons have hidden meanings. Be sure to research the social definition of an emoji before you post it online.