In one of Twitter’s latest updates, the network unveiled support for emojis. These colorful graphics — most frequently depicting smiley faces — have been common in messaging programs and webpages for years, and are finally spreading into social media.
The natural response for most brands should be that emojis are too informal, too niche pop culture to be used in tweets. In the many cases, that’s completely true. A brand needs to maintain an authoritative presence on social. Customers and clients should feel comfortable bringing their business to you, and adopting too casual a voice on Twitter could diminish the reputation that your team has worked so hard to build.
That said, there are a few specific instances where emojis can successfully fit into a brand’s social strategy. We’ll look at two Twitter profiles that have used emojis to good effect, and why it works for them.
Wendy’s: Speaking Fans’ Language
When you first look at the Wendy’s Twitter feed, there’s nary a smiley face to be seen. It looks like a typical company profile, complete with great photos, smart hashtags, and punchy text.
Why is this great use of emojis? Look at the feed that shows ‘Tweets and Replies.’ The fast food chain has focused their use of the graphics exclusively on responses to fans.
— Wendy's (@Wendys) July 7, 2014
Most community managers give plenty of thought to how they respond to negative posts on social media, but appreciating positive feedback is important too. Wendy’s has used the emojis when replying to its happy fans.
This keeps the informal emojis off of the main feed, so the internationally known brand can keep up a professional profile. Using emojis for lighthearted conversations that the Wendy’s account has directly with happy fans creates a dialogue similar to ones those people might have with friends. It presents a more relatable face to fans and bolsters any existing brand loyalty.
Part of the reason this works is that, while it is an official account, the brand’s social media voice does tend to the more casual. Wendy’s often posts funny tweets, but including emojis in those updates might give the impression of trying too hard to be trendy. Adopting a specific set of circumstances for emojis lets the brand’s social media team be personable and fun on an individual level without sacrificing the more public face.
Another reason this narrow window for emojis is successful is that even though the happy fans receive a fun response, the service team takes negative tweets seriously. You won’t see frowning or crying emojis in response to a complaint. This proves that the brand isn’t just looking for laughs.
Ellie Goulding: Popular and Personal
Singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding takes a similar approach to emojis on her Twitter account as Wendy’s does, in terms of creating strong connections. Obviously an individual can have more leeway than an international brand in terms of how to present on social media, but a rising star in the music industry still needs to be image conscious on and off the stage.
Headlining Eden Project tonight
— Ellie Goulding (@elliegoulding) July 8, 2014
One reason this works for Goulding’s profile is that she doesn’t overdo it. Just as a tweet laden with too many hashtags can be confusing or off-putting to readers, an overbearance of smiley faces would not do. She uses emojis selectively, thus giving each maximum impact. This one, before a major gig, is a perfect example. The image captures both excitement and nerves, and it elicited several well-wishing replies from fans wishing her luck. As with Wendy’s, they give status posts a more personal touch, crucial for creating the connections that will help develop her fan base.
Emojis make sense for the tweets of a trendy, up-and-coming performing artist. Not only do they help her to be concise in updates, but they make sense coming from a twenty-something. She’s probably well aware of what the latest trends are, not just as a public figure but also as someone who is part of the generation shaping how people communicate with new technology.
The key to both of these examples is that they feel authentic. Neither brand had to stretch the boundaries of their existing voices to incorporate the casual images into tweets. For Wendy’s, emojis made sense within the context of what the company was already doing with social media. For Goulding, it’s a natural match for how she, her peers, and her fans talk and tweet.
Your followers will notice if you try to force something new and trendy into your plans. Whether it’s emojis, GIFs, or any future addition of web humor into tweets, don’t rush to participate unless the new tool is a genuine fit.