Brands Love Using Emojis — but They’re Picking the Wrong Ones

  • Brands love to tweet with emojis — maybe they think it makes them look down with the kids.
  • But the emojis they’re picking aren’t quite up to scratch.
  • New data says 🔥 and 🏈 are brand favorites, while their customers are ironically ✨sparkling✨.

For better or worse, brands try very hard to look cool on social media.

They really love emojis, something that picked up among social-media managers around the middle of the 2010s, according to a Guardian report from 2015 and my personal recollection.

Presumably, this is an attempt at speaking to potential consumers in the language they relate to. The problem is, you can know the language, but still be picking the wrong words, or — in this case — images. 

The consumer research group Brandwatch has analyzed the Twitter output of accounts with over 100,000 followers to come up with a bunch of stats about emoji use, including which were the most used by both brands and consumers so far this year.

Brands’ top five, according to this research, were the fire emoji, the finger pointing to the right, a football, a blue heart, and a cocktail. 

The only emoji equally loved by consumers was the fire emoji, which is their fourth most-used.

That tracks, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the other emojis typed by a personal account on social media or elsewhere. Why would you pick a blue heart so often that it’s in your top 10? What does the pointing finger mean? Maybe it denotes “read what’s coming next” but that seems unnecessary given “read” is the entire point of Twitter.

Consumers have much more natural understanding of emoji. The rest of the top five includes the red heart, which feels much more natural than a blue one, the cry-laughing emoji which has now fueled intergenerational warfare that brands might be wise to avoid, the sobbing emoji, and — my personal favorite — the “sparkles,” which as well as being aesthetically pleasing can be used to denote sarcasm in a passive-aggressive way. Sort of like a newer, more fun version of putting words in asterisks.

Does it matter? Probably not. Everything brands do on Twitter from jokes to tributes is at risk of coming off “cringey” to people, a few too many fire emojis seem unlikely to tip it over the edge.

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