Emoji: The New Face of Social

Unless you live in a remote part of the world with no Internet access (poor you!), you’re very familiar with the emoji language. “Language!?,” you may scoff. Yes, language. The word "emoji" originated in Japan, and means literally "picture" + "character." Seemingly overnight, it was everywhere. Your mom’s using it, your brother’s using it, your best friend’s using it. Everyone, from all over, is jumping on the emoji bandwagon. Case in point: Emoji is currently the fastest-growing language in the UK.

Don’t cringe. Seriously, stop. The widespread usage of emoji doesn’t signal the rapid destruction of the English language as many a curmudgeon have suggested. Rather, it's a natural progression of the digital world we live in. Humans like visual things. The phone call was killed by the text, and now the text by the emoji. It makes sense that we’d find a way to further visualize and thus simplify communication.

Regardless of the feels you may have about it, the rise of emoji have left quite an impact on the Internet, and on social media in particular. Twitter incorporated emoji last year (an estimated 12,500 are tweeted every minute), Instagram–where copy sans emoji is becoming more and more rare–introduced emoji hashtags in April, and on Snapchat, emoji have been ubiquitous since day one.

Let’s take a look at a few recent emoji campaigns via social media for lessons in what works and what doesn’t. We’ve ranked them from great to just alright. Let’s start with the best, shall we?

The Best: #EndangeredEmoji

When the aforementioned curmudgeons bemoan the destruction of language thanks to emoji, tell them about the #EndangeredEmoji campaign from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The campaign asks users to tweet out any of the emoji representing 17 endangered animals. Every emoji tweeted is worth a donation of 11 cents, and at the end of the month, WWF tallies the number of emoji you tweeted and how much was donated as a result.

Pretty genius, right? It takes two things everyone loves (and uses on a daily basis)–animal emoji and Twitter–and combines them for a great cause. We love this campaign most for its simplicity. It has nearly zero barrier to entry. To sign up, simply retweet this tweet from your account.

The Good: Emoodji


Old Navy has made the flip flop an integral aspect of its brand, and its new emoji campaign ups the ante. The website (dubbed Emoodji, “the emoji calculator”) creates a mood board based on which emoji you use the most on social. Enter your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram handle, the website pulls your top-used emoji on that platform, suggests a dream vacation, and if you’re lucky, you win a free pair of flip flops.

It’s a fun website that, refreshingly, isn’t blatantly branded, and it's hitting its target demographic on the mark: young teenagers who use emoji and presumably buy Old Navy flip flops. The end game of the campaign seems lacking: only the first 10,000 people to try the website received free flips flops. But overall, it’s a fun idea and executed well.

The Eh: Domino’s

You may have heard rumblings about this campaign. In May, Domino’s announced it would deliver pizzas to customers who tweeted the pizza emoji at the company. Fun premise, yes? Execution, not so good.

The problem was two-fold: you had to already have a Domino’s account set up, and you had to have an “Easy Order” saved, which meant you had to have already ordered a Domino’s pizza online at some point. That’s a pretty high barrier to entry for participation. For the average pizza eater, this campaign might be seen as an amusement, a novelty, but for the diehard Domino’s eaters, this was a little slice of heaven. So while we might dub this an “eh,” for those who are religious Domino’s eaters (there must be some of those out there?), this campaign was most likely a godsend (*insert praying hands emoji here*).

Now that you’ve got a few case studies under your belt, I enthusiastically implore you to embrace the emoji language! I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can’t really mess up. People have been using emoji wrong all along, but meaning is in the eye of the beholder. Know your audience; know your emoji.