How emoji usage has exploded by 766% on social

December 7, 2017

Written by NewsWhip
emoji blog

Love them or hate them, emoji are here to stay.

2017 has been the year of emotion and emoji have been a part of that. Consider the outrage sparked across social when Google made a cheeseburger emoji with the cheese misplaced. Even the CEO got involved to make sure the cheese would be moved to its proper spot (above the patty, of course). 

With clickbait going extinct, we’ve noticed an emerging trend in the top content on social media. Content that provokes an emotional response is more likely to get shared.

When we looked at the top shared Facebook posts in September, we saw that the posts with the most shares also had a higher percentage of Reactions used. To take advantage of this, we’ve noticed more publishers are using emoji in captions, perhaps to elicit that emotional response.

Language is constantly evolving and it’s important to keep on top of trends as they emerge, especially if they present a new and genuine way to reach your target audience. (Even if it means adding in some 😘😂😍).  

The growth of emoji  

It’s incredible how the use of emoji in the top 100 headlines jumped from a mere six in Fall 2015 to 28 in Fall 2016. At 52 emoji-sprinkled headlines in 2017, we can see this trend isn’t slowing down.

Of course, viral publishers have often been early adopters. A recent study from Quintly even suggests that headlines with emoji get more engagements.

But what about news publishers? Have the prestigious media institutions broken down and embraced emoji? 

News publishers and emoji 

We took a look at the top 100 Facebook posts from news-focused publishers on Facebook in November 2017, measured against 2016 and 2015.

news emoji facebook
The big jump in emoji usage is happening among news publishers. Look at Fall 2015, when there wasn’t a single emoji in the top 100 news posts. In 2016, this number jumped to 10, and this autumn, to 24.
News publishers are catching up to the trends that have been working for viral publishers. 

What types of stories use emoji from news publishers?  

As you might expect, breaking news, hard news, and tragedies are less likely to have an emoji associated with them. So how do publishers strategically use emoji?

top emoji posts
Looking at the top stories from publishers (both general news and otherwise) that used emoji this fall, we can see that soft news and human interest stories are most likely to have emoji in the headline. 

Which publishers use emoji the most frequently? 

Do Brits like emoji more than Americans? It might be so, since Daily Mail, the Independent, and BBC News all used emoji in headlines that appeared in the top 100 Facebook posts this November. NowThis was the only other publisher to contribute an emoji. 

Twenty-eight of the top 100 news-focused Facebook posts just in November came from the Daily Mail, and 21 of those contained at least one emoji. Out of the Daily Mail’s top 200 posts in November 2017, 136 of the posts used emoji.

daily mail emoji
For the Daily Mail, humor, human interest stories, and soft news were the only stories to use emoji. Meanwhile, on the publisher’s top stories without emoji, more somber stories, alerts, and negative stories did not have any emoji.

Knowing how to reach your audience in the right way is critical to success on social media platforms. For the Daily Mail, we’ve seen the U.K. news site rise through our ranks of top publishers this year, due in part to these savvy posts and made-for-social videos.

How did Daily Mail’s posts with emoji perform against the posts that didn’t use emoji? We looked at its top 50 posts with and without emoji in November.

daily mail emoji
The average engagements on Daily Mail’s posts with emoji were 2.5x greater than on the top posts that didn’t use emoji.

Beyond the top 100 news posts this November, we saw a few other publishers experimenting with emoji. USA TODAY, Yahoo!, AJ+, HuffPost, and Good Morning America also used emoji in headlines this past month. 

The top emoji 

If your audience on a certain channel is more receptive to emoji, it’s worth experimenting there. So which emoji were the most used in top engaging posts?

top emoji facebook
As to be expected, happier emoji were generally the most used. The “laughing with tears” emoji appeared in 38 of the top 100 Facebook posts with emoji.

This reflects what we saw in terms of the content being softer news stories.

Seasonal emoji also do well. We saw the Santa, Christmas tree, gift box, and (Thanksgiving) turkey emoji all appear in the top hundred as well.

Emoji from brands 

Brands are adopting emoji into their social posts as well. As we noted above, seasonal emoji are appearing in the top posts for brands, with Starbucks, Sainsbury’s, and Macy’s all using holiday-themed emoji this fall.
Again, it comes down to knowing your audience on each channel and what will resonate with them there. 

For example, the clothing brand Missguided is appealing to the Millennial/Gen Z generations, so the use of emoji here makes sense. 

To emoji, or not to emoji?  

Whether you’re a publisher or brand, using emoji comes down to a few considerations. What channels are you creating content for and do emoji make sense there? What is your brand’s voice? What are you looking to achieve with emoji — is it to provide a more succinct message, encourage an emotional response in your audience, or cleverly punctuate your caption?

For a look into which stories are predicted to go viral across web and Facebook (and the totally woke emojis there), check out NewsWhip Spike.

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