Acceptable or Not: Emoji Use in B2B Marketing

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There's currently a battle going on in the marketing world – and it's all about the emoji. Should brands use emojis? If they should, where should they use the emoji at? Is it okay to include them in email headers – even if you're a B2B business?

There are heated opinions on both the pro-emoji and anti-emoji sides. Some marketers love the idea of using them, others consider emojis the worst idea they've seen. But in the back and forth tussle, four primary considerations for emoji use in B2B marketing have emerged.

4 Guidelines for B2B Emoji Use 😅

1. Don't use emojis in internal workplace communication. Employee to employee emojis are usually a no-no, even if you use workplace social media to communicate. Their meaning is far too vague (think blame, sexual harassment, and racism, just to start), so they create a vast headache for HR. In the end, an outright ban on inter-workplace emojis is probably smart, even if you're just a small team. Eventually, stricter emoji guidelines will become necessary as newer generations get jobs, but most industries aren't ready for that yet. *of course there are exceptions to this rule! Companies that have adopted Slack for internal communication tend to be very emoji friendly - as our team at 21 Handshake can attest to.

2. Don't use emojis like consumers do. Stay away from consumer practices like long strings of emojis, or a group of emojis designed to create a specific message. That approach will win very, very few new customers, and it's an excellent way to embarrass your brand for years to come. *the only exception may be Instagram, where emoji's can make yoursocial media message 'pop'. 

3. Understand how age-specific emojis are. Millennials get some emojis – let's say around half of emoji communication is millennial-friendly, more if you stick to single, easy emojis. The younger Gen Z understands most emojis, unless they've never come across some before (unlikely). Beyond that, no one in other generations is going to get any value out of the practice. Even a simple smiley may be confusing to older professionals who aren't sure about the intended meaning

4. It's best to follow industry, competitor, and client cues. Who is using emojis in your industry? Where are they using them at? When you put an emoji in a social media post, does it get responses? Are your clients using any emojis in their communication? Watch these clues carefully.

Emoji Use for B2B Email Marketing 💯

Still curious about how you can use emojis in your B2B company. Then lets talk about email marketing, one of the big areas of contention in the emoji war. Here are several rules you can follow when considering if emojis can spice up your email outreach.

1. Reserve Emojis for Long-Term Clients

Don't use emojis to try to bring in new leads. Prospects are unimpressed or confused by emojis popping up in their emails. Even the foundational smiley face doesn't tend to inspire confidence if people aren't acquainted with your brand. Save emojis for people who are already committed: This makes them ideal for newsletter emails and similar content.

2. Use an Emoji in Email Headers to Draw Attention

One benefit of emojis is that they really stand out in a world of text and screen space. This makes them ideal for email headers when you really want to capture the attention of people scanning through their inbox. You shouldn't use an emoji in every email, but for something with a lot of value, emojis can increase open rates.

3. Keep Emojis Ultra Simple

The smiley face is sufficient. Perhaps a clock or a clap or "100" or something similar will be called for. Don't use anything more complicated than that. Don't repeat the emoji for effect unless you are very sure of yourself. Don't experiment with different facial expressions, which may be interpreted in all different ways. Don't use random objects, which may have dozens of unintended meanings in the emojisphere. K.I.S.S. was never more important than when dealing with emojis.

4. Don't Use Emojis in the Body of Your Content

We won't say you should never use emojis within an email, but it's best to err on the side of caution. An emoji in the header is an understandable call for attention. An emoji in the body of a B2B email tends to look highly unprofessional and will turn clients off.

5. When in Doubt, Leave it Out

Stick with good old-fashioned words. If emojis become more prevalent in the B2B world, you can start using them then. This isn't a do-or-die scenario, so take time to be sure of your content.

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Sarah Hayes

Project Manager at 21 Handshake, a strategic marketing company, driven to grow relationship-driven businesses. A self described life long learner that thrives on detail, I love bringing these skills to the table to help others succeed.

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