14 Sep 2016 19:06 IST

Decoding visual hashtags: Emojis take over

It is clear that there is a new tongue that is shaping the mobile lexicon; but is it here to stay?

Are we staring at an emoji and sticker bubble? Visual hashtags are reaching an absolute frenzy as the world embraces wordless communication. Admit it, you too have sent a lazy emoticon instead of typing out a reply.

A study by Emogi.com estimates that 92 per cent of the online population today uses emojis. It isn’t surprising then that million-dollar start-ups revolving around emojis have sprung up. The hardware guys are busy creating emoji keyboards and start-ups are helping brands come up with catchy visual tags, while YouTube has tutorials for users to make stickers and emojis. Start-ups, like Appmoji, that create animated icons of celebrities have cropped up.

The visual movement is only gaining further momentum with Twitter launching Promoted Stickers last month, allowing brands to push custom stickers that users can add in a tweet. Pepsi was the launch partner of Promoted Stickers.

Emojis of course have reached absurd levels — nearly every big brand has an emoji. Chevrolet even pushed out a press release where the entire communication was through emoticons and emojis. Twitter has added to the crowd by unleashing emojis for virtually every festival or occasion. This Independence Day, it launched a customised India Map emoji in all its tricolour glory. Last year it had unfurled an emoji of the tricolour.

Listening gets harder

As the emoji trend gathers velocity, it is getting more and more complex for marketers to listen to social media. Initially, marketers only counted mentions. Soon, they realised that there could be positive as well as negative mentions. So then came sentiment analysis. But now with everyone using emojis or emoticons while posting stuff, there’s a fresh new dilemma — how do you decipher sentiment? Especially since some of the emojis are still very hard to figure out; is that a confused emoticon or a sad emoticon that someone is posting?

But here’s some good news: New York-based social listening platform Synthesio has come up with a way for brands to analyse emojis and emoticons. It has devised a scoring system for popular emojis that factors against sentiment to give brands insight into what the user is feeling. In addition, Synthesio also provides the geo-location data of the users so that brands can track and tailor the responses based on the region. So if there is a concentration from certain regions, responses can be tailormade and delivered according to geography.

Poles apart

For brands rushing in to use emojis, a host of studies now show that the usage of emojis needs to be regulated based on the target group. Appboy surveyed 500 online users on their emoji habits and found that men and women have different perceptions about these visual icons.

While 72 per cent women said they loved emojis, only 63 per cent of men were enthusiastic. Teens were most favourably disposed to emojis, considering it normal while older users, although they did not dislike it, were tentative.

With phone keyboards getting smarter and smarter, you just need to start typing a word for the emoji cue to pop up. A new tongue is shaping the mobile lexicon, but is this language here to stay?

That’s the million dollar question marketers need to ask themselves!

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