Do Your Customers Want Emoji in their SMS Messages?

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Earlier this year I wrote about the technical challenge of using emoji in your SMS marketing. But what I didn’t mention was how your customers might feel about getting them in the first place.

That’s a big question. Fortunately, there’s some research that hints at how your customers might like, or not like, seeing them.

Attitudes Towards Emoji

Appboy, a marketing automation company, published a report on emoji usage and attitudes. The results are based on their internal data (brands that use their platform). And they also surveyed individuals around the world to understand how people felt about brands that use them.

Year over year, the number of emoji being used by brands is up 609% as of June 2016. This only includes push notifications and email though. They don’t have specific data on usage in SMS messages from brands.

So while impressive, the growth in emoji usage may or may not reflect usage by brands using text message marketing. But the rest of their analysis focuses on how people feel about emoji. That is much more interesting.

When asked how to describe their feelings towards emoji, 64% say they like or love them. This varies with age and gender to some degree. Relatively few harbour negative feelings towards them, while around a quarter to a third say they don’t have strong feelings either way.

Source: AppBoy.com
Source: AppBoy.com

Things get a bit more complicated though, when asked what they think of brands using emoji. Around 72% of people have what I call a positive response. In other words, they have good thoughts about brands using emoji. You can see the breakout in the image below.

Source: AppBoy.com
Source: AppBoy.com

Nearly a third though, have what I’d call a negative response. Most brands don’t want to be called childish or inappropriate. However, if you look at the age breakout, you can see that the negative responses definitely get larger with age. If your customers are in the older demographic, you might want to do your own research to see how your customers feel before jumping into using them.

Finally, the survey asks if people have any preference when it comes to the type of format the emoji are sent. Remember, the initial data all came from push notifications and emails. But in their answers to this question, the format (think channel) most people prefer is text messages.

Source: AppBoy.com
Source: AppBoy.com

What I find interesting about this data is the differences between the age groups. While text messages are the main choice for all age groups, the percentage varies. The youngest group is probably more likely to be on social media, so their preference for emoji is weighted almost equally between it and SMS.

Overall, I think it means people want brands to use emoji. And they are most open to them being used in a text message, but are happy to see them in other places too.

Using Emoji in SMS Messages

Now that you know it’s likely your customers would approve of your brand using emoji, should you start plopping them in every SMS message?

Probably not.

If you’re used to seeing emoji in your message app, email, social media, or wherever, you might be disappointed to know most of them aren’t compatible across systems. At least not when sending to a variety of different models and manufacturers of phones. You can check out this page on Unicode.org to see the differences.

Which brings me to the other main point of why you can’t just throw them around willy-nilly. Emoji are defined in the Unicode character set (as seen on the linked page above). Most mobile phones though, support the GSM character set. While some do offer support for both, or at least some combination, you can’t be sure which ones your customer has.

That shouldn’t dissuade you from using emoji though. It just means you need to educate yourself before you do.

So if you want to know more details about the technical issues, read my previous blog Are Emoji the next big thing in SMS marketing? But here’s a short summary of what you’ll find there. If you want to use emoji in your SMS messages, stick to the ones supported in the GSM character set. And you’ll want to do some testing before you send out any bulk messages. Otherwise, you might end up feeling 😧.

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