Attention is the currency of social media, and many trends come about as influencers and early adopters look for new ways to capture that ever-elusive attention. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating trends into your social media strategy, in fact they can be quite beneficial. The key is knowing whether a trend works for your brand, and then determining how to incorporate it in a way that’s both natural and effective.
Take hashtags for example: they gained attention as a fun way to communicate emotion and intent. Brands began incorporating them into their messaging, and soon they exploded across platforms. Today, we know that hashtag-ing every other word in a social post makes your message difficult to read, and adding a string of 20 hashtags to the end of a post makes your brand look… well, lost. We also know how to choose the best hashtags and the appropriate number to use on each platform to optimize results. But before the research was done, when the hype was real, brands had to try different tactics to see what worked and what didn’t.
So how do you know whether a trend is worth incorporating into your social media strategy?
That comes down to making smart decisions. In a recent interview at Hubspot’s INBOUND 2022 conference, former President Barack Obama shared that when he’s faced with a difficult decision, he takes “the long view.”
In or out of crisis, Obama explained, most big decisions involve probability. When you’re confronted with a big challenge, there’s no 100% perfect answer, but if you establish a good process for decision making, you can make a judgement call with confidence. That doesn’t mean you’ll be right all the time, but you can at least be confident that no one else could have made that decision better than you did.
Applying the Long View
Public policy isn’t the only place this is useful. The financial industry also benefits from taking the long view. If you’re saving for retirement and you look at your 401k totals or your money market accounts on the daily, you might well go into panic mode when you see some of those fluctuations. I was raised by a stockbroker-turned-business owner. He doesn’t scare easily, my dad. He’s calm in crisis and patient (oh, so patient). You could say he takes the long view on most things. It’s a useful way to operate in business (and parenting). But I digress. How can we apply this long view to social media?
Start by asking yourself what you want your brand’s social media presence to look like one year from now. Are you calm and measured? Business-focused and informative? Casual and fun? Who is your audience? How would they describe your brand after engaging with it online? Why do they follow you? With a clear picture of where your brand is one year from now, you’re ready to provide thoughtful answers to the 8 questions that can help you make an informed decision.
We’ve answered the 8 questions below as they pertain to the trend of using emojis in social posts.
Question #1 How long has the trend been building?
Brands have been using emojis in social media posts for years now. It has evolved from a fad to a trend.
Question #2 What industries/brands have we noticed incorporating this trend?
We’ve noticed both large and small B2B and B2C brands working emojis into their messaging.
Question #3 Is this a trend that feels natural for our brand voice/personality?
Yes, if used sparingly.
Question #4 How might this trend positively impact our brand?
Reputable industry research (including Adobe and Social Media Today) states that using emojis can increase engagement rates and generate empathy. It may also help our audience see our brand as more relatable.
Question #5 Could incorporating this trend have a positive or negative impact on our audience?
There’s no clear benefit for our audience, however multiple, credible sources (i.e. Easter Seals, BrailleWorks, ACM Digital Library) caution that using emojis in social media content makes messages difficult to understand for people with vision impairments.
Emojis are translated literally by screen readers, losing much of their personality in translation. This means that using multiple emojis consecutively or sprinkling them throughout social posts can be time-consuming and frustrating, leading audience members to unfollow your handle and go elsewhere
Question #6 What percentage of our audience might this impact positively/negatively?
Globally, more than 250 million people are visually impaired, requiring the use of a screen reader or magnifier, and even more, 1.1 billion, have near-vision impairment simply because they don’t have glasses. That’s a significant portion of our target audience and social media followers that could be negatively impacted by our use (or improper use) of emojis.
Question #7 How might this trend negatively impact our brand?
Overuse or improper use of emojis could make our brand appear tone-deaf and inaccessible. Worse still, we risk losing a percentage of our followers to our competitors who follow stricter accessibility guidelines.
Question #8 What best practices should we use if we incorporate this trend?
Add emojis at the end of a message rather than at the beginning.
Avoid using emojis in place of words or alongside words in the middle of a sentence.
If you do use an emoji at the start of a post, use one that is simple and easy for a screen reader to translate (“right arrow” vs. “Caucasian man holding right hand up”).
Use emojis that fit your brand (a loudspeaker vs. a monkey covering its ears).
Social media, like B2B sales, is a long-term play. In my experience, B2B brands, especially, look for short-term results from social media, pushing for leads, and scouring data for numbers they can share weekly even though they have a traditionally longer sales cycle (75% of B2B companies take an average of at least 4 months to win a new customer). Taking the long view when it comes to your social media strategy will help you ensure that you’re communicating clearly to your entire audience, staying true to your brand, and keeping your goals in mind.
Taking the long view requires patience. It means nurturing the 95% of your audience that’s following you because they enjoy your content or like your brand. These are the folks that are not in the market to purchase right now but will think of your brand first when they are ready.
Organic social media is your opportunity to engage with those who have chosen to follow you. Incorporating tried-and-tested trends into your strategy can help you stand out in a crowded feed without jeopardizing your brand’s integrity.