March 18, 2016, by Sunita Tailor

Picture this: the rise of emojis. Will businesses follow?

Following the news that emoji might just be the fastest growing language in the UK and that elements of it might feature alongside the ‘like’ button on Facebook, using emoji is no longer sporadic or uncommon.

A new study conducted by Emogi reveals that more and more people of different ages are using it to communicate online. A staggering 92% of the respondents of the study admitted to using emoji and two thirds of people aged 35 and above use it on a regular basis. The Unicode Consortium – the company behind these increasingly popular pictograms – recently announced that they are now considering adding 67 new icons to the currently existing set.

From Smiley emoticon to smiley

This form of communicating has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the 1980s when Scott Fahlman first used a smiley face to show that his comment posted on an internet forum was meant to be taken as a joke. The ability of emoji to express a wide range of emotions and also nuanced meanings is what makes it so appealing to use it online.

Andy Murray tweet

An example of a tweet which uses only emoticons – Andy Murray recaps his wedding day

We frequently describe face-to-face communication as being multi-modal, as it allows us to use various means to communicate what we want to express. Apart from words, profiling the tone of voice and body language such as gestures or facial expressions can tell us a lot about what others think or want to say. All of these elements are absent from written communication so using emoji is an ideal way of enriching our messages with that extra layer of meaning that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

As with any type of linguistic innovation, the rise of emoji also attracts criticism, but there is a considerable number of brands and organisations which have already incorporated it into their digital communications. Some of the more prominent adopters of emoji include Oreo, PETA and GE. On Twitter, many replies to customers or clients end with an emoticon, emoji or both (example below).

John Lewis tweet

The question remains then to what degree will businesses adopt this method of communicating with others and whether they will come up with new and meaningful ways of using it to raise brand awareness and emotional engagement with their target audiences. All indications point to emojis playing an increasingly important role as business communication patterns transform on social media platforms.


Dr. Malgorzata Chalupnik
LiPP Research Fellow

Posted in Online communicationWeb language