To Emoji or Not Emoji: Using Emojis in Business Communications

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“Smiley face,” “heart,” “kissy face,” “wink, wink,” “okay gesture,” “sad face,” “look of surprise”…emojis are everywhere. We find these visual representations of emotions and thought processes on social media, in text messages, and even in email–in both personal and business communications. Perhaps our increasing usage of emojis demonstrates that we are becoming more open and transparent, but is it appropriate professionally?

Marketing consultant Dennis Shiao has written about emoji use–once in 2017 and again in 2018. His most recent article explores how some of his Twitter followers feel about seeing emojis in blog titles. In that article, I weighed in with my response.

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Although I’m obviously not in favor of emojis in article titles, I do think they have value in business communications. Of course, there are downsides, too. Let’s take a look…

Pros of Using Emojis in Business Communications

Overall, I’m an emoji advocate. I find they often help to clarify my tone and add a layer of emotion that can sometimes get lost when communicating via words alone.

  • Emojis emphasize how much we care about an idea or people.
  • Emojis help us applaud others’ achievements.
  • Emojis soften the blow when we need to decline an invitation to an event or otherwise deliver less-than-ideal news.
  • Emojis lighten the mood and demonstrate our quick wit by giving us a visual way to provide humorous commentary.
  • Emojis show appreciation of others’ sense of humor when people aren’t in earshot of our laughter.

With over 3,000 emojis available in 2019, there’s one for virtually every situation imaginable.

Cons of Using Emojis in Business Communications

But using emojis in business communications isn’t all thumbs up. There are some potential drawbacks, too.

  • Some clients or business partners may consider them unprofessional.
  • If overused, emojis can lose their impact.
  • An emoji that’s funny to one person might be offensive to another.
  • Relying on emojis to communicate our thoughts means less practice expressing ourselves with words. Without flexing our wordsmithing muscles, we risk that they’ll atrophy.
  • Some people may view emojis as insincere, especially if they’re used to convey empathy in unfortunate circumstances.

“The better part of valour is discretion…” ~ William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part One

Emojis can add emphasis and provide visual variety in professional conversations. However, know your audience before using them. Consider the preferences and sensitivities of the person on the receiving end. If you’re unsure of how warmly a prospect or new client will receive emojis, you may want to withhold them until you’ve had more time to assess the person’s communication style and formality expectations.

Your turn! Do you think emojis have a place in business communications? Why or why not?