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How Emojis Can Make or Break Your Email Marketing

To emoji or not to emoji? That is the question — especially when it comes to email blast subject lines. Do emojis increase open rates? Do they ultimately increase quality open rate and, in turn, lead conversions? Many have tested it out in the past couple of years and found that the answer is, for the most part, yes. It all depends on context and usage though: A well-placed snowman ⛄️ could dramatically boost your open rate while a pointing finger 👉 might lower it. So how can you implement emojis in a way that can help your business? The answer is in the question: consider your business first. Then test it out, while following these tips for success. They’re only guidelines — you won’t know what works for you until you try it for your purposes.

1. Emojis aren’t for everyone.

Take a step back for a minute. What are you selling? What is your product? More importantly, what is your brand? No article you read online will tell you whether using emojis will work for you. But consider for a second if emojis will not work for you. If you’re selling the world’s best coffee from an undiscovered island and you’re targeting rustic, adventurous middle aged men and women, maybe you could pull off the coffee mug. If you’re selling greeting cards? OK — try out the ❤️ once in a while, or 💃. If you’re a major law firm or a governmental institution, it might be harder to pull off a 🙀. And if you’re focused on B2B, it’s also going to be a little trickier. At Visually, for instance, we use emojis very carefully. If content is King, emojis are the jokers. It’s hit or miss. You have to be strategic — eliminate the idea if you know up front that it doesn’t fit with your brand. There has been research to display which emojis are the most successful, but they aren’t magic, so be brave but stick to your own story.

2. Be memorable, but be relevant. Don’t be kooky.

If you decide you’d like to test emojis, decide up front how you’re going to do it. Sometimes it’s fun to be ironic, playful or unexpected in a subject line. It attracts attention. So test it out, but remember to be relevant and stick to your brand and target audience — not only with the emoji itself but also with the text. Emojis are already friendly. For example, if you’re sending an email promotion about a webinar, the googly eyes might be effective to include: “Tune in! 👀” but if you just put “👀 Register for our webinar!” it might look a little creepy. Don’t put emojis for the sake of emojis. “Tune in! 😊” is irrelevant. An emoji is only worth half a word. Emojis don’t always speak for themselves, unless they’re especially witty in context. So don’t use them to replace text in casual use. People don’t always read them as words. For instance, if you’re using the subject line “DO YOU ❤️ NY?” it’s likely your audience will read “Do you heart NY?” or “Do you ___ NY?” Try instead: “Do you love New York? So do we ❤️!”

3. Split test.

With tools like Marketo, Mailchimp and Sendgrid, it’s easy to split test subject lines. Divide your traffic into two or more groups. Decide which group gets which subject line and send it off. If you want to test for emojis at all, make sure, of course, to exclude emojis entirely from one version. If you’re testing for which emojis, or how to use the emojis, then test that — but again, make sure you’re controlling for the right variable, and test only one at a time. It may well be that you find emojis increase open rates for one type of email but not for another type (i.e., they work for 50 percent-off deals but not for 25 percent-off deals) — then ask yourself, was it really the emoji that helped? Don’t overdo it. Let’s say you’ve tested it. You’re a B2C marketer and your customers are ❤️-ing your ❤️s. Emojis work for you. But do you really want them in every subject line? Emojis work when they’re unexpected, not when they’re predictable. If you’re going to overdo it, it might be preferable to fit 20 emojis in one email subject line rather than fitting one emoji in 20 consecutive email blasts. You don’t want to be the “emoji” company.

4. Make sure your email lives up to its subject line.

It should go without saying, but fill up your email with good content that’s relevant to your subject line. We like to think of emojis as micro-microcontent. In other words, teasers to micro-content. So, if your email is a flop, an emoji isn’t going to help the situation. Don’t forget, Visually can help you produce content for your specific marketing needs.

5. Listen to the data.

No matter how many tips and tricks you read, your business is specific. Only your customers can tell you if emojis are going to lure them into opening your promotional emails. So pay attention to what they say 👂 and use it to guide your decisions. Then challenge the decisions with more tests, and repeat. Have fun 😛

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