Understanding Emojis for Your Social Media Strategy

In marketing, it is critical that we are speaking our audience’s language. And if your audience uses emojis, it’s important to start incorporating them into your social media messaging and strategy! This blog will dive into what emojis are, why your nonprofit should use them, what to be careful of, and how to integrate them in a way that is accessible to all users.

What are emojis?

Emojis are pictographs used in digital media to convey expression—and they have been around in various formats, like the emoticon, since the 1990s. Emojis add an additional layer of emotion to your text—similar to the way body language adds to verbal communication. For example, the “Face Blowing a Kiss” emoji ( ) can convey feelings of love and affection while the “Party Popper” ( ) can depict congratulations and celebration. In an ode to the increasing use of emojis in text messaging and on social media, The “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji ( ) was Oxford Dictionaries 2015’s Word of the Year—this first time an emoji was given this honor. 

Why should we use emojis?

Emojis can make your messaging more robust by adding an extra layer of expression and more relatable by being able to convey empathy. Research shows that social media users respond positively to seeing the emojis they use themselves. When a nonprofit uses emojis that users like to use, you are speaking their language. In fact, according to a webinar by Falcon.io, 60% of emoji users are more likely to open emails or notifications if they contain their favorite emoji.

What to be careful of

For the number of benefits emojis can bring to your social media strategy, there are more cautions you need to take to ensure that you are implementing them appropriately. Below are the things to consider when integrating emojis into your social media copy:

  • Context. When using emojis in your social media communication, it is important to keep the linguistic context in mind. What emojis convey often varies across cultures and languages. This is particularly important if you have a global audience.
  • Inappropriate connotations. Be sure to stay ahead of *all* the connotations an emoji may have—including risque ones. Some emojis—like the Peach emoji ( ) which can refer to someone’s buttocks—aren’t always what it might literally seem.
  • Sensitive content. When it comes to messaging about sensitive topics, only use emojis that are directly aligned with your messaging or that feel absolutely appropriate. A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of emojis when taking a serious tone, as they can be seen as off base and insensitive.


One of the most important things to keep in mind with emoji usage is accessibility—particularly for folks who are visually impaired and use screen readers. From using too many emojis to putting them in the wrong place, it is very easy to exclude users and fall out of ADA compliance.  Although staying ADA-compliant on social media reaches far beyond appropriate emoji usage, there are many things to consider to ensure your messaging remains inclusive of everyone. Here are some best practices:

  • Enhance but don’t replace. Emojis can add expression to your copy, but they shouldn’t be used to replace words. Screen readers read text descriptions of the emoji and are likely to muddle the translation for the listener or misinterpret the text differently than originally intended.
  • Text fist. Always place emojis at the end of the text, rather than at the beginning or in the middle. It is important to get messaging via text across first to avoid a confusing user experience for those relying on screen readers.
  • Keep it short. Don’t go overboard with emoji usage! For similar reasons to keeping them at the end of the text, adding too many emojis creates a bad user experience for people who use screen readers. Going emoji overboard can also be unappealing to all users by muddling your message.
  • Don’t use emoticons. Emoticons (created by a series of punctuations) lack the alt text description that make emojis translatable to screen readers. Since emoticons are punctuation marks, that’s exactly how they will be read by screen readers, and they can easily translate as typos or grammatical errors.

As our worlds increasingly evolve to be more virtual, emojis are a fantastic way to add more expression and empathy to our digital interactions. But it’s important to remember that low-vision and blind users rely on alt text descriptions and screen readers, and we must ensure our messaging can be digested appropriately for all users. With more people gathering on social media and virtual spaces becoming the norm, it is more crucial than ever that we ensure everyone can enjoy a full digital experience.

For more social media tips, download our free guide, Tips for Nonprofits on Social Media.

Tips for Nonprofits on Social Media

Looking to expand your social strategy? Let’s get started.


Related Posts