Imagine the scenario:
You are dressed to impress at a five-star restaurant on the beachfront- the mood is pleasant, and the time is right. You hand your phone over to the best photographer in the friend group; then you strike a pose; and a few more after that.
The pictures are enthralling, exotic, and gorgeous. Instagram-worthy. A thousand likes and a Vogue cover-worthy.
You open up Instagram, pick the photos, and set the tags. Now, for the caption…
“Night at the beach?” Straightforward.
“Night vibes in a funky town?” Bleh. Captions are hard.
Anyway, did you know 92% of people on the internet use emoji? And, when emoji are used in posts, interactions increase by up to 17%. Impressive numbers, right?
Did you also know that you could use emoji in your captions(and be cool like everyone else)?
I did some research, and I can show you how to use them to make your captions better and easier to think of.
- 👋🏾Put an emoji at the start of the sentence to draw attention.
- If you ever find yourself writing a massive block of text which makes no sense and can not be done without😐. It is always an excellent option to pepper the paragraph with emoji to make it easier on the eyes and more friendly to a reader🤗. I had to write this giant block of text to get my point across😅.
- Use them in line with your personality. You can be fun and bubbly with emoji😁or serious and methodical. Both are okay.
Say your audience is loaded with teenage girls who obsess over boy bands; you should feel free to throw in hearts and lipstick- the whole shebang.
But, if you are a smile-resistant insurance broker or a funeral home… Try not to raise eyebrows.
- You don’t have to be literal. Use emoji in line with the theme of the post.
Nature posts could use some green🌱. A day at the sea could be blue and peaceful🌊💧.
Emoji can be an excellent way to boost captions. If you are missing words, they can simplify your posts- while keeping the emotional punch.
However, the use of emoji depends on a couple factors. What’s the voice of your brand? What are you comfortable with? Who’s your audience? And, most importantly, what’s the emoji?
If you keep reading, you’ll see a bit about emoji history as well as more tips on how to use them.
How to Use Emoji in Instagram Captions
If you are using Instagram on a mobile device, simply open up the keyboard and tap the emoji icon to switch to the emoji keyboard.
If your keyboard doesn’t have one, hop on the mobile store and download an emoji keyboard.
Gboard and Microsoft SwiftKey are my go-to options.
If you are on a computer; The web app has a built-in emoji tab. If that is missing, get the Joypixel Emoji Keyboard extension.
Click the link, then hit the button that says, “Add to Chrome.”
Wait for a little.
After it’s successfully installed, select the jigsaw icon in the top-right corner of your browser. Click the pin icon beside EmojiKeyboard by JoyPixels.
From now on, whenever you need to use an emoji, select the green circle next to the address browser, then choose. Hit Ctrl+V on your keyboard to paste the emoji.
Don’t force it
Emoji are meant to convey simple sentiments like 😁 or 😐.
Do not be like Chevrolet. They once released a press release- that was written entirely in emoji. The intention may have been brilliant; the result, however, was not. They got a lot of attention. Most of it was negative, but it was attention nonetheless.
Consumers already complain that businesses overdo things, with so many emoji campaigns popping up. If you do too much, you may end up on r/fellowkids– a Reddit group that mocks companies that mess up when interacting with younger markets.
Remember, keep it simple.
Understand what emojis mean
Like any other means of communication, emoji can be misunderstood. Take the time to know what each means to users, as the Internet is a crazy place.
What does a 🍑 mean to you? A tasty, juicy fruit. Right? Surely, it would be fine for Walmart to advertise farm-fresh peaches using that. Wrong.
This is what the Internet really thinks of peaches:
Only when you are sure about the meaning of your emoji of choice, then you can play around with them.
Remember, it’s the internet age. If you are unsure of the meaning, just look it up using Google or on Emojipedia.
🚨🚨🚨 🚨🚨🚨PAY ATTENTION TO THIS LINE 🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨
See what I did there? Some emoji can stop your users while they scroll to make them check out what you have to say.
✨ adds some pizzazz to your words, a 🛒 might point them to your website to make an order, or explicitly 👉 to another post or related tag.
Use them in a way that lets people understand your intention without having to read much.
You don’t have to be literal
When posting about literally anything, try not to be straightforward and blunt. For example, on a post about a day at the beach, you could caption it as so: “Good vibes and a low tide🌈💦☀️”.
Those illustrate a beautiful day without explicitly stating it. Now, all you gotta do is visit the beach🏄🏾♂️.
You also don’t have to directly replace text with emoji. Let your emoji selection evoke thoughts of the topic you wish to share.
Know your Brand
In line with the warning to not be like Chevrolet, always identify the voice of your brand. Whether you are fun or serious, or if you target millennials over baby boomers.
When the topic is serious or sensitive, it is best to avoid using emoji- to avoid alienating or angering your customers.
Once, when commenting on the student loan crisis, Hillary Clinton asked respondents on Twitter to describe how they felt- using emoji😒.
The reaction wasn’t pleasant, that’s all I’ll say.
On the contrary, National Geographic has limited its use of emoji on Instagram, and it worked out for them.
Keep it simple
I’m not saying be like Kylie Jenner and caption your post with a singular moon emoji- not everyone can get away with that.
A post on a self-care day simply needs 💅🏾.
A picture tells a thousand words; let the emoji tell your story.
Just like the length, the order of the caption matters too.
Short captions are more likely to be read or digest. But, you won’t be able to build a connection with your audience that way😞.
As for extended captions, Instagram allows up to 2200 characters; however, it is truncated after 125-. They allow you to speak to the consumers.
Remember that users scroll through their feeds very quickly⚡; walls of text are often avoided.
Use emoji to break up large blocks of text, make it more aesthetically pleasing💫, or ensure the first three lines capture attention.
However👀, do not forget to keep your choice in line with the branding of your account.
Speaking of large blocks of text… sorry about that😅.
Play a little game
Use the emoji to get some more interactions. Maybe have your followers comment one of various possible choices. Or let them spam an emoji in the comment section to show support.
Yay😁 or nay😞?
A Short History
The first emoji showed up in 1999 on Japanese mobile phones. While working for DOCOMO- a mobile internet platform, Shigeta Kurita sketched one hundred and seventy-six 12-by-12 images(measured in pixels). Those were the first emoji. You can now find them at New York’s Museum of Modern Art if you need to.
For the first time ever, there was a way to add emotional subtext to a message that wasn’t netspeak. An “I’m sorry” could be heartfelt❤️ or insincere🙄, depending on the emoji that suffixed it. It was the start of a visual language.
In the years that followed, other companies saw the potential of these little pictures. Apple and Google then submitted a petition to Unicode, a non-profit organization that maintains internet text standards, to standardize emoji formatting. Unicode is the reason text written on one device is readable on another.
The petition was accepted in 2010, as emoji were too hot to ignore. Thanks to that, emoji are accessible to everyone, anywhere in the world.
However, emoji are also beneficial to businesses outside of computing. The colorful pictures were an immediate hit with the younger generation- the millennials, a large, untouched market.
Pepsi once promoted a range of specially-designed drinks as part of the “Say it with Pepsi” challenge. It was a response to the #shareacoke campaign by Coca-Cola, which featured names printed on Coke bottles.
The drinks had various moods and country-specific emoji- named PepsiMoji, which nudged people to share images as they drank- thus self-advertising the product and increasing the brand’s reach.
The realization that emoji transcend language barriers helped kick off a successful worldwide campaign.
Keep that in mind.
Why you should care about emoji
- By mid-2015, half of all Instagram comments included an emoji. By mid-2015, half of all comments on Instagram had an emoji(Emojipedia, n.d.).
- 📈 More than 700M emojis are used in Facebook posts every day(ibid).
- According to Quintly, 83% of profiles with over 1 million followers used emoji in captions. They found that emoji usage in marketing messages had increased by over 775% since 2013.
- Also, from Quintly(2019): In a study on accounts with 0-1k followers, those who used at least 10 emojis in captions averaged 45 interactions per post.
While accounts with 10k-100k followers averaged close to 520 interactions when 10 or more emojis were used.
- Bonus stat: The most popular emoji of 2020(and the past few years) is the Laughing Face With Tears of Joy😂.
Big Brands in Touch
When the big players in the industry or society are all doing the same thing, it usually bodes well for the trend or idea.
Domino’s made a genius move when they leveraged the popularity of emoji and introduced them in their marketing campaigns. Tweets from Domino’s often contain emoji. They really increase their sense of fun and appeal to younger users.
Another smart use is the chatbot feature that lets you order pizza using emoji. Domino’s Anywhere requires you to register an Easy Order account and set your favorite order- pizza with sides, of course. If that account was then linked to your Twitter, you could order a pizza by simply tweeting at Domino’s with a 🍕.
It’s fiddly, but it shows just how much the little icons have become a part of consumer behavior.
Indeed, Domino’s are number1️⃣ at emoji marketing.
MickeyD once released a series of advertisements featuring emoji as the artwork. The ads told stories using a series of emojis, which all ended with a McDonald’s meal and a smile. The ads attached positive feelings to eating at their restaurants.
Simple and effective.
Now that you know a bit about emoji history and how brands have used them… Here are tips to help you use emoji to their full potential- in your captions.
Some Great Examples
- Kylie keeps the caption short and simple.
The little heart at the end is in line with the standout color in the photo(its theme), and any non-English speaker would understand the caption- she loves the person featured in the post.
- This post by TakeMoreAdventures is another excellent example of what to do.
The first sentence catches the eye with 🔥, and later in the caption, they direct the reader to visit their bio with a 👉.
The 🔥 is also in line with the camping theme.
Captions are very useful in communicating with an audience. Emoji are a fun-eye catching way to communicate. Together, they give you more ways to share and build a relationship with your followers.
Some go-to tips for using emoji in captions:
- At the start of a sentence- to catch the eye, or at the end.
- Use them to draw attention to an important point, like 👉 to it.
- Use emoji visually so readers can understand the caption without going through the text. Let emoji refer to the contents of the post or its theme.
- Keep. Your. Voice. Don’t try to be excessively emoji-friendly, as readers can tell when you try too hard. Your captions are a window into the soul of your brand. Try identifying with a few choice emoji.
As always, feel free to play around and do what fits you best. Good luck.