Emojis. They’re everywhere. The smiley faces have evolved from combinations of keyboard characters; and become part of the universal cultural language of the internet. They are a foundational part of a new internet culture – borderless, language-agnostic and truly global. Emojis are so important, that there was a movement to create more diverse emojis – resulting…
Emojis. They’re everywhere.
The smiley faces have evolved from combinations of keyboard characters; and become part of the universal cultural language of the internet. They are a foundational part of a new internet culture – borderless, language-agnostic and truly global.
Emojis are so important, that there was a movement to create more diverse emojis – resulting in everything from various skin tones for human emojis to gay emoji couples. There are millions of votes for new emojis – apparently, the most requested emoji today is the unicorn.
Emojis have taken on more than their literal meanings. The fire emoji is best way to say something is cool; the eggplant and peach emoji are now so sexual, they might as well be R-rated.
Why did emojis become so powerful? Perhaps because they became the easiest way to convey emotion in the constrained space of the internet’s compose windows. They became a way to say more than words. Emojis are evidence of something we already know: non-verbal communication is the most powerful type of communication in the world.
Beyond being shorthand for the internet generation, emojis are currency for today’s most precious commodity: attention.
Today, we’re drowning in a sea of content, information and notifications. Everything seems to scream “I’m important!”. Our brains have had to evolve coping mechanisms to help us cut through the noise. As a result, we are often less sensitive to attempts to grab our attention, instead focusing on what creates a strong emotional reaction.
This is why the internet sometimes feels like a mix of an outrage machine and a comedy club. Everyone seems to have figured out that extreme is the way to go; nuance is out the window.
From established publications to individuals looking for validation from the internet, everyone is in on the game. We all want to elicit a reaction. And emojis matter because they they show you who and what’s connecting, and what isn’t.
It was Maya Angelou who said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” She might have been an author, but she could easily have been a social media manager.
The best online communicators know how to touch people deeply and elicit an emotional reaction. It has become a cliché, but Donald Trump has been one of the leading “emoji communicators” of recent times. By eliciting strong emotional reactions from supporters and detractors alike, he has been able to dominate the media cycle from the day he announced his candidacy till today.
Closer to home, we see personalities like Falz use 😂 to grab attention and build his fan base. Personalities like JJ Omojuwa are able to elicit 😳 for bold statements about politics and policy. Sahara Reporters’ brand of media coverage is designed to create 😡 in Nigerians.
Each of these examples have used some form of extreme communication to elicit an emotional reaction – laughter, shock, outrage and anger – to build an audience and create a tribe.
In the coming year, everyone from politicians to brand managers will reach out to an increasing online audience, trying to convince them of something or the other. The best strategists will gather round tables with charts and Powerpoints, convinced that if only they could get their audience to understand some fact or the other, they’d get their buy-in.
The best way to make a mark in the Emoji Economy is to elicit a strong emotion. If you can get someone to give you an emoji, you have their attention. The rest is up to you.