Do emoji make you¯_(ツ)_/¯ ?
Increasingly, people—besides teenagers—are using these characters and symbols to describe their feelings. And if you’re looking for the best ways to communicate with your customers—and you are, aren’t you?—it behooves you to pay attention. If someone Tweets that your product makes them , you’ll want to know what they mean.
You might think you don’t use emoji, but if you’ve used a smiley in an email message, you’re pretty close. (Even Microsoft Word is so used to the colon-parenthesis for a smiley that it automatically converts it to a smiley face.)
Those smiley face and other symbols developed from typographical characters are known as emoticons. Originally developed in Japan in 2007, emoji are actual pictures, defined by the international Unicode organization, based in Mountain View, CA.
First Unicode decides what emoji will be added. 2015 brought the oft-requested diverse skin tones, for example, which are now being added to phones and keyboards; 2016 will bring 38 more, including an actual shrug emoji.
Then vendors decide how to implement them in their apps. This is why Google’s pizza emoji looks different from Microsoft’s. A huge amount of discussion can go into the design of a single emoji.
Like emoticons, the most-used category of emoji is “happy faces,” according to the Atlantic. “Happy faces, sad faces, and hearts make up more than 70 percent of global emoji usage,” writes Robinson Meyer.
As the Internet becomes increasingly global, emoji are becoming more common. One linguistics expert called emoji the fastest-growing language in the U.K.
Recalling Megatrends’ “high tech high touch,” some users say that using emoji helps them add more emotion and feeling into their increasingly text-based communications. “When I started to embrace that, I felt in some peculiar way that my text messages had more emotion. In switching from and communications to primarily , we have lost out on the feelings that can only be conveyed in inflection and ,” writes Joanna Stern in the Wall Street Journal.
And as people are using them more—particularly people with lots of disposable income—businesses are starting to take notice. Domino’s Pizza got a lot of attention last week when it let people order a pizza by sending the pizza emoji through Twitter (though it doesn’t work as well as described, some complain).
In the next few months, chances are you’ll be running into emoji more often. While laptop users may still have to resort to cutting-and-pasting emoji from somewhere else, smartphone keyboards increasingly support them. And operating systems are taking the hint. Windows 8 has supported emoji since 2012, while Windows 10 promises to support additional ones.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to be seeing General Motors giving its earning statements in emoji anytime soon.
There’s a debate right now, in fact, about whether emoji are appropriate in business communication. “I’ve never gotten a serious piece of communication or a message from an adult with an emoji,” screenwriter Bruce Feirstein told the New York Times in an article called, “Should Grown Men Use Emoji?”
As Millennials are entering the workforce, they’re bringing emoji with them, writes Bourree Lam in an Atlantic article called “Why Emoji Are Suddenly Acceptable at Work”—though even that article warns they probably shouldn’t be used with the CEO.
Sneer at them you might, but emoji can save time, as well as make it easier to communicate with people who speak different languages. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to understand the nuances of some emoji, and as they become more numerous it’s like any other large vocabulary—you run the risk of using one that your audience doesn’t understand, or that you’re using wrong. (Sending someone a picture of an eggplant, for example, might have a secondary meaning you didn’t intend.) In fact, there are so many misunderstandings of what some emoji are supposed to be that Unicode is changing the way they’re depicted.
In any event, it doesn’t look like emoji are going away anytime soon. And get ready: World Emoji Day is slated for July 17. (Why July 17? Because it’s the date depicted in the calendar emoji.)
or , emoji are taking over the .
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