Dissatisfied with the limited range of the Like button, Facebook users begged for a more accurate way to express themselves. And Facebook, after rounds of testing and careful analysis, changed the public relations game by finally rolling out Facebook Reactions.
No longer constrained by “like,” users now can say “love” or “haha” with the press of a button. Users were already accustomed to expressing themselves without words: In 2015, Facebook-owned Instagram found that 40 percent of all communications on its platform included some form of an emoji. Just as Apple incorporated the embeddable emoji keyboard, Facebook responded to the demand for more ways to express emotion.
This kind of communication isn’t going anywhere, and PR agencies need to learn to speak the language.
Among small groups of friends, emojis take on lives of their own. Different meanings and interpretations can cloud the clarity of communication for outsiders. In response, Facebook smartly offered up responses universal in nature.
Facebook has created a competitive advantage by limiting the number of emotions users can express, ridding marketers of the burden of analyzing billions of emojis. By starting small, Facebook has solidified itself as the first social platform to speak the language of social media, and users and brands like the change.
From a PR standpoint, the new responses and the prevalence of emojis mean brands will know quickly how their message is being received. The targeting options — for example, toward users “angry” about a topic — mean brands can offer a solution to a problem they know customers are facing.
How PR Can Join the Movement
As communication styles shift, brands attempting to join the fun will find the waters murky. Understanding their audiences and how they use new Reactions and emojis is not merely important, but vital. Brands writing emojis into their marketing strategies this year should heed the following tips to ensure they don’t drive users to the “angry” button.
- Keep it light. When using such a quirky means of communication, clarity is fundamental; stick to light conversations in the beginning. If confused on the meaning of each emoji, consult tools such as Emojipedia to do the research.
Chevrolet recently issued a press release written in emojis. Although it did require the use of a translator, the tactic was a fun way for Chevy to announce its embracement of a new kind of conversation. Now, it’s poised to continue the conversation in a way that customers find natural.
- Utilize ambassadors who speak the language. Whatever your brand stands for, the chosen ambassador must be able to magnify the message rather than distract from it. This person must appeal to the target audience so the message and its presentation will resonate.
For instance, TAG Heuer recruited Cara Delevingne to communicate with a younger, social media-savvy consumer. With more than 35 million followers across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, she is a powerful celebrity influencer who knows how to connect with her fans. She is not afraid to speak her mind, and embrace her “weirdness.” Delevingne, the poster child for mischief, is disruptive yet elegant.
- Only speak if it’s timely. It’s no secret that timing is important in PR, but the evolution of emojis has added an extra layer of complexity. Brands jumping in too late on a trendy conversation tend to age themselves — yet jumping in too early can confuse customers.
Follow Chevy’s example. It incorporated the new Facebook Reactions in an ad on the very same day they debuted, deftly inserting its brand into a culturally relevant conversation by showcasing possible responses to its new Malibu.
But the Reactions’ impact didn’t stop there. Brands everywhere, from restaurants to candy bars, jumped in by offering their own spins.
With the rise of this new form of communication, it’s refreshing to see how marketing is embracing the evolution of language. Expressive communication is taking over, leading the way for better measurement and, potentially, more communication faux pas. Staying up-to-date with emojis, Facebook Reactions, and whatever else shows up in the next year could make or break a good PR campaign. Stay focused, and enjoy the process!
Ann Newland is a vice president at Mitchell, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., with offices in Chicago and New York City.
Mitchell is part of Dentsu Aegis Network, which is made up of nine global network brands and supported by its specialist/multimarket brands. Dentsu Aegis Network is Innovating the Way Brands Are Built for its clients through its best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital, and creative communications services. Offering a distinctive and innovative range of products and services, Dentsu Aegis Network is headquartered in London and operates in 145 countries worldwide with over 30,000 dedicated specialists.