The 2015 Oxford word of the year is continuing to give marketers a unique way to engage with their target audience. Despite this “word” being more of a symbol, it is proving to resonate with consumers, especially in the food industry. What exactly is this popular engagement tool? Emojis.

“Emojis have emerged as a new language in digital media. The medium, once dominated by text, has moved more toward visual media, with emojis as the means of communicating tone and sentiment on messaging apps and social media among consumers,” according to a January 2016 article by Adweek.com.

Even though these popular tagline symbols rose to popularity within our text messages, many national brands such as Bud Light, Taco Bell, and Dominos are jumping on the emoji target marketing trend. These well-known brands are using emojis that correlate with their products (the beer glasses, taco and slice of pizza) on social media ads and within their email marketing efforts to promote engagement.

For example, in 2015, Dominos Pizza took using the emoji a step further and turned it into a profit opportunity on Twitter. Domino’s Emoji Ordering campaign consisted of consumers using the pizza slice emoji or the hashtag #EasyOrder within their tweet to Dominos, which allowed consumers to place an order in seconds. Consumers could then confirm their order in a direct message on Twitter.

Most recently, Twitter announced that ads on the social media platform will now allow emoji targeting. Brands can now target consumers on Twitter who have recently used or interacted with a particular tweet that includes a certain emoji. For example, an ice cream shop can now target those who have recently interacted with the ice cream cone emoji on Twitter. The idea behind this new tool is the same as using targeting keywords, but instead of targeting through content, brands will be targeting objects, food images or cartoon figures. As of right now, brands can only target one emoji at a time and the only way to get access to emoji targeting is to go through one of Twitter’s official partners: AdParlor, Amobee, HYFN, Perion, SocialCode, or 4C.

Even though inserting an emoji at the end of your sales pitch or sentiment on social media seems easy enough, there are a few things that brands should keep in mind.

  • Become familiar with available emojis: In order to make sure you are using emojis that correlate with your business goals or products, it is important to know what is available. There are approximately 1,851 emoji characters to date. This figure includes the various skin tone modifications for each emoji.
  • Make sure it is relevant: If you are selling ice cream, you most likely won’t want to use the pizza emoji, unless you have invented pizza flavored ice cream. By using emoji icons that represent your product or brand, the more power your message with have.
  • Communication is key: One of the main reasons consumers interact well with brands who use emojis on social networks is because it shows the human quality behind the brand’s message. By staying on top of your social media network interactions, your consumers will be able to get a feel for your brand’s tone and overall sentiment.
  • Your response is important, too: Interaction on your brand’s social channels is key to building a strong network and gaining the trust of your audience. Emojis allow brands to interact with consumers in a different way. Instead of just liking a particular post, brands can incorporate an appropriate emoji within their response that will communicate a particular emotion with their followers.

With more and more emojis being added to the different social platforms, possibilities and growth opportunities for brands already using emojis in their marketing efforts are endless.