Can we use Emojis in business?

😊 ‘Emojis’ 😊 are ubiquitous on general social media. As a quick way of ensuring people understand the spirit in which a message has been posted, they’re genuinely helpful; as decoration, they’re probably just a distraction, although one we’ve all learned to live with. But do they have any place at all in business communications, and if so, are there limits as to where they can be used?

If we’re putting out a serious business message on social media, an illustrative image is essential to get the post noticed. In that case, any emojis in the text are distracting from the image, and that’s why I avoid them. However, if we’re using social media to make a comment, they may well have a place. Try the message with and without one: you’ll quickly see what looks right.

Which brings us to email. I think there’s no reason not to use emojis in internal emails to colleagues – the decision is entirely down to how we want to appear and who the email is being sent to. I’m quite happy to use them. It’s a lot trickier when it comes to customers and marketing. We can probably treat customers with whom we have a close relationship in the same way as we do company colleagues, but that might be the limit. Broadcast customer emails will almost certainly include recipients we don’t know, so I can’t think of any situation where I’d use something as informal as an emoji, with perhaps one exception: the subject line. There seems to be evidence that says a judiciously-chosen and sparingly-used emoji in the subject line can draw attention to an email without making it look flippant, or triggering spam filters. You may want to experiment (and look for examples in your own inbox to see what you think!).

Other considerations are that emojis don’t look the same across apps and operating systems, so our sleek modern car or aircraft might appear as something far more low-tech to the recipient. Other emojis aren’t understood well: that crying-with-laughter face can often be interpreted as, well, just crying. I like to use emojis to add emphasis to a message, but I think it’s dangerous to make the meaning of the message dependent on them.