Communication as a medium is constantly evolving, and a higher education marketer needs to convey the institution's message to a target audience properly. Though rooted in mobile/social media communication, emojis have quickly become a widely accepted method of expressing emotion, emphasizing important points, and shortening messages with images.
The acceptance of these images allows senders to use them to share our email messages in new ways, hopefully to grab our readers' attention beyond standard text.
Emoji performance in email campaigns
In 2017, Return Path did an extensive analysis into the use of emojis in subject lines. The study was conducted using A/B testing and targeted promotional messages using emojis in the subject line relevant to holidays in the current month.
The findings, while not stark, showed an increase in reading rate and inbox placement, depending on the message. But in many cases, there was also a corresponding increase in the spam complaint rate.
Logically, these findings make sense. Subject lines are one of your strongest tools to catch a reader's attention and entice them to open your message. By adding colorful pictures to this typically bland text line, you're pulling the reader's eyes to your message, for better or for worse.
An engaging subject line may entice a recipient enough to open an email.
Including a reminder about why your contacts are receiving your message when sending them emails is essential. You can reference this in the intro paragraph ("I'm following up on your request for information.") and within the email campaign footer ("You are receiving this message because you are a support of Ansley College's annual fund.").
Additionally, while Return Path's and others' findings noted that different emojis could lead to higher inbox placement, few delivery professionals are entirely convinced that there is a correlation.
As the context and timing of the messages in the research changed, so did the subject lines (Merry Christmas vs. Happy Arbor Day). Having to change subject lines means that the data is not entirely consistent, and we are not convinced that adding a tree to your subject line will help your messages get inboxed at Yahoo if they wouldn't otherwise.
Using and testing emojis in your campaigns
The decision to use emojis comes down to your branding, your message, and your recipients. The primary uses of emojis in subject lines are:
1. Act as a substitute for a word or phrase
You can use emojis to add a little more 'text' to your subject or pre-header text without taking up valuable character space. However, we don't recommend substituting key phrases with emojis; otherwise, the subject line may not make sense to your contact.
2. Support your message with emotion
An appeal to emotion may help clarify subject line meaning.
3. Emphasize certain words in a subject line
A tiny airplane next to an open house promotion can punctuate that particular word and bring it to the reader's attention.
Let's review what emojis you could use and when to use them.
It's essential to make a note of any branding issues that may pop up when using emojis. Using emojis in your brand tagline, or one that may clash with your logo, may confuse your recipients and cause engagement issues.
Emojis have a casual, non-professional feel to them. Emojis are more appropriate with high school students and less so with alumni who graduated 20 years ago.
Check with your institutional marketing department to decide if emojis are correct for your brand integrity before using them.
Remember, your communication must be clear to your recipient. If they don't understand what your message is, there is little chance of it sticking.
How to implement emojis into your email marketing
Not all email service providers or operating systems support emojis, so before you turn your subject line into a chain of images, you'll want to make sure that your recipients can view your emojis correctly.
We recommend testing your message with different email providers and operating systems. You'll also want to keep an eye on the most used email providers on your list to make sure most of your recipients will have emojis appropriately rendered before using them.
You can also use our split test campaigns to under how your recipients will respond to emojis. And remember, the more you can segment and target, the better your campaigns will perform.