In musical theater, when characters can no longer convey what they are feeling with words, they burst into song. On social media, when words (or character limitations) can’t capture users’ feelings they turn to emojis to get their meaning across. Brands need to understand this – and learn to speak emoji – if they want to truly connect with consumers on social media.

The language of love, hate, and everything in between

For their part, social platforms are meeting consumers where they are by catering to the growing use of emojis online. Twitter’s star became a heart, and even Facebook is now in the mix with their new Reactions. The trend is clearly defined – social users are a feeling lot. If a picture is worth 1000 words, then emojis are worth a good 700-800. Especially when presented as a string of emotional short codes.

And emojis are no longer just emotional punctuation at the end of a line of text. No, now emojis ARE the message. The efforts of brands who can’t crack the code will be second to those who can.

How do you really feel?

They’re silly little icons – can they possibly matter that much? Absolutely. Why? Because social media is entirely about emotion. People join social networks to connect with others – be it friends, family, coworkers, customers, thought leaders, etc. Whatever the reason, their motives are emotionally driven. They want to feel – loved, respected, validated, admired, seen, heard, missed, special.

What they share is also emotionally driven. They share what makes them laugh, what makes them angry, what makes them sad, what inspires them. They don’t share simply for the sake of it. Brands might catch their attention occasionally with a call to “like” or “share” for a coupon, etc. – but coupons don’t make a brand memorable. They don’t make consumers loyal. Consumers will use a coupon by your competitor the day after they use yours – and they won’t think twice about it.

Unless you appeal to their emotions. If you can do that, you have a chance at catching and keeping them.

Make them love you

The “how” entails getting to know them – so you can talk to them like a friend, not a brand. And how can you get to know them if you don’t speak the language they’re speaking? For example, let’s say you’re a CPG brand that sells frozen vegetables. If you don’t know a tweet with the word “broccoli” and an emoji of someone looking sick means that person hates broccoli, you miss the opportunity to respond with, “It’s okay – we sell French fries too. ;)”

That kind of personalized response is what makes consumers fall in love with your brand. And you need their love – because it’s those passionate emotions that drive brand advocates to work on your behalf. Or, conversely, inspires dissatisfied customers to eagerly spread how much they hate your brand when things go wrong.

That potentiality is an even better argument for social monitoring and consumer sentiment analysis. Negative posts on social are always best spotted early – when you can still work toward a resolution with the consumer. If you don’t recognize what the angry emojis represent, you won’t know there’s a problem until it’s too late.

All aboard the S.S. Sentiment

That alone would be enough of a reason to embrace the emotional side of social listening, but it’s also the direction we’re heading in social media overall. And who knows where we’ll land – with Facebook’s Reactions, for example?

As of now we can use Facebook Topic Data to discern how many people within varying demographics “like” or are talking about a brand. This helps with creating consumer segments, and comparing activity and sentiment across multiple channels. Imagine being able to immediately know who really loves a brand or product, or is “wowed” by it? Would certainly make identifying brand influencers that much easier.

It’s too soon to know how Facebook’s Reactions will evolve. Right now all Reactions will be treated the same as “likes.” Down the road… who knows? Emotions rule, after all – so if enough brands love the idea, Facebook might not have a choice.

Are you ready to get emotional? Ask us for a demo of our human language engine, or our Slanguage Tracker – we know we’ll win you over.

Image from Eva Rinaldi

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