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Digital Expression: Using Emojis in a Professional Setting

If you’ve ever sent a text or an email, you get it. Sometimes, words just aren’t enough (or are just too much) to convey the thought you are trying to get across. Time to enlist the help of our little friend, the emoji. From tearful crying to cartwheeling, the emotion emojis convey in their small footprints is immense. In honor of World Emoji Day coming up on July 17, we’re here to talk about using emojis in a professional setting—and specifically, in your digital marketing efforts.

Emoji review

It’s always good to define what we’re talking about (in the off-chance that you’re an emoji newbie). According to Google, an emoji is a “small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc.” Think smiley faces. Think angry faces. Think suns, moons, hearts, thumbs ups, plants, animals, food, drink and every international flag on the planet. Yup, there’s pretty much an emoji for everything.

Using emojis casually vs. professionally

There’s a difference between using emojis casually, like in a text to your friends and family, and using emojis in a professional setting—like in an email to a client, or in the captions of your company’s social posts. In marketing, emojis can be a useful tool for livening up your content; however, at the same time, knowing when to avoid them is key for maintaining your professionalism.

When you should avoid using emojis in a professional setting

Upon first contact

If it’s the first time you are reaching out to a client, customer or contact in digital form like email, you might want to hold back on your emoji usage. When you don’t know the person on the other end, using emojis right off the bat can appear unprofessional.

The tone is serious

If a message you are conveying is serious or somber, then using emojis just doesn’t quite fit. Emojis can devalue the intent of content that you want people to take seriously.

The emoji is inappropriate

By all means, don’t use emojis that are inappropriate for a professional setting! (i.e. beer mugs clinking, the pile of poo…you get the picture). Limit those to communications that stay private between your coworker buddies, if you must.

When you’re communicating cross-platform

These days most platforms are pretty good about receiving and displaying emojis as they were intended (for example, iPhone sending an emoji to an Android phone). However, sometimes, over email especially, emojis just choose not to translate at all and show up as blank or a symbol. If you’re worried this may happen, you may want to play it safe and leave it out.

When it’s OK to use emojis in a professional setting

You’ve established a “friendly” relationship

If you know someone personally, or you’ve been emailing them long enough to feel comfortable, then it’s perfectly OK to throw a smiley face here and there into your messaging. Just make sure the emoji you choose is still appropriate and approachable!

Someone else “emojis” first

If a client or customer sends the first emoji, you can take that as a sign that he or she is comfortable with emoji use in general. Again, it’s OK as long as everything stays appropriate for a professional setting.

The tone of the content permits

Silly, casual, whimsical, or even just friendly—these are all sensations we can convey using emojis! If the tone of your digital content falls into one of these or similar categories, then using an emoji or two (sparingly) can be perfectly fine.

You’re on social media

You’ve got a lot more leeway in using emojis in a professional setting when you are using social media to broadcast your content. Social media as a marketing platform is generally more casual by nature. Reiterating again, just don’t go overboard, and make sure the tone of the content is emoji-appropriate.


Using emojis in a professional setting and specifically your marketing can serve to generate a more lighthearted, sociable interaction. The downfall, however, of using emojis in an environment where they are not warranted is that doing so can leave your brand looking unprofessional.

McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

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