Audience Engagement Guest Columns
3 mins read

How publishers can make the most of emojis on Facebook

Are emojis a staple of your communication on social media? Or do you find them grating?

No matter your personal view of emojis, there’s no denying these inescapable ideograms have become a ubiquitous presence on social media. More than 3,000 emojis exist today, with the Unicode Consortium incorporating new emojis each year – last year’s additions ranged from the niche (Swiss fondue) to the utterly practical (how did we make it this far without a toothbrush emoji?).

As publishers experiment with the presentation of their content across different platforms – especially where these platforms have differing audience demographics – emojis have had the opportunity to take center stage. In 2015, for example, The Guardian produced an emoji translation of Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, while, in the same year USA Today brought emojis to their front page.

Given emojis’ eye-catching nature and ability to stand out from a string of text, it’s no surprise that publishers have readily adopted emojis on social media as a means of enriching posts and engaging social audiences. And over the last few years, emoji use on social media has become widespread, with the World Economic Forum estimating that 5 billion emojis are used each day on Facebook and Facebook Messenger.

But popularity aside, what impact do emojis have on traffic from social media? Should publishers use emojis on Facebook to boost referral traffic?

Whether you 🥰 or 😠 emojis, our latest research may have you reconsidering your stance.

Our research on the impact of emojis on Facebook

At Echobox, we pride ourselves on our strong focus on science-driven innovation. We therefore set out to establish a definitive and data-backed answer to whether publishers should use emojis in their Facebook posts.

To produce statistically meaningful data, our research was conducted using all Facebook shares from circa 1,000 news publishers worldwide, posted over a 6 month period in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, Arabic and Dutch. This produced a total of 5 million posts, of which just under 6% included at least 1 emoji.

We measured the performance of these Facebook posts in terms of pageviews generated. The data in our study was denormalized, and the performance of posts with emojis was calculated against a baseline determined by the performance of posts without emojis. Our study found that publishers’ Facebook posts with emojis outperform publisher posts without emojis by 29%. In other words, posts with emojis generate 29% more referral traffic on average than emoji-less posts.

We therefore recommend that publishers use emojis on Facebook, including them in their posts to drive more pageviews from social media.

Facebook emojis: too much of a good thing?

After establishing that emojis have a positive impact on referral traffic, we wanted to understand the conditions for strong performance. Does emoji quantity, for example, have an impact on post-performance? Are multiple emojis better than just 1? What is the optimal number of emojis publishers should include in a Facebook post?

To answer this, we analyzed Facebook post-performance according to the number of emojis included in the share message. We discovered that the optimal number of emojis to include is 1, with the inclusion of each subsequent emoji resulting in a steady degradation in pageviews. As shown in this graph below, including 3 or more emojis in a single post has a detrimental impact on performance, generating even fewer pageviews than posts with no emojis at all.

When it comes to using emojis on Facebook, less is more.

Use emojis to your advantage on social media

In subsequent stages of our research, we studied whether emoji placement within a Facebook post has an impact on clicks, and where emojis should be placed for maximum impact. We also examined which types of commonly used emojis (Smileys, Activities, Symbols…) are most effective at convincing a reader to click on a Facebook post. You can download our complete research to discover our findings.

The results of our analysis echo our intuitive understanding of why emojis are used: they can enrich text with colour and convey a more conversational tone, perhaps eliciting a response from readers in a way in which text alone cannot. Based on these findings, we recommend that publishers include an emoji in their Facebook posts for an additional boost in social media traffic. Learn more about how you can use emojis to your full advantage on social media ⬇️

Download the full study whitepaper here:

Darius Eduljee
Content Marketing Manager, Echobox

Echobox is an AI-based social media management software for publishers, chosen by more than 1,000 of the world’s leading publishers, including Newsweek, The Times, The Telegraph, Handelsblatt, Le Monde and Conde Nast. Publishers share more than 20 million posts and reach billions of people with Echobox each year.