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Emojis for Hire: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Write

Copywriters and storytellers may pride themselves on their ability to share a beautiful narrative or connect with a particular demographic of readers, but the truth is many traditional rules of writing have been flipped upside down by one of the biggest writing arenas in the world, with more engagement and interaction than a J.K. Rowling series: social media.

Nowadays, there is not merely a single writing style brands and their writers should know. The rules for whitepapers vs. blog posts, home pages vs. tweets, and emails vs. LinkedIn articles are vastly different. These days, a short Google search brings up opportunities for creative writers, digital writers, social media writers, copywriters, speech writers, and content writers, among others. There’s even a dog writer, and contrary to what one might assume – it is a human writer – just one who writes solely on dog-related issues.

Plus, there’s the rest of us. The ones who inevitably find themselves as writers across various internet platforms.

In 2017, mastering the art of telling a story – about a brand, an event, or a new technology – in 140 characters or less may be equally, if not more, valuable than understanding the depth and nuances of writing an entire website. And while a new, useful art form has been created within social media and how we communicate with one another, how is it affecting the art of writing in the larger sense?

Emojis Emerging as New Hieroglyphics

One of the most prominent pieces of new world writing is the emoji, a term originating from a Japanese word translating loosely to “picture and character.” These bite-sized characters not only often say more in one click than an entire sentence, but they’re also a universal language transcending cultural and vernacular barriers. While they’re most often used in casual conversations, companies like Chevrolet have used them within press releases while others, like Domino’s Pizza, have used them to create interactive marketing campaigns – simply text a pizza emoji to Domino’s and if you have a valid “pizza profile,” your preferred pizza will show up at your door within minutes.

And while the English language only has 26 letters, emoji-speak has far more than that. Pictorial writing is not new. From the Ancient Egyptians to the Aztecs, various forms of pictorial writing systems have been used through the ages – though perhaps typically a bit more advanced than emojis.

For brands looking to create informal communications with their consumers, rooted in how they naturally speak on the web, emoji usage can be useful to engage with an online audience. It’s been reported that emoji usage in brand tweets can increase engagement by more than 25% while using them in Facebook posts can increase likes by more than 50%.

Growing Effects on Education

For the common American, not in advertising, the effects of emojis and text slang can be a bit more disadvantageous. In 2016, the Pew Research Center estimated that eight-in-ten Americans who use the internet now use Facebook, with 76% of those users checking in at least once every day – up from the previous year. While those on social media likely write more often than they typically would if not using these sites, the additional writing time has not proven to provide any positive outcomes on their compositional skills.

An earlier study showed the detriments on education, highlighting that fewer than half of the nation’s high school graduates who took the SATs were deemed ready for college-level writing. Within the study, about two-thirds of students cited social apps as the main cause of their indolence and use of shortcuts in the verbal portion.

The Power of Textspeak

Though some may infer this new generation of “textspeak” inevitably leads to lazy writers, others see merit in spreading the shorthand language of social media. In addition to using them on their social channels, some brands have taken to creating their own textspeak language by creating emoticons, emojis, and stickers with brand-specific goals meant for mobile consumers. Companies like Coca-Cola, Ikea, and even General Electric, have created their own branded emojis in recent years to engage their audiences.

With more than two billion smartphone users worldwide, it’s obvious that brands would continue to find ways to explore creative opportunities to connect with prospects.

For Better and Worse

The modern-day truth is that the internet has turned many of us into published authors from the click of the send button. Maybe for better and worse. Where writing was once a solitary activity, it’s now become one of the most social – and viable – ways to communicate, with a host of new options to do so, for individuals and brands alike. Our words (or emoticons) reach hundreds or thousands of people in a single post that can be shared over and over again.

And while some brands still might not relish the idea of “lol” or “brb” or side-eye emojis ever becoming a part of mainstream written communication, there seems to be a continuing trend towards informal, conversational dialogue that creates enhanced audience engagement and richer personalities for brands amongst the public.

So, all that to say, perhaps this evening it’s smarter to rent The Emoji Movie than Shakespeare in Love.

* Twitter is now giving some users more characters to express themselves by extending character count to 280.

 

March 16, 2016
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