How emojis increase social media engagement

🤣🧠🧑‍💻📈💰 Emojis increase playfulness of content, which leads to more people engaging with it. Interplay emojis with text for maximum effect.

The authors of today’s research analyzed 41,141 tweets of widely followed brands and celebrities to analyze the impact of emojis on Twitter. They followed that up with lab and online experiments with hundreds of participants.

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Interplay Emojis with text to increase social media engagement

Impacted metrics: Organic reach
Channels: Social media | Content strategy | Brand strategy


Use emojis to make your social media posts more playful. Playful posts lead to higher engagement (e.g. likes, retweets).

Place emojis right before text that is highly related to the emojis used.

It works best if your brand is hedonic (e.g. food, sport, a celebrity).


  • On average, tweets that use emojis have better engagement (likes, retweets) than those that don’t. The more emojis, the better (do that within reason of course 😅).

  • The effect is strongest when emojis are followed by highly related text (that explains them or complements them) because they give a better sense of playfulness. For a good example, see the first tweet in the image below.

  • Emojis convey playfulness to the reader. Playfulness (with emojis or not) is what drives rich online interactions. In turn, they develop strong brand-consumer relationships.

  • Previous research found that emojis reduce misinterpretations and are good at conveying emotions. At the same time, messages with emoji can be perceived as less credible, and reduce the amount of information readers process.

(Some of the different versions tested in the experiments - Click to zoom in)

Why it works

  • We find playful interactions enjoyable and interesting. Emojis make playful posts even more so.

  • Previous research shows that playful interactions build stable and healthy relationships between people. This can be extended to online interactions between brands and people.


  • The researchers only analyzed Twitter. However, the psychological effects should hold for other platforms too.

  • Reactions to emojis will vary depending on the brand's personality, the nature of the relationship, or the goal of the consumer when reading the content.

  • Playful engagement works better for hedonic (vs utilitarian) brands (e.g. a burger restaurant or a celebrity vs an accounting firm).

Companies using this

Steps to implement

  • If your brand allows it and the platform is appropriate (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, less so would be LinkedIn), engage playfully with users on social media. 

  • Use emojis that interplay with text and for best results place them before or within the text.

Study type

Lab and online experiments and market observation (of 41,141 tweets), United States and Canada


McShane, L., Pancer, E., Poole, M., & Deng, Q. (September 2020). Emoji, Playfulness, and Brand Engagement on Twitter. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 53, 96-110.

[Link to paper]


Carleton University, Saint Mary's University, and Dalhousie University, Canada

Remember: Because of the groundbreaking nature of this paper, it could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

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