How to use emojis in email subject lines without being a spammer

Ah, emojis,  the pictorial representation of stuff in your subject lines. They’re cool, right? When they work, that is.

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Note: This blog post is written in English, with live translation into Emoji. Because, of course it is.

BTW: What are emojis?

Emojis are pictorial representations of human emotions, objects and concepts. They started in Japan in the 1990s and have since taken over the internet, one subject line at a time.

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Spoiler alert: 60% of the time, emojis work every time.

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The idiot’s guide to being a better spammer – now with emojis!

Do you want the subject line that’s guaranteed to get you a shedload of opens?

No problem. It’s this:

Free beer subject line

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This subject line will get you a bunch of opens. Once. But unless you’re actually offering free beer… then it’s good, old-fashioned spam… now with an emoji!

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The inclusion of the emoji doesn’t make this a good subject line. It just means it’s spam, both linguistically and pictorially.

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So enjoy those opens – because they won’t happen again. You’ve caused all sorts of brand damage that, most likely, won’t be recoverable.

Because your customers aren’t idiots, and they know you’re not offering free beer.

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Like a wise man once said: “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — um — you can’t get fooled again.”

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See, emojis can be a gimmick. That’s clear. And if you just use them in a gimmicky way, then they’re not going to help you in the long term.

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Top tip: Don’t just use emojis just because you can. Because then you’re nothing more than a spammer in emoji form.

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If you just tack on a few emojis to your subject lines in the vain hope you’ll trick people into buying your stuff, well, you run the risk of customers complaining… or even worse, being publicly shamed:

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Argos spam subject line 

Another spammy Argos subject line

How to use emojis for better on-brand subject lines

If you’ve made it this far, then you have self-identified as not being a spammer. Awesome! We love you!

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So the question remains – when should you use emojis in email subject lines?

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The answer is simple: use them when they make sense. The implementation, however, is not so simple.

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Across the hundreds of thousands of subject lines I’ve analysed, emojis have become more and more common over the last few months. However, the vast majority of marketers use them lazily, and this is a problem.

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Emojis are a new form of language-independent communication. In fact, some linguists even suggest that emojis are becoming a language unto themselves.

Therefore, emoji use in your subject lines need to follow the same logic with which you select language.

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When your emojis are in context, they can work wonderfully. But, don’t just use an emoji because you’ve run out of interesting things to say.

An emoji won’t suddenly make a bad subject line good. It’ll just make it a bad subject line with an emoji.

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If your subject line is already good, a contextually relevant emoji can add great value.

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Think of it like this: an emoji amplifies what you do. If your subject line is spammy, then an emoji will make it spammier.

But if your subject line is awesome, an emoji will make it awesomer.

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If your subject line is crap in the first place, adding an emoji will make it crappier – you’re just putting lipstick on a pig.

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To get an idea of whether or not your subject line sucks, taking into account emojis or not, feel free to check out Phrasee Pheelings, a sentiment analysis tool built specifically for email subject lines. (Editor’s note: registration required).

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