When it comes to email marketing, one question is top of mind for most marketers: How do I improve my open rate? With email marketing being one of the most effective ways to target individual leads, the drive to make it as effective as possible is constant.  How can you get more people opening and clicking?  As we test different theories and trends emerge, one trend we have certainly seen a lot of is the use of emojis.  So, let’s talk about whether you should use emojis in email subject lines!

Email marketing is high-impact as marketing touch points go.  First, for a lead that is already familiar with you, even a momentary glance at your business name in their inbox could count as a meaningful touch point.  Second, the longer you can get your audience to focus on your message, the more likely it will register for them in their long-term memory (interested to understand more about the science of the role of memory in brand-building? Read here!).

Email marketing is high-impact as marketing touch points go. #newsletter #business #biztips #smallbusiness #entrepreneur Click To Tweet

The best way to get a longer impression with your audience in email marketing is for them to open your email, read for a while, click through to other links to your website where they can read more, and to keep driving them to new material that you own that reminds them of your brand.  This is – of course – a series of many decisions.  When a visitor sticks with you for two minutes, they probably hit several decision points where they kept reading or could have backed out, even if it was a subconscious choice.

You want to get your reader to pay attention long enough to remember you later.  This means that they have to make that first decision to keep reading in a matter of seconds.

In theory, an emoji in the subject line is designed to make your email stand out. To help capture your reader’s attention in that matter of seconds you have.  This would mean that you are getting both the benefit of increased notice even at a glance in the inbox and also creating an opportunity for someone’s eyes to rest on your email subject long enough that they will open the email.

This sounds great, but are they right for you to include in your emails?

There are a lot of marketing experts out there who have run numbers on the results of including emojis in subject lines.  The general theory out there is that using emojis in your email subject line could increase the open rate, with some reporting up to 25-30%.

But, this is just a general theory.  Is it representative of your audience?  This is pretty much the only question to ask about marketing ever.

No matter how well an idea works for someone else, it actually only matters if it works for your business and your specific audience at this point in time.

The primary criteria for our marketing decisions should always be what we believe will resonate for our audience.  If you are wondering whether you should start throwing emojis into your subject lines, I’ll ask you this: do emojis fit with your brand?  Will your audience be attracted to your emoji use or repelled by it?

Do emojis fit with your brand? #biztips #newsletters #marketing #smallbusiness #smallbiz #smb #entrepreneur Click To Tweet

Look, maybe I am blaspheming here. There is certainly a huge camp of people who love emojis.  On the other hand, there are some people who think that emojis are unprofessional.  Some people think they’re cute.  Some people think they are lazy.  The idea that every audience is going to be attracted to them is inherently an incorrect idea.

At its best, marketing your business is all about tailoring your message to your audience.  If your audience likes emojis, then use emojis.  If your audience hates them, even if the emoji attracts their attention, it will leave a negative impression in their minds when it does.  The foundation of all of your marketing decisions should be what will resonate for your audience.  Unless your brand is controversy, resonating positively is the goal.

If your audience demographic skews a bit older – or isn’t as tech savvy – technology may be a limiting factor in emoji efficacy.  Emojis don’t show up consistently on all platforms.  I use three different email providers for my email accounts, and they all treat emojis differently.  A couple of them show emojis correctly.  One doesn’t show emojis at all, instead displaying them as a series of meaningless letters and numbers (and with that provider, emojis change the formatting of the email and sometimes they prevent me from being able to reply).  In that case, for businesses that use emojis in place of keywords in their subject lines, I usually have no idea what they are trying to say and it reads like censoring a swear word.

Emojis don’t show up consistently on all platforms. #newsletters #marketing #biztips #smallbusiness #smallbiz #smb #business Click To Tweet

For an audience that uses primarily mobile devices to read your emails, emojis are probably a good bet, but it is still something worth split testing!  Anything you want to try out, you can split test.

With split testing, you can send half your list one type of subject line and send the other half another without the emoji and see what performs better.  Split testing is more reliable the bigger your sample size is.  Having a list size of thousands or more is best.  However, you work with what you have, and if you want to test something you might as well start now and test it a couple more times to make sure you are getting clear data.

One of the other factors that has a bearing on your open rate is whether your emails are hitting a spam filter or not.  If they are getting caught by a spam filter, your emails are less likely to be opened because people don’t typically scan a junk mail folder looking for real mail.  So, the question of what triggers spam filters is one that is often discussed.

Some argue that using emojis is a safer choice than using all caps or certain keywords that have a high historical incidence of being linked to junk mail.  There are a lot of factors that go into whether your email lands in spam (including if you’ve been sending out other email campaigns that people considered spam and marked it as such).  While there may be evidence that emojis help your email cut through a spam filter, I can also scan my own spam folders right now and see emails with emojis in the subject lines.

As with many things in marketing, the answer is not cut and dry.  What this all comes down to is two key points.  First, make educated guesses about what will resonate for your audience based on who your audience is and what they care about.  All of your marketing decisions should come from that place, including whether you want to use emojis.

Second, if you want to see how something works for your audience, test it!  Find a way to get some data on how they are responding, and with email marketing is particularly easy to collect data.

Want more insight on the value you can get from looking at your newsletter analytics?  I am a huge nerd about this topic, so if you’re ready to get into this with me, read here!