Emojis may seem simple and fun but use them in an incorrect manner and it can be a huge embarrassment, or worse.
Take the humble cookie. On July 7, the official twitter profile for Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster posted a tweet to commemorate world chocolate day, which included an emoji of a chocolate chip cookie.
However, on Samsung Android devices, this particular emoji appears as a pair of saltine cracker.
To some this is a trifling matter but for businesses and individuals this can prove to be hugely damaging, especially when they are trying to reach younger audiences. And that’s why some businesses are reaching out to specialists, like Keith Broni from Ireland. He’s the first person in the world with the job title Emoji Translator and it’s his job to help companies navigate safely through this growing emoji media minefield.
One issue with using emojis, Broni explains, is that they can differ in appearance from platform to platform. The shape of the emoji, and even its color, can appear remarkably different, depending on the device or operating system used.
One example, according to Broni, is the “rolling eyes” emoji. On most devices this would convey the meaning of someone rolling their eyes in disdain, but on others it may appear as if the eyes are shooting up in expectation.
Broni works for London-based Today Translations, which provides translation and interpretation services internationally. He beat 500 other applicants for the role. Clients he has worked with include PR firms and the marketing departments of multinational companies. His first translation for the company involved changing several idioms (such as “no pain, no gain” or “speak of the devil”) into understandable emoji versions.
He explained that emojis can be very helpful to businesses. They add emotional context and non-verbal communication to a piece of text. They’re also very popular, and not just with the young – older generations are increasingly using them also.
“Emojis allow us to imbue digital messages with the non-verbal cues inherent in face-to-face interaction: they allow us to signify the emotional context of a statement which would normally be conveyed in vocal tone, pose or gesture, rather than just the words themselves,” Broni told CNBC via email.
Thanks to his master’s degree in business psychology from University College London, Broni understands the growing importance of emojis to consumer marketing and communications. But they are not without their potential pitfalls.