Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Do You Know Your Emoji Etiquette?
Emojis are becoming commonplace in professional communications, but know when they are and aren’t appropriate to use with your clients.
August 4, 2016
Emojis became popular in casual texting between friends and family years ago, but they’re finding a place in professional communications as well. They can add a layer of comfort and familiarity between real estate professionals and their clients. These colorful, expressive icons — from smiley faces to winks and hearts — are popping up in marketing campaigns and workplace emails, text messages, and social media. So how fluent is your emoji-talk, and how much should you use them in your business?
The Real Estate Transaction in Emojis
- On the hunt for the perfect home:
- The frustration looking for the right one:
- Then the perfect home comes along:
- Uh-oh, problems surface during negotiations:
- You find a way to save the deal:
- Finally, you get to closing and move-in day arrives:
Practitioners have been exploring fun ways to incorporate emojis. Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, for example, did a mock listing of The White House in March, with listing details written completely in emojis for readers’ amusement. The company also created emoji guides for buyers and sellers. Realtor.com® even poked fun at how emojis might one day end up in listing descriptions in an online video.
But the use of emojis in the real estate business gained much more legitimacy in April, when the California Association of REALTORS® debuted a set of real estate–themed emojis, which it dubbed “CARmojis,” complete with a superhero REALTOR® icon to add to text messages. So far, member response has been huge, says CAR President Ziggy Zicarelli. By the end of May, about a month after they launched, 50,000 CARmojis had been shared, with the superhero REALTOR® icon being the most popular. Zicarelli says CAR plans to add new emojis in the coming months and possibly hold a contest for members to submit their own designs.
“They are a fun way to interact and engage with your clients,” Zicarelli adds. “But just like with anything else, professionals should use their own discretion for when they should and shouldn’t use emojis.”
To Use or Not to Use Emojis
As emojis become more commonplace on all levels of communication, mumblings of a new form of etiquette are surfacing. Though it seems like everyone uses them, you have to remember that not all your clients will understand the icons, creating the potential for miscommunicating or for appearing unprofessional. Even so, emojis are widely recognized as a shorthand method of communicating thoughts and feelings. In fact, for the first time ever, the Oxford University Press chose a pictograph —
— as its 2015 Word of the Year.
Some of the most visible brand-name companies have launched successful emoji advertising campaigns on social media and other platforms, so how could this translate to real estate? Well, what if this was your next customer survey:
How would you rate your home buying or selling experience?
Linguists say emojis convey a tone that simple texts don’t. “An emoji can be like the frosting on the top of a delicious cake. It shouldn’t be the only thing you use, but it can add to a message,” says Jennifer Marchetti, chief marketing officer at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. “An emoji can help add more emotional context to a message.”
Create Your Own Emoji
Want to turn yourself into an icon? Imojiapp allows you to snap a picture of yourself from your iPhone and turn it into an emoji. Android users can try Bitmoji, which allows you to create an avatar emoji of your picture. Place your new icons in your text messages, social media status updates, or even make it your new marketing mug. The iOS app Emoji My Face takes your selfie and turns it into an emoji sticker. Real estate marketing firm Point2 also recently offered up some ideas to create emojis of your sold sign, yard sign, your smiling face, your company’s logo, or your office.
Indeed, a University of Missouri-St. Louis study tested how the “smiley face” emoji was perceived in a work-related email versus a social email to determine the level of tolerance for emojis in the workplace. Researchers discovered that in both instances, the emoji made the email recipient like the sender more and feel as though the sender liked them more.
So if you can see by now how emojis could strengthen and deepen your connection to clients, make sure to follow a few tips for how and when to use emojis when interacting with customers.
Avoid using them when the topic is serious. If your buyer’s home inspector uncovered mold in the house they’ve put an offer on, it’s not the time to text this:
. “Emojis aren’t appropriate when you detect a negative side to the transaction,” Zicarelli says. “Once the offer is accepted, that is good news, and that’s when a fun emoji may be more appropriate. With bad news from a transaction, however, it’s always best to deliver that over the phone or in person, and don’t make light of the situation.”
Don’t assume certain clients like them. Just because your client is young doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily find emojis an appropriate form of communication. While generational trends can inform your decision whether to use emojis, don’t assume all young people want to swap emoji — or that all baby boomers don’t. “Know your customer’s communication preference from the onset. If they like short-form communication like text messaging, then using an emoji is likely more appropriate,” Marchetti says. “Set the communication protocol ahead of time. Then, given that preference, you can assume how comfortable they are with emojis. If you ignore your customer’s communication preferences, even one emoji could upset them.”
Use the right emoji. Don’t use an emoji outside of its known context. For example, many users don’t consider this a whistle:
. It’s a kiss. Use that the wrong way with a client and that could be awkward. If you need to double-check the meaning of common emojis, check out Emojipedia. Also, if you’re not sure what emojis are available, Apple recently announced a special texting feature coming to iPhones. After typing a message, you can tap the emoji button, and your phone will highlight “emojifiable” words for you. For example, “excited” could be translated into a smiley face.
Put emojis at the end of a message. Emojis “act as punctuation,” according to culture site Hello Giggles’ Guide to Emoji Etiquette. The guide suggests typing your words first and emojis at the end of the sentence; that way, you don’t risk the context of your message getting lost or slowing the reader down by trying to interpret an emoji-laced text.
Use an emoji for emphasis. Emojis can be great for drawing more attention to an item. For example, you could use a pointing-finger emoji followed by your website URL to highlight it more, like this:
check out realtormag.realtor.org. You could also use
star emojis to bookend an important sentence you want to emphasize
. You can even add emojis to your online bios to spice them up.
Use them on social media. Using Facebook’s “Reactions” emoticons on posts or incorporating emojis into your tweets may actually bring you more attention, some studies say. According to a study in the UK, “Emoticons and Phrases: Status Symbols in Social Media,” researchers found that individuals who use emojis — positive ones, in particular — tend to be more popular or influential on Twitter.
Don’t overdo it. “If you’re using [emojis] as a substitute for words and not giving your message the context it deserves, you could upset your customer,” Marchetti says. You could also be viewed as lazy. “Emojis can be a fun way to add emotional, demonstrative context to things, but it’s not a complete substitute 100 percent of the time. Transactions are too complex and sophisticated for that.”