Infographic: What Emojis on Instagram Say About How We Feel

Analyzing the emotional highs and lows of 2017

Most people would agree that 2017 was an emotional rollercoaster. From national tragedies to natural disasters, Americans endured many reasons for negative emotions to run particularly high—but these events also revealed countless examples of kindness and people offering their support. From a 5-year-old starting a lemonade stand to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey to the millions (we counted) of people who jumped to the support of women who experienced sexual harassment, 2017 was far from devoid of happiness.

To test just how much of an emotional rollercoaster last year was, we looked to our own personal favorite way to express emotion on social—through the use of emojis on Instagram. Our research team split all facial expressions into emojis that conveyed either a positive or negative emotion used in 2017. Our goal was to explore how emotions ebbed and flowed over the year and how emotions differed by geographic location. We further wanted to explore how marketers can make good use of emojis as they craft messages in their own brand's voice.

Take a look to see what we found (hover over the graph elements for data labels and values):



So we know that emoji usage is, by now, pervasive across social platforms. We also know that positive facial emotions dominate and are continuing to increase relative to negative expressions, though the tide of positivity is unsteady. In an emotionally unstable world of emoji usage, how should marketers be thinking about using emojis in their own brand messaging?

Three Tips for Marketers Looking to Use Emojis

First, don’t be scared to use emojis in email marketing, social media, or other brand communications, as long as it fits your brand’s voice. But on the other hand, if your brand has embraced emojis, avoid using them where they wouldn’t resonate or be appropriate. Brands should typically avoid using emojis—positive or negative—when communicating a serious or sensitive message. For example, when posting about a death or national tragedy, even sad facial emojis can be perceived as unsympathetic.

Brands should avoid using emojis—positive or negative—when communicating a serious or sensitive message.


Second, less is more. Minimize the number of emojis your brand uses consecutively; more often than not, your point can be made with a single, purposefully selected emoji. Using more than two or three emojis in a row can dilute the emotion your brand is attempting to convey.

Lastly, consider incorporating an emoji strategy into your broader brand voice strategy. Are there certain emojis your brand will never use? Which will be your brand’s go-to emojis for communicating a joyful message? What about laughter or surprise? Answering these questions early will help ensure a cohesive and recognizable voice.

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Justine Braun the Senior Analyst of Research & Insights at Spredfast. Her career began in Chicago studying social data from a psychological perspective. When she’s not buried in analysis, you can find her climbing, making ice cream, or rambling about female-fronted punk bands.