It’s been nine months since we built our first emo­ji key­board. What start­ed as a fun exper­i­ment for our­selves has turned into some­thing we’ve been able to help a lot of oth­er brands with as well. We espe­cial­ly like the key­boards we’ve built for Columbia’s Barnard Col­lege and the Social Fresh con­fer­ence:


B-moji: iOS/Androidscreen696x696-1

Fresh­mo­ji: iOS/Androidscreen696x696

What we’ve learned

We entered this space with fair­ly hum­ble ambi­tions, but after cre­at­ing so many of these, we’ve learned some things that now help us make even bet­ter expe­ri­ences for our emo­ji key­board cus­tomers and users.


1. Make emojis people will actually want to use

Now, this might seem obvi­ous, but too often brands want to use an over­abun­dance of emo­ji con­cepts that, while they def­i­nite­ly pro­mote their brand, aren’t suit­able for use in most people’s dai­ly con­ver­sa­tions. For instance, how many times will a per­son want to use your logo in their mes­sages? Grant­ed, there are plen­ty excep­tions to this rule, but on the whole you want to think about what kinds of con­ver­sa­tion­al themes and sen­ti­ments most strong­ly over­lap with your brand, and then pro­vide emo­jis to your users that both con­tribute to those sen­ti­ments in a way their stan­dard emo­ji can’t, and also sub­tly make use of your brand and rein­force your nar­ra­tive.

If you strug­gle for ideas, check out emo­ji­track­er, which gives a real­time chart of which emo­ji peo­ple are using sort­ed by pop­u­lar­i­ty. This gives you a peek into the kinds of sen­ti­ments peo­ple are most often seek­ing emo­ji for, and where you might be able to intro­duce some­thing fun and inter­est­ing to help them.


2. Release enough art to keep people coming back

For some brands just get­ting start­ed with cre­at­ing their own cus­tom emo­ji, it can be hard to come up with enough unique con­cepts to cre­ate a ful­ly-real­ized emo­ji pack­age suit­able for turn­ing into a key­board. Luck­i­ly we’ve been around the block with this a few times, and we’ve got­ten real­ly good at guid­ing brain­storm­ing ses­sions with clients to sur­face a lot of real­ly fun ideas.

The trick is, you want to cre­ate enough dif­fer­ent con­cepts that peo­ple who install your key­board have a rea­son to come back to it after their first install. And you want to have enough diver­si­ty so that there’s a suit­able emo­ji for as wide a vari­ety of expe­ri­ences as pos­si­ble. For instance, if you’re a uni­ver­si­ty and all your emo­jis cel­e­brate your foot­ball team, the use cas­es you’re allow­ing for are a lit­tle lim­it­ed. The more vari­ety, the more sit­u­a­tions a per­son will find a suit­able emo­ji for in their dai­ly life.

For this rea­son, we usu­al­ly rec­om­mend start­ing peo­ple with a min­i­mum of 21 emo­jis, and since peo­ple love ani­mat­ed GIFs (and of course, our key­board sup­ports them), we rec­om­mend start­ing with at least nine of those as well. Why 21 & 9? From our expe­ri­ence, they fill up just enough space on the key­board to make it feel visu­al­ly sub­stan­tial and com­plete. These are use­ful tar­gets that chal­lenge the teams we work with to cre­ate a wide spec­trum of options, but not so many that it makes releas­ing expan­sion packs lat­er on dif­fi­cult.


3. Variations on a theme can go a long way

If you look at the default emo­ji key­board on your phone, you’ll find that along­side all the unique con­cepts, there are also many which are sim­ply vari­a­tions of each oth­er. Like the smi­leys, and the group­ings and gen­ders and eth­nic­i­ties of peo­ple. These vari­a­tions let you take a sin­gle strong con­cept and adapt them for a vari­ety of sen­ti­ments and use cas­es.

That’s why we rec­om­mend pick­ing at least one con­cept in your emo­ji pack­age and cre­at­ing an assort­ment of vari­a­tions around it. For many brands with strong icons, mas­cots, etc., this is easy, and mak­ing smi­ley vari­a­tions based on this is a nat­ur­al choice.


4. Simple is better

When cre­at­ing new emo­ji, it can be easy to for­get how small these will appear on people’s screens, and how casu­al­ly peo­ple will inter­act with them. For that rea­son, art con­cepts should be sim­ple. If your emo­ji have tiny details that only look good full-size on your lap­top screen, or have com­pli­cat­ed ani­ma­tions that take more than a few sec­onds to resolve them­selves, your audi­ence might move on before actu­al­ly notic­ing those details.


5. Keep them coming back for more

There’s no need to release every pos­si­ble emo­ji con­cept at first. Pick your start­ing 21/9 line­up (see above) and get it into the hands of your audi­enceas soon as pos­si­ble. Then cre­ate expan­sion packs to release lat­er down the road. Keep­ing your mate­r­i­al fresh both attracts new users, and keeps your exist­ing users engaged.

With our emo­ji key­boards, it’s easy to send a push noti­fi­ca­tion to your entire audi­ence alert­ing them of a new emo­ji pack, and encor­ag­ing them to give it a try.


6. Coordinate with events and campaigns to multiply impact

Emo­ji and GIFs on their own are fun, but emo­ji and GIFs released in sup­port of a big event, or spe­cial cam­paign, can make a big dif­fer­ence. What bet­ter way to help spread the word about some­thing than by equip­ping your most loy­al fans with the tools they need to enhance the texts, emails, Tweets, and Face­book posts that you’re already ask­ing them to send on your behalf? Plus it shows that as a brand, you care about not just the mes­sages you broad­cast your­self, but the mes­sages your audi­ence is broad­cast­ing about you.

Give it a try

If you’re ever thought about mak­ing emo­jis, GIFs, and cus­tom key­boards for your brand, you should check out Our­mo­ji: the emo­ji key­board plat­form we’ve built to make it easy for brands to cre­ate their first cus­tom emo­jis. There you can read more about:

  • Why they’re a use­ful and time­ly addi­tion to your social media strat­e­gy
  • The impact they can have with your audi­ence, espe­cial­ly mil­lenials
  • What fea­tures are includ­ed in our emo­ji key­board plat­form, and how our process works

Drop us a line if you like, we love brain­storm­ing with folks about this kind of stuff, and we’ll glad­ly cre­ate a lit­tle art for you on the house just to make sure it’s worth your while!

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