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:
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!