To Emoji or Not to Emoji? Best Practices in Live Chat Etiquette [Poll]

Posted by
Sivan Raam
Mobile Product Manager
Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 17:33

Do you speak emoji? The New Yorker wants to know (and so do we).

How many emojis do you send via live chat, text or IM on a daily basis? Which ones make your most recently used list? (I’m partial to the salsa dancing emoji myself.) If ‘people don’t use words anymore,’ and emojis will soon replace text—I suppose it’s time to learn the latest language!

In all seriousness, there’s a biological, and cultural, reason why we are partial to those tiny, expressive caricatures. A recent study found that looking at emojis, “can trigger the same facial recognition response in the occipitotemporal parts of brain that takes place when we gaze into meatspace visages of other humans.” Or, in simpler terms, we react as we would to a real human face.

People enjoy finding ways to make their digital communications more human, and more real—hence the widespread popularity of the emoji. If you can believe it (we’re not 100% convinced it’s real), it seems that an emoji-only social network called will soon be available. Check out the video (you won’t regret it):


The Emoji-Only Conversation: A Look Back, A Look Ahead

The first emoji was created in Japan in the 1990s, and quickly caught on. But, early encoding made it impossible to share emojis globally. Hence, Unicode was born, according to Mashable. Unicode enabled all phone users to create consistent emojis worldwide.

Now, the tiny characters are a regular in everyday conversation. And, in Asia, many are known to converse using only emojis. Perhaps this type of chat won’t be so uncommon here in the U.S. once apps like are a reality.

And, in the latest news, more than 250 new emojis are coming your way. The new list includes the middle finger, a cloud with a tornado, a white sun, a thermometer, and more. Huffington Post has the full list.

So, where do we draw the line? Will emojis stay in the personal realm, or will they find their way into the professional communications?

Chat Agents & Emojis: The LivePerson Perspective

We asked our team what they thought about using emojis during chat, and we got some feedback on both sides of the debate. Take a look.

Pro-Emoji Perspective:

Some feel that emoticons help a written conversation. Face-to-face, you get a whole load of non-verbal communication, like tone, facial expression and body language. On the phone, this is reduced to tone of voice, and in chat you get none of it. Emoticons—used correctly—can help bridge this gap by creating an emotional connection in the form of a tiny icon.

Some argue, however, that there is something of a generational divide here. Younger generations who are used to IM, texting and Facebook chat find it normal, whereas older generations tend to think less of it.

There’s a time and a place for their use. For example:

  • Not good: Your payment was refused because you’ve gone over your overdraft limit. :-)
  • Good: My pleasure, glad to be able to help you today. :-)

It’s common sense. What expression would you have when talking to the person face-to-face? You don’t deliver bad news with a beaming smile, and you don’t celebrate making a sale with a tear rolling down your face.

No-Emoji Perspective:

Other LivePerson team members think that emojis are not helpful or professional, but do appreciate that there are teams out there that want to use them as part of the way they communicate.

Below are a few of the points our anti-emoji team articulated:

  • Some believe emojis are simply not professional. It’s a lot harder to make a sale if the customer does not see you as professional.
  • There is a chance that an emoji will offend the customer. If a customer thinks that he or she is not being taken seriously, the emoji will make it worse.
  • There is nothing in an emoji that cannot be expressed in words. Someone who has a good and original way of writing will find it easy to convey the sentiment of an emoji easily without having to use one.


Real-Time, Chat Etiquette: What To Consider

Some brands have already found a way to work emojis into customer communications.

Take Oreo for example. Oreo ran a mobile, emoji-focused campaign in China through WeChat. The campaign encouraged people to take photos of their friends and family and paste their faces onto trending emojis. According to Mobile Marketer, consumers created more than 99 million emojis in just 11 weeks.

Another example: Yelp updated its mobile app so that consumers can search without words, using emojis-only.

The verdict is out on whether emojis are a good fit for customer engagement, but it looks like brands are swaying in the ‘not-guilty’ direction.

If you do decide to use emojis in customer communications, or more specifically for live chat, set a few guidelines first. Below are just a few to get you started.

  1. Gauge the tone of the request or project. Is the customer contacting your company regarding a serious or sensitive issue? Ensure customers know you are taking the request seriously.
  2. Be mindful of the nature of the industry. Some industries are obviously more formal than others. How would you interact with your bank teller as opposed to your shoe salesman? The same attitude should translate in online communications.
  3. Pick the right time. Use emojis during light hearted, for-fun shopping experiences. Play into consumer emotion to build stronger, more loyal relationships.

What Do You Think?

As a customer, would you approve of your favorite brands using emojis? Take our poll, and tell us what you think!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Blog Posts by Category