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?
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 —
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.”
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:
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:
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:
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.”