Emoji Warfare: How Symbols Shape Digital Communication and Marketing

Explore the surprising underworld of emoji symbolism, from gang warfare in New York City to their pivotal role in modern digital marketing, and discover how to wield emojis effectively in your digital strategy.

Mess with the Mafia and you could end up with a 🔫 in your bed.

OK, so that was a fictional event. But it’s become symbolic of the brutality of Mafia warfare in New York in the 1940s. Fast forward to 2019 and New York gangs are now using something many of us use every day to incite crime and bitter rivalry.

Like something enough to give it the thumbs up? 👍🏻 Feeling magical?🪄 ? Need to fill the car with some ⛽? Watch out. In the wrong circles, you could be picking a fight.

The New York Post has reported that the city’s street gangs are using emojis and other digital imagery as a secret language to plan crimes.

The petrol pump has become a universal symbol for ‘gang’. While the Harlem Crips use the two-thumbs-up emoji, with the knuckles facing each other, to represent the letter ‘H’. And their rivals, the Bloods, show their affiliation with a magician’s top hat.

Disrespecting each others’ symbols by posting them upside down is enough to incite war. It’s hard to imagine that those cute, harmless punctuations to our digital conversations are being used to commit heinous crimes. But they are.

The humble emoji wields a lot of power. So how can we harness it for good?

In digital marketing, the emoji is most definitely your friend. Here are our top 5 reasons why:

  1. Emojis are engaging

Studies have found that on Instagram, emojis increase engagement by 48%, while tweets with emojis get 25% more engagement than those without.

  1. Emojis convey emotion

We are more likely to engage with content when we have an emotional connection. Emojis convey emotions in a way words sometimes can’t. Why do you think Facebook went from a simple 👍🏻? as a way of responding to posts, to ❤️? Because people demanded it. Our emotions are what make us human, and emojis have evolved to become part and parcel of expressing those emotions.

  1. Emojis are universal

They break through language and cultural barriers. Well, mostly. While a 🤝 is a 🤝? anywhere, they can sometimes get lost in translation. A well-intentioned 🤝 in China could leave someone feeling like you’ve given them the brush-off, while giving the 👍🏻 in Iraq is not very polite at all (we’ll let you look that one up for yourselves). So, if you’re running a digital marketing campaign in a country you’re not familiar with, make sure you do your emoji homework.

  1. Emojis break up text-heavy content

Remember when you were a kid? If a book didn’t have pictures it was boring right? We never lose our inner child and, unless you’re engrossed in War and Peace, pictures help to reel us in. Come to think of it, War and Peace could have done with a few ❤️?️.

  1. Emojis provide clarity

In an era where the nuances of punctuation are lost on many (more on that another time), emojis help avoid misunderstandings. For instance, if your humour tends towards sarcasm, you can slip in a 😉? just in case.

Like any language, the language of emojis is evolving all the time. New emojis come on stream and meanings shift.

If you’re not sure what connotations an emoji might have, check it out before you use it – is a great resource for finding an emoji quickly and checking its meaning.

Because when it comes to social media marketing, you want to make ❤️ not ⚔️. Want some help with your social media marketing? Send us a message.

social media
Likeable Lab Logo

Let's make some cool sh*t

Let's make some cool sh*t

Likeable Lab Logo

Let's make some cool sh*t

Let's make some cool sh*t