I notice it, groggy from sleep. I check my email, as one does, first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. 😉

The sight of it causes my heart to skip a beat. “It’s going to be a glorious day,” I think to myself as I jump out of bed. 🤩

What is the magical thing that makes getting up in the morning easier? 🌟

An emoji. To be specific, a set of headphones, situated in the subject line of an email. An email that comes from my library.⬇️⬇️

The headphones signal to my brain, before I can read the words that come after them, that my audiobook from Overdrive is ready for download.

After dozens of such emails, my body has an almost Pavlovian response to the tiny drawing of headphones.

I get giddy. I get excited. I am filled with anticipation to download and start the audiobook.

According to Salesforce, only two percent of emails sent by businesses to consumers in 2019 had an emoji in the subject line. That’s not a lot, really. And that means there is room for libraries to experiment.

I don’t think there is any doubt that emojis are here to stay. As of October 2019, there were 3,178 widely-recognized emojis, according to Emojipedia. And the major cell phone and digital marketing companies keep adding emojis to their libraries.

I want my cardholders to have the same reaction I have to the headphone emoji when I send them library marketing emails. The idea that an email from my library could energize someone or fill them with anticipation or cause them to do a mini-celebratory dance is one I can’t ignore.

Why might emojis work?

Emojis work because the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. More than 90 percent of the information that we process is visual.

The emoji drawing stands out in a line of letters. And if your recipient is using a device that adds color to the emoji, that also makes your subject line pop.

Your subject lines can also be shorter when you use an emoji because an emoji can do the work of some of the wording. And the shorter the subject line, the more effective the email. In 2018, 61 percent of emails were opened on mobile. Subject lines exceeding certain character counts can get cut off by mobile devices. And that impacts your open and conversion rates.

The experiment

I kept reading articles on the increased use of emojis in emails for brand marketing. There isn’t much data to suggest whether they are effective in converting customers to take any action on the email. And I thought, as I am apt to do, that someone should experiment with emojis in the library marketing space. Would my cardholders find them amusing? Would emojis help increase the effectiveness of my emails? Or would people think we had lost our mind and gone too far?

There was only one way to find out.

Over the course of six months, I sent 17 test emails to my cardholders with an emoji in the subject line. I used them in instances where I thought they added value to the subject line or helped me to make the subject line shorter. I also made sure I sent emojis to cardholders who tend to use digital services.

The results

After the six-month trial period, I crunched the numbers. And I discovered…

60 percent of the emails with an emoji in the subject line were effective. Ten of the 17 emails caused an increase in circulation, program attendance, or database usage for the item we promoted via email. That’s close to the average effective rate of my regular emails which do not include an emoji.

Emojis DID increase my open rate. The 17 messages I sent had an average open rate of 40 percent. Most of my regular emails have an open rate between 20 and 35 percent. So that was an improvement.

Emojis DID increase my click-through rate. The average click-through rate for the messages with emojis was eight percent. That is also slightly higher than normal. Most of my emails have a click-through rate of five percent.

Here are the subject lines from the four emails in the emoji test that had the highest open and click-through rates.

Ebook Publisher Policies
🚨New publisher policies will limit your access to eBooks.

This email had an 81 percent open rate and a 22 percent click-through rate.

Penguin Programs
🐧Make a date to visit the Library to see real live penguins this month!

This email had a 37 percent open rate and a 23 percent click-through rate.

Beach Reads 2019 Booklist
🏖️ Dreaming of sand, sun, surf, and great books? Here’s our 2019 vacation reading list!

This email had a 39 percent open rate and a 19 percent click-through rate.

Green Township Library Anniversary
🎈You’re invited to the Green Township 30th Anniversary celebration!

This email had a 54 percent open rate and a five percent click-through rate.

Now, there is something to consider and that is that the emoji may have had absolutely no effect on the overall effectiveness of these emails! Because my email marketing provider does not give me the ability to do true A/B testing, it may be that these emails had higher open, click-through, and conversion rates because of the wording of the subject line or the content of the email itself. The fact that there was an emoji in the subject line might be pure coincidence.🤷

Are there downsides to emojis?

There are some negative things to consider when you’re using emojis for email subject lines in library marketing.

Your emoji may not display correctly for your cardholder, depending on what kind of email platform they use.

Emojis can give the impression that your emails are not authentic. In some instances, users see an emoji and wonder if your library wrote it… or a robot.

Emojis can be overused. Finding the perfect emoji is fun. It makes you feel cool. But if you start putting an emoji in every subject line of every marketing email you send, you will likely find that they’ll soon have no impact or, worse, a negative impact.

That said, I think it’s worth it to experiment with emojis in your library’s email marketing. Your audience may love or hate them. There’s only one way to find out.

Remember to use them in the right context. Use emojis sparingly and make sure they add something to the message of your subject. And get your emojis from reliable sources like Emojipedia, GetEmoji, or your email platform.

Check the Upcoming Events page for a list of webinars and conferences where I’ll be next. Let’s connect! Plus, subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on the “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. 

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