Emojis are omnipresent – We use them while chatting with friends on WhatsApp, at work on Slack and they are even used in the business world, too. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, you will encounter many hearts, camera or thumbs up icons. We wanted to dig deeper on how Instagram emojis are used, how often they are used on average and, most of all, we wanted to know if a post containing emojis receives a higher amount of interactions. The following Instagram emoji study tackles all of these questions and reveals some great insights on how businesses can profit from emojis.

Since the early days of digital communication, it’s been common practice to use emoticons as a way to express feelings. After many years of using “:-)”, emojis, as we know them today, stepped into our lives. Research found that when we look at a smiling face online, the same parts of the brain are stimulated as when we look at a human face. By the way, the word “emoji” comes from the Japanese meaning “picture character”.

In order to understand how emojis are used on Instagram, we analyzed 20,000 profiles with 6.2 million posts during the whole year of 2016. Based on this data, we are now able to answer some interesting questions.

Instagram emojis study shows: 56% of profiles use emojis

To start with a bird’s eye view on how often emojis are used, we analyzed how many Instagram accounts used at least one emoji in their posts. We found that more than 50% – 56% to be precise – included at least one emoji in December 2016. This shows that businesses seem to be interested in using emojis on Instagram, although their reasons might vary.

Looking at the average of all analyzed profiles helps us gather a general understanding of the emojis used. Whereas, this approach does not look at different profile sizes in particular and these clusters vary greatly on all networks. That’s why we split all analyzed profiles into six groups.

Instagram Emoji Study
Here, it becomes clear that the smallest profile group from 1 to 1,000 followers use emoticons significantly less than all other pages. In January, just 19% of all profiles in this cluster used emojis. Over the year, the use of emojis grew in this cluster by 37%, realizing the biggest growth of all six clusters. Taking the growth rate into consideration, in December 26% of all accounts from 1 to 1,000 followers used at least one emoji in their posts. In order to receive insights in all profile clusters, check slide four in our Instagram emoji study below. Spoiler alert: The biggest pages analyzed used emojis in 81.58% of their posts!

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Instagram emojis – More often seen in image or video posts?

After learning how often emojis were being used, we were eager to dig deeper. Now, we used the aggregated data to find whether there is a difference between images or videos. Analyzing January 2016, we found no significant difference – the difference between images and videos was just about 2%. Until December, the difference became even smaller with 28% of video posts containing emojis and 27% of all image posts. So again, no significant difference detectable. Based on these findings, we can say that businesses are equally likely to use emojis in images as well as in video posts.

Before we answer the question if emojis actually help businesses receive higher interactions on Instagram, let’s have a look at the most frequently used emoticons.

The most famous Instagram emoji *drum roll*

Of all nearly 2,000 existing emojis the following chart shows you the ten most popular emojis on Instagram in 2016. Which of those did you use in the previous year? Any new ideas for 2017? Including new emojis in your posts might further improve the interactions you receive on videos and images.

Top Emojis Instagram

The camera icon is the most frequently used emoji on Instagram. At the end of November, we analyzed the New York Times Fashion on Instagram and discovered that the “📸 ” is the most used emoticon. In the study, we also looked into seasonal emojis such as the “pumpkin” and the “Christmas tree” and their importance in the corresponding months. Spoiler alert: Very Christmassy in December!

Emojis bring 17% higher interaction rates

Yes, posts with emojis earn a higher interaction rate on Instagram! The main findings of our study is the proof that emojis lead to a higher interaction rate. Due to this discover, we can say that emojis are omnipresent for a specific reason: Instagram posts containing emojis seem to be perceived in a more positive way and thus stir more feelings from the recipient.

Interactions Instagram Emojis
The Interaction Rate makes profiles of different sizes comparable and thus delivers the most accurate average for the increase of engagement. Even more interesting to see is the increase of absolute interactions on posts in the individual clusters. This metric underlines the revealed facts again and shows even more significant differences of posts with vs. without emojis. Access the free study above to find how much higher the received interactions are while using emojis, specifically for your profile size. In order to keep track of interactions you receive, it’s essential to approach the measurement of your Instagram activities, to constantly improve your strategy.

How to use emojis for business

Emojis are used by the majority of the analyzed Instagram profiles, with a strongly increasing trend. The study also found that the “camera with flash icon” was the top Instagram emoji in 2016. Finally, we were able to prove that emojis lead to higher interactions. To formulate a key takeaway from this Instagram emoji study, we can say that emojis can be greatly beneficial to improve the number of interactions. With that said, businesses should try to include emoticons to express feelings and give a more personal touch, but they also need to be careful to not overuse them. Any questions on this? Never hesitate to send us a tweet!

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