One of the newest additions in the evolution of communications is the use of emojis or emoticons. You’ve surely seen, if not used, the hearts, smiley faces, and other small pictures in some of your emails, text or social media programs. Even as an etiquette consultant, I enjoy using them in my text messages every now and again.
While emojis were once considered to be the drama points of a teenager’s angst, they have made their way into the workplace. And believe it or not, they are now considered acceptable. Emojis, when used correctly, can add meaning to your message and give it an extra flair like nothing else. On the other hand, if used incorrectly, they can be seen as highly unprofessional and inappropriate.
Related: For World Emoji Day: How Emojis Help You Connect with Consumers (Infographic)
To help define best practices for emoji use, here are five etiquette rules to remember. This way you can make full use of this new technology while still maintaining your professionalism.
1. Keep the situation in mind.
Before flooding your message with emojis, carefully consider the situation, the person who will receive it and the tone of your business communications. If you are writing to someone on a serious matter, emojis will probably not be appropriate; they can, however, soften a harsh message. For example, if you have to communicate some disappointing news to a colleague, you might use the sad-face emoji to let the person know that you are disappointed too. Restrict yourself from using them if you don’t know the person well or you aren’t sure who will receive your message. If, on the other hand, you are delivering a message on the lighter side and are sure the receiver uses emojis, feel free to use them — once in a while.
2. Practice discretion.
Regardless of the situation, emojis should never be used to totally replace actual words; they are only meant to add a bit of emotion to your message. It would be inappropriate, especially in the workplace, to flood your email (or any other form of messaging) with them as this might make you look childish and immature.
3. Use the only emojis you understand.
When in doubt, leave them out. Never use emojis for which you don’t fully understand the meaning. The office is not the place to experiment as you could inadvertently send the wrong message. The simplest and safest emoji to use is a version of the smiley face; however, it’s best to avoid emojis that could be interpreted as flirtation, anger or romance. Just for fun, research emoji meanings at Emojipedia.org.
Related: The 2015 Word of the Year Is an Emoji You Use All the Time.
4. Don’t use emojis with a potential client.
It’s not wise to use emojis if you are trying to establish a new relationship with a client or colleague. Use actual words instead. Again, keep it professional. Instead, focus on expressing yourself through well-thought-out emails and text messages that will build a person’s confidence in you.
Spend your limited budget on the items listed above — theme, domain, and hosting — and you’ll be able to refine and manage your own website to make it look and act the way you want. That’s something you would normally pay thousands of dollars to get from someone else.
3. Build an email list.
If you have little-to-no money to invest, and you’ve created a WordPress website, you now need to focus on one thing — building an email list. How exactly do you build an email list from scratch with no money? There are blogs, books, and courses devoted to that topic, but the basic premise is simple. Create something extremely valuable — I mean over-the-top valuable — then give it away, and make people give you their email addresses so you can email it to them.
Create an ebook, mini-course, spreadsheet, database or even a physical product. Whatever it is, it needs to tie directly into the thing you plan to charge people for, and it needs to offer an unbelievable amount of value. That’s the only way you’ll really grab people’s attention.
It hurts to work that hard on something just to give it away, I know. But if what you’re giving away isn’t valuable enough to hurt when you give it away for free, then it probably isn’t valuable enough to build an email list.
Not sure where to start promoting your freebie lead magnet? Start by giving to friends and family first. People skip this part, but this is the best way to get your email list started.
Go to LinkedIn and start messaging anyone you think might be interested. You may have to make connections or join groups first, then you can start messaging your connections and fellow group members for free.
Go to Reddit, pick the most appropriate subreddit, then start a conversation that will lead into you giving your lead magnet away to everyone in the thread. This actually works extremely well if you pick the right subreddit and topic. With Reddit, you don’t want to spam them by posting a link to your landing page and moving on. You have to start an actual conversation with your post, then put the link to your lead magnet in the description or in one of your response comments. The more controversial, the better. (Note: I’ve started threads on Reddit that led to more than 1,000 visitors to my landing page and hundreds of email subscribers, just from a single Reddit post.)
Once you’ve built your email list, ask subscribers questions about what their pain points are and what they need help with. Send them useful information, even if it’s just a link you found on the internet. Treat your email list like a group of friends, and when you’re ready to sell something to them, you’ll have earned their attention and your first bit of revenue from email marketing.
Related: 7 Creative Strategies for Marketing Your Startup on a Tight Budget. http://www.reviewengin.com/bloggers-playbook-review/
Just start doing.
As the saying goes — an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. You can sit around hypothesizing and planning forever, but until you get out and get the ball rolling, your dream’s going nowhere. Remember, your goal is to create a minimum viable product when it comes to your branding and website, then focus all your time and attention on building your email list.
It’s going to take a tremendous amount of time, but that’s the trade-off of not spending money. Invest your time now so you can get your business off the ground, and invest your money later when you have more of it.