How Emojis Can Influence Survey Response

We’ve known for thousands of years that people can derive meaning directly from symbolic pictures such as emoticons. That’s why there are ancient hieroglyphics on cave walls and written on tombs in Egypt. But how can these smiley-faced signifiers influence survey response in the modern, digital era?

With today’s millennials and Generation Z preferring to engage with emojis over traditional text, and their smartphones being the first and last device they interact with each day, perhaps emojis contain the secrets to successfully gathering survey responses from younger demographics.

While emojis may offer a new, creative way to encourage survey participation on mobile devices, it’s important to note their downsides.

Let’s take a look at both the positives and potential negatives associated with emojis versus traditional semantic-labeled responses.

The Good:

With mobile users at an all-time high, emojis create a unique opportunity to engage survey takers in a new fashion and attract more youthful audiences. In some cases, using emojis can make surveys and information more accessible to end users and can even elicit an accurate, semi-emotional response to a research study. For instance, measuring responses based on evaluative or agreement scales, emojis can appropriately be utilized to obtain viable results.

When a survey’s response scale is split between yes/no, like/dislike, thumbs up/thumbs down, emojis can and indeed should be utilized. However, when the response scale expands, you can quickly run into a few issues with emojis.

The Bad:

Due to the relative infancy of digital emojis, the first issue that arises is the limitation of their usage across more in-depth survey response scales. As opposed to semantic-labeled or numeric-labeled response scales, the meaning of emojis can be easily be misconstrued if not carefully approached in a survey.

Depending upon the interpretation of the person interacting with it, individual emojis or combinations of emojis can have different meanings. For example, though all of the emojis illustrated in the following graphic appear to be very similar at first glance, they depict dramatically different emotions.

Are you able to distinguish these emojis from each other?

MSG Survey Emojis

We predict that your answer is no.

Beyond the fact that emojis can send mixed signals and may be incomprehensible to older generations, it’s essential to understand the negatives associated with mobile-first surveys in general. According to a recent article published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR), mobile surveys take longer to complete and have a much higher break-off rate compared to when individuals used laptops or desktop computers.

Though we can conclude that, if used with care, emojis can attract younger audiences to provide survey responses, they may also easily and counterintuitively confuse respondents, which may negatively impact the data quality of one’s research.

With the help of Marketing System Group’s highly-skilled team of experts along with our software innovations, we have the tools needed to deliver trusted results. Find out more information about MSG by giving us a call today!


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