That's according to new research from the University of Minnesota. A staple of modern communication, emojis were tweeted more than 10 billion times in 2015 alone, and nearly half of all Instagram posts now include them.
Several high-profile brands have even started to incorporate the icons into their marketing strategies: Chevy sent out an all-emoji press release last year in June; McDonald's produced an ad featuring people with three-dimensional emojis as their heads; and at Domino's, the truly uninspired can order a pizza simply by tweeting the pizza symbol to the fast-food company's main account.
Still, before rolling out your own campaign featuring the "applies-nail-polish" or "see-no-evil-monkey" icons, it's worth pointing out that users might not receive this in the way that you intend them to.
According to the study, called "'Blissfully Happy' or 'Ready to Fight': Varying Interpretations of Emoji," many people disagree over whether emojis are positive or negative as much as 25 percent of the time when presented with the same rendering. That statistic climbs when presented with different renderings of the same symbol (for instance, the emoji "grinning face with smiling eyes" can appear in 17 different ways on your smartphone--be it through the Apple iPhone or Samsung, or via Twitter, Facebook, and Mozilla).
Overall, the study found significant potential for miscommunication in emoji usage--"both for individual emoji renderings and for different emoji renderings across platforms." Researchers surveyed an admittedly small sample of 334 people, and restricted characters to only "anthropomorphic emoji" across the top three smartphone platforms (Android, Apple, and Microsoft). The study generated 5,000 varied interpretations.
So it's not surprising, then, that a number of companies and high-profile figures have faced serious emoji-related fails. Chad Shanks, former digital communications manager for the Houston Rockets, was fired last year when the sports team tweeted out the message: "Sssh. Just close your eyes. It will all be over soon," coupled with the horse and smoking gun icons. (This was posted during a game, in which the Rockets were beating the Dallas Mavericks.)
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton also faced social media heat after tweeting: "How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less." Respondents were outraged because they perceived the tweet to be condescending.
The lesson here: If you're ever tempted to use emojis at work, in social conversations, or even your marketing strategies, make sure you think twice and consider any tonal discrepancies.