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Does Using Emojis on Instagram Lead to More Engagement?

January 31, 2018 • By

Scott Ayres

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Emojis on Instagram: An In-Depth Study

It’s 2018 and by now we all know what emojis are.

We use them in text messages, posts on every social media site known to man.

They are a great, quick way to respond to someone.

And a tad lazy…

And if you have kids (or love cartoons) you’ve probably seen “The Emoji Movie” a dozen times like me!

emoji movie

But is there real value in using emojis in your Instagram posts?

That’s what we’re going to test today in the Lab.

Background about Emojis on Instagram

Our experiment was inspired by a Quintly study on the impact of emojis in Instagram posts.

In their study, they analyzed over 29,000 Instagram profiles and 5.5 million posts to discover some very interesting data:

  • 57% of the profiles used at least 1 emoji in their postsemoji instagram
  • 24% of profiles with 1 to 1000 followers used emojis
  • 51% of profiles with 1000 to 10,000 followers used emojis
  • 68% of profiles with 10,000 to 100,000 followers used emojis
  • 78% of profiles with 100,000 to 1 million followers used emojis
  • 83% of profiles with over 1 million followers used emojis
  • 31% of all image and 29% of all video posts contained emojis
  • Posts with emojis had a 15% higher interaction rate

emojis on instagram

Another interesting discovery was the most used emojis. The camera emoji won — most likely because of its use as a photo attribution icon.

emojis on instagram

Being that this study was on such a wide array of profiles we wanted to test this on a smaller scale using our own accounts — while also looking at a few experts in social media to see how they stack up.


Based on the study from Quintly our hypothesis will be: Using emojis on Instagram posts will result in higher engagement.

emojis on instagram hypothesis

Our Test on Emojis on Instagram

To test this theory we’ll take a look at data from 2 different sets of Instagram accounts:

  1. Accounts we own and have access to Insights
  2. Accounts we don’t own run by influencers

For the accounts we don’t own, we’ll simply look at the number of Likes and Comments.

The Instagram accounts we own used in this test:

  • @agorapulse – Our Instagram account for our company

agorapulse instagram

  • @scottayres – My personal Instagram account

scottayres instagram

  • @spacewalkctx – Instagram account for a local bounce house company I own

spacewalkctx instagram

The Instagram accounts we don’t own:

  • @shortofheight – Aaron Lee

shortofheight instagram

  • @kimgarst – Kim Garst

kimgarst instagram

  • @freshlypicked – Freshly Picked is a fun company that sells baby moccasins, appeared on Shark Tank, and regularly uses Agorapulse to manage its social.

freshlypicked instagram

For the accounts we own, I will intentionally post updates to Instagram that both include and exclude emojis during a timespan of at least 1 month.

On the Instagram accounts we don’t own, we obviously won’t have any control of their posts. In these cases, we will draw data as far back as needed to have an even amount of posts with and without emojis to draw conclusions.

How We’ll Analyze Data Regarding Emojis on Instagram

  1. Create a spreadsheet for both account types and notate the posts with and without emojis.
  2. Average out the Impressions, Reach, Likes and Comments for each account (Only Likes and Comments for accounts we don’t own)
  3. Calculate an average for the data points for the accounts we own and don’t own.
  4. Calculate an average of Likes and Comments for all accounts used for the test
  5. Use Quintly’s “Interaction Rate Calculation” formula

These 5 different sets of data should bring us to a solid conclusion of the impact of emojis on Instagram posts.

The Quintly Interaction Rate Calculation formula is quite interesting, and one I hadn’t seen before:

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.35.50 PM.png


Likes: 150 | Comments: 40

Posts: 2 | Followers (start): 800 | Followers (end): 1,000

Interaction Rate = 10.5556%

Instead of just looking at the raw data and averaging the numbers this smartly takes into account the number of followers and posts to give a clearer picture of the results.

This formula will likely be the most important set of numbers we look at in our results and will be the data used to draw a conclusion.

In the posts for accounts we own, I’ll add 2-3 emojis at the beginning of the posts. For the non-owned accounts we look at, I’ll consider it an emoji post if there are any emojis in the update — regardless of where they are placed or how many.

For this study, will will not consider the amount of emojis or emojis used for results. (But doesn’t it sound good for a future Social Media Lab post? 🤔)

Emojis on Instagram Data

One quick thing to note before we hop into the data: Because of Instagram’s algorithm, posts could continue to gain Impressions, Reach, Likes and Comments over the course of several weeks.

Even after I pulled the data some of these posts could see an increase, but I waited at least a week after they were posted to get good data.

On each of the data points I share below, I’ll remove the highest and lowest performing post from the results. I do this to eliminate any anomaly a really viral post might have caused or a low performing post may cause.

*Also note that on the accounts I had no control of some of these posts could have been used for ads, I doubt it on Kim’s or Aaron’s account but on FreshlyPicked this is possible. I actually didn’t count a few of their posts as the engagement rates were nearly double or triple on a few and it was obvious these were giveaways that likely were part of an ad campaign.

With all that said, let’s dig in!

@Agorapulse Stats

  • @Agorapulse With emojis averages:
    • 272.09 Impressions
    • 219.36 Reach
  • @Agorapulse Without emojis averages:
    • 270.64 Impressions
    • 214.36 Reach

Impressions, Reach, and Likes were higher with emojis.

@Scottayres Stats

  • @Scottayres With emojis averages:
    • 241.78 Impressions
    • 201.67 Reach
  • @Scottayres Without emojis averages:
    • 260.11 Impressions
    • 212.56 Reach

For this account Impressions, Reach and Likes were higher on posts without emojis.

@Spacewalkctx Stats

  • @Spacewalkctx With emojis averages:
    • 198.71 Impressions
    • 173.21 Reach
  • @Spacewalkct Without emojis averages:
    • 248 Impressions
    • 213.4 Reach

On this account Impressions, Reach and Comments were higher on posts without emojis.

Test Account Stats Combined

Here is how the 3 accounts averaged out with and without emojis:

emojis graph 1

  • With Emojis:
    • 237.53 Impressions
    • 198.08 Reach
  • Without Emojis:
    • 259.58 Impressions
    • 213.44 Reach

Based on these stats posts without emojis outperformed for these accounts. But can we draw a conclusion based on this?

Not really.

So let’s look at the data from the accounts we don’t own. Remember we can only see Likes and Comments for these.

@Shortofheight Stats

  • @Shortofheight With emojis averages:
  • @Shortofheight Without emojis averages:

More Likes without emojis, but fewer comments…

@Kimgarst Stats

  • @Kimgarst With emojis averages:
  • @Kimgarst Without emojis averages:

Posts with emojis wins out on both of these stats for Kim.

@Freshlypicked Stats

  • @Freshlypicked With emojis averages:
  • @Freshypicked Without emojis averages:

Again posts with emojis got more engagement.

External Account Stats Combined

Let’s average out the 3 pages to see what we get:

emojis graph 2

  • With Emojis:
  • Without Emojis:

For these 3 accounts posts with emojis is the clear winner.

Average Stats of All Accounts Studied

emojis graph 3

Let’s finally average out the Likes and Comments for all 6 accounts we looked at — both owned and non-owned.

  • With Emojis:
  • Without Emojis:

Instagram posts with emojis wins when we average out the Likes and Comments for all accounts!

But will this hold up to Quintly’s Interaction Rate formula?

Calculating Interaction Rate for Instagram Posts

The final data point we’ll use to draw a conclusion is Quntly’s formula.

Which you’ll recall is as follows:

(Likes + Comments)/#Posts X 100%/#Average Followers

Let’s see how that pans out for each account:

@Agorapulse Interaction Rate

With Emojis: 3.25%

Without Emojis: 2.90%

The formula basically looks like this:

agorapulse interaction rate with emojis



@Scottayres Interaction Rate

With Emojis: 1.06%

Without Emojis: 1.22%

@Spacewalkctx Interaction Rate

With Emojis: 1.01%

Without Emojis: 1.05%

Posts without emojis had a higher Interaction Rate for the @scottayres and @spacewalkctx accounts, whereas the @agorapulse account had a higher rate with emojis.

When we average these 3 test accounts together, we get an Interaction Rate of 1.77% with emojis and 1.72% without.

emojis graph 4

Thus giving posts with emojis a slight advantage.

Now let’s look at the accounts we didn’t have control over.

@Shortofheight Interaction Rate

With Emojis: 3.64%

Without Emojis: 3.58%

@Kimgarst Interaction Rate

With Emojis: .26%

Without Emojis: .25%

@Freshlypicked Interaction Rate

With Emojis: 1.29%

Without Emojis: 1.22%

All 3 account fared better with emojis.

Averaging the 3 accounts gives us this result for the Interaction Rate:

emojis graph 5

  • With Emojis: 1.73%
  • Without Emojis: 1.68%

Conclusion: Do Emojis on Instagram Post Lead to More Engagement?

Earlier in this post, I said the final conclusion would be made using Quintly’s Interaction Rate for Instagram.

If we concluded that emojis didn’t perform better based purely on the Impressions and Reach of the posts I owned, my conclusion would have been that posts with emojis didn’t perform as well as posts without.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure you’re looking at the full data when drawing these types of conclusions.

Had I done this I would have been wrong, as I wasn’t taking into consideration the number of posts or the follower count on the earliest and latest post I pulled data from.

By doing this using Quintly’s formula I’m given different results — that are much more scientific.

After averaging all 6 pages together that I studied, the Interaction Rates looked like this:

emojis graph 6

  • With Emojis: 1.75%
  • Without Emojis: 1.70%

Based on this I can conclude that Instagram posts with emojis did result in a higher level of engagement.

Although I did not see a 15% increase like Quintly did in their study, I did see an increase of 2.94% in the Interaction Rates with vs without emojis.

This leads me to conclude that using emojis in Instagram does in fact lead to more engagement — just as I originally hypothesized.

emojis on instagram results

But are these results statistically significant?

The quick answer is no.

I plugged the numbers into multiple statistic calculators and the difference between 1.75% and 1.70%, both using 110 posts, just isn’t statistically significant.

That being said a 2.94% increase in the Interaction Rate isn’t bad and would lead me to continue posting emojis in my updates.

Had we included more in our posts or perhaps used more of the most popular emojis found in Quintly’s test our results might have been higher.

Closing Thoughts about Emojis on Instagram

First, emojis do make conversations more personal for big brands who may not have as intimate a connection with their followers

Second, this data suggests a psychological trend. When users are scrolling through the feed at 90mph emojis seem to have some sort of stopping power which makes people pay more attention.

And finally, if emojis can give a business a 2.94-15% increase in interactions then I’d say there’s a definite business value there.


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