From a combination of punctuation marks 🙂 to a small (mostly-yellow) symbol to the most engaging and inclusive ones, check how Twitter emojis became a staple to the internet.

This International Internet Day, Twitter is celebrating the journey of emojis in India. Words have always been the starting point for expressing yourself, but in today’s day and age, words alone just don’t cut it. Over the last five years, Twitter has seen new ways of communicating on the service, with GIFs, memes, videos, and more, but perhaps the most friendly and easy-to-use way of expressing oneself has become the emoji.

Here is a look at how custom Twitter emojis have come to connect with Indians from across the country. 

While people on Twitter have always had access to a standard set of emojis, specific hashtags at different periods of time have activated a limited-time emoji for special occasions to delight people on Twitter, sparking conversations.

Custom Twitter emojis in India were first launched on the service in 2015 with 13 creative symbols to connect with audiences. Taking a cue from the popularity of these emojis, over the years this grew to 39 in 2016, 62 in 2017, 39 in 2018, 86 in 2019, and 50 in 2020 till September. 

Looking back, Twitter in India has introduced several custom emojis that emphasise aspects of local culture, entertainment, sports and current affairs in the country. Since Sports fandom in India is extremely active, tournaments and sports leagues give people the opportunity to express their views and converse and connect with like-minded fans on the service. Owing to the massive popularity of this segment, 43% of the custom emojis on Twitter in India have belonged to the sports vertical.

Indian Twitter has witnessed massive growth in conversations around movies, TV, music and lifestyle, which is why around 11% of the custom emojis launched on the service are around entertainment.

Audiences on Twitter love to celebrate festivals and diverse cultures on the service. Adding momentum to these stimulating conversations, several emojis have allowed Indians to connect with various aspects of their culture. Till date, 32 Twitter emojis reflected various aspects about Indian culture. 

Similarly, around 27 emojis related to current affairs and news moments such as assembly and state elections have been introduced. Thanks to influential, leaned-in audiences that shape conversations, Twitter has become the go-to space for brands across sectors to launch new products and connect with their consumers. Custom emojis play a fundamental role in bringing these campaigns alive. 26% of the custom Twitter emojis launched in India are in service of brands and their campaigns.

These “Indian emojis” are not just popular at home. Several emojis that are relevant to Indian audiences have gained international popularity as they cross national boundaries connecting with the diaspora too. For example, the #GaneshChaturthi emoji in 2016 became a global trend and the launch of the emoji of the Rajnikanth movie #Kaala in 2018 trended in multiple geographies.

As Twitter serves the public conversation, encouraging positive, diverse points of view, emojis provide a fun way for anyone to express themselves on the service.

TWITTER EMOJIS AT A GLANCE: 

  • Since 2015, there are almost 300 India centric custom emojis
  • Among these, almost 68% emojis were introduced for special Indian events and moments, for example, Independence Day, #CWC19, Indian festivals, and national and assembly elections.
  • The first-ever Indian emoji was the #MakeInIndia emoji, introduced in Nov 2015.

  • In the same month, the first-ever #AmbedkarJayanti emoji was launched on Twitter. An emoji representing Babasaheb Ambedkar appeared in Tweets with hashtags like #AmbedkarJayanti and #अंबेडकरजयंती

  • The first-ever weather focused emoji was an umbrella during #Monsoon2017, which allowed audiences to express their love for a favourite season.
  • One of Twitter India’s biggest social initiatives #PowerOf18 aimed at encouraging the youth of India to contribute to public debate and participate in civic engagement, and also received its own emoji.

  • In Sports, Mithali Raj (@M_Raj03) was the first woman cricketer from India to get an emoji, and during the Women’s Cricket World Cup in June 2017, Indians supported their captain by making her the most Tweeted about captain globally, topping the Twitter Emoji Leaderboard.

  • Encouraging positive conversations on the service, Twitter India and Anushka Sharma (@AnushkaSharma) together launched the #HappyTweets campaign to spread joy amongst people. The campaign was also supported with a custom heart emoji.

  • In 2020, faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences on Indian Twitter took a trip down memory lane and threw-back to some iconic moments from the ‘90s. To celebrate these conversations, Twitter India launched an emoji that reminded everyone of the decade. The emoji was activated by using three hashtags – #BackToThe90s, #90sLove, and #90sNostalgia

  • Several product launches and brand campaigns have been successfully undertaken on the service. However, the first brand to get an emoji was Maruti Nexa (@NexaExperience) (in Jan 2017) followed by Vivo India (@Vivo_India) later that month.

  • Several brands have conceptualised campaigns that have leveraged the conversational nature of the service to bring about a positive change. One such campaign was the  #LoveMovesForward campaign by Uber India. With the intention to spearhead love and acceptance, and building into their broader mission of “Move Forward”, the company used the opportunity of Valentine’s Day 2019, to advocate for #LoveMovesForward and petitioned Unicode (the Emoji consortium) to create a new pride, rainbow-coloured heart emoji

 

SPORTS RELATED EMOJIS: FROM THE STADIUM TO THE INTERNET

Celebrations for the 10th anniversary of IPL were taken up a notch when for the first-ever time Twitter created custom IPL emojis for 30 players. MS Dhoni (@msdhoni) and Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) topped the chart of the 10 most-used hashtags for player emojis that year.

  • During #CWC19, Twitter introduced special jersey emojis representing all 10 teams and their captains. #TeamIndia topped the charts in the Twitter Emoji Index.

ENTERTAINMENT EMOJIS – FROM THE BIG SCREEN TO YOUR PHONE SCREEN 

  • The first TV show to get an emoji was Bigg Boss that same year. The classic Bigg Boss ‘eye’ logo emoji could be activated using the hashtags #BB10, #BiggBoss and #BiggBoss10

  • South superstar Vijay (@actorvijay) became the second film star to receive a custom emoji, based on his character from the movie #Mersal (August 2017)

  • Till date, around 15 emojis have been introduced on Twitter to get people excited about the launch of various Indian movies.
  • Of course, the fashion world is also a source of style and entertainment for many, and in partnership with #LakmeFashionWeek, Indian fashion was given its first custom emoji of a little red dress.

CULTURE – CUSTOM EMOJIS REFLECT THE CULTURE 

  • Of the 32 emojis, around eight emojis were introduced for major festivals in India including Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Eid, Vishu and Guru Nanak Jayanti to showcase the cultural diversity in India
  • First ever Diwali Twitter emoji was launched in Nov 2015.
  • In 2016, Twitter came up with the first-ever crowdsourced #Diwali emoji that was selected via a Twitter Poll on the Twitter India handle.

  • In 2019, Twitter’s #Diwali emoji was rather special. Customised for Twitter’s dark mode, the ‘lights on’ diya emoji would light up with a flame when switching to the app’s dark mode.
  • The service also launched a number of Twitter emojis for festivals that allowed audiences to Tweet in several languages. For Puthandu and Vishu,  people could Tweet with the following Tamil, Malayalam and English hashtags #HappyPuthandu, #புத்தாண்டுநல்வாழ்த்துக்கள், #HappyVishu, #വിഷുആശംസകൾ and the emoji would appear. The emoji was designed to represent people celebrating Puthandu and Vishu by holding diyas, symbolic of the welcoming of prosperity and happiness during the year.

CURRENT AFFAIRS 

  • The emoji for #LokSabhaElections2019 was a panoramic colored illustration of the Parliament of India, and was introduced in 12 languages, aimed at encouraging more people to get out and vote.

  • Twitter launched a customized Independence Day flag emoji with audiences Tweeting using the hashtags #IndependenceDayIndia, as part of the #BharatKeVeer campaign. Active for a span of 5 days, the emoji amassed 689K Tweets in total. As India entered its 70th year of Independence in 2016, Twitter India (@TwitterIndia) added on to the celebrations with the launch of a new tri-colour emoji featuring the map of India. Refer to this Tweet for a better understanding.

BRAND RELATED TWITTER EMOJIS 

  • Categories leading the charge as far as the maximum custom emojis are concerned are OEM brands, followed by auto manufacturers and media & entertainment companies
  • Launches by mobile companies on Twitter have been immensely popular. Collaborations with mobile companies such as Motorola India (@motorolaindia), Redmi India (@RedmiIndia), Gionee India (@GioneeIndia) and Samsung India

  • Beyond mobile phones, shows on streaming services have also made for popular emojis. Not forgetting streaming services, shows on OTT platforms have huge popularity. On Amazon Prime India,  in 2019 #TheFamilyMan emoji was especially innovative, changing as one switched from the light mode to dark mode on the Twitter app – indicating the character’s dual-life as in the series.

  • In 2020, Netflix India partnered with Twitter India to launch the #NetflixMatchmaker emoji making people’s matchmaking dreams come true, by pairing them with a show to watch based on an emoji they Tweet.
  • Keeping up with the theme of conversations on the service, Sunfeast Dark Fantasy initiated the campaign #ALotCanHappenInside focusing on the talents of individuals. Aimed at encouraging people to discover their hidden talents, the activation was amplified with Twitter’s Promoted Trend and First View, along with a Sunfeast Dark Fantasy ChocoFills cookie as an emoji. The jingle focused on showcasing how one can achieve anything you want to be in life in spite of the lockdown.

Which of these Twitter emojis are your favourite? Let us know below.

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