Are GIFs, Emojis or Memes a Good Idea for WordPress Sites?

Are GIFs, Emojis or Memes a Good Idea for WordPress Sites?

Personally, I’m a fan of using humor and pop culture references in content marketing. I don’t necessarily think it fits for every occasion nor do I think every audience will understand it, but that’s why we do research before creating websites and launching our brand’s web presence into the social-sphere. Right?

That being said, including a pun or reference from your favorite movie in your site’s messaging is fine when it aligns with your brand’s style and voice. Adding visuals like GIFs, emojis, or memes into your content…

Emojis GIFs Memes - Willy Wonka Meme
Everyone recognizes the Willy Wonka meme.

Well, that’s just not something I’m sure about. Then again, if your site directly targets a younger age group that naturally incorporates these types of elements into their dialogue, it might make sense to go that route.

Obviously, there’s been a lot of research done on what sort of effect these modern-day hieroglyphics have on social media and email marketing, but there just isn’t much out there that says whether these are good or bad for websites. Since I think people’s preference for visual content and shorter engagements over large amounts of text lends itself really well to this kind of content, this is what I’d like to try and figure out today.

GIFs and Emojis and Memes, Oh My!

I don’t think that’s really what they were singing about…

There is something very appealing about brands that can remain on the cutting edge in terms of both design and marketing—and I think these kinds of visual elements create an interesting juxtaposition between the two. But there’s nothing that guarantees that a punny meme or a well-placed smiley emoji will be well-received by your audience. So, how do you make effective use of these in web design, if at all?

As I scoured the web, trying to figure out whether or not emojis, GIFs, or memes could ever be appropriate for web design, I stumbled upon this article called Laugh It Up. I actually found a lot of stuff like this around the web that talks about the healing power of laughter, typically in the context of relationships or workplaces. But if humor works in other areas of our lives, why wouldn’t it work in our digital communications with consumers?

Based on the article, laughter can:

  • Release endorphins, giving people an improved sense of well-being and happiness.
  • Create a closeness among individuals by “grooming from a distance”.
  • Relieve pain.

Now, if those three side effects aren’t what we all hope to achieve by going into business in the first place, I don’t know what is. Sure, not every business or website can claim the power to heal physical ailments, but we’re all trying to appease some sort of “pain” that customers experience. What if laughter is the first step in showing them that you understand what they’re going through?

Let’s say you run a digital bookstore and you’re well aware that your prices are a bit higher than what customers could find on Amazon. However, you’re about to launch a semi-annual sale and you want to inform them of the great deals headed their way. You could create or borrow (with credit, of course) a meme like this and add it to the blog post making the announcement:

Emojis GIFs Memes \- WritersResource Instagram
A meme from the Writers Resource account on Instagram.

If you can find a way to use relevant and relatable snippets of humor on your site, imagine what good that could do for engagement? You could use a funny GIF to disarm readers as they scan through a long blog post. You could interject some humor in a popup by using a meme. Or you could infuse your copy with emojis.

It’s like with everything else in web design: give them a reason to stop, engage (i.e. laugh), and connect with your brand, and you may just win a loyal customer for life.

Breaking Down the Uses for Emojis, GIFs, and Memes on WordPress Sites

Of course, there are some downsides to using emojis, GIFs, or memes in your content. Ultimately, it boils down to understanding what each of these things are, how they’re best used, and then adding them to your site sparingly. (Seriously, think about that annoying friend or coworker who doesn’t know when to stop making jokes. Dude, we get it already.)


Emoji GIF Meme - Domino's Emoji
Domino’s loves using the pizza emoji on their social media.

According to a recent study, emojis are used by 92% of people, which makes them incredibly appealing for web design. Considering how often you have to take into account the learning curve with some users, it would be nice to rely on a design element that most people are already familiar with.

There are other benefits to using emojis, too:

  • They’re great in terms of minimalism since you can say more with just a simple icon.
  • A study from 2007 showed that emoticons (the flat smiley face equivalent of emojis) serve a similar purpose as body language. In essence, improving comprehension of the words spoken or written.
  • There have also been studies that show a correlation between emotion and emoji usage.

Now, in terms of the downsides of using emojis in content, here’s what you need to know:

  • Emojis may be recognizable by the majority of people, but that doesn’t mean that they’re universally accepted as a professional form of communication.
  • The usage of emojis may be too distracting to place within the body of your content.
  • You also have to be careful about placing them in titles or metadata. Google will only display emojis when they deem them to be relevant.
  • If emojis are obscure or show up differently depending on browsers or devices, your intended message may be confused or misinterpreted.

In all honesty, the random emoji thrown into a blog post would look pretty cool. Think about how well header tags and images work to break up your content; of course people would love to run into a fun emoji while they’re reading. However, if the style of emojis doesn’t jive with your brand’s voice, it’s probably best to steer clear.


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Emojis GIFs Memes - Isis map from NPR
A GIF that shows the spread of Isis on the NPR site.

In the GIF above from the NPR website, you can see that this isn’t humorous at all. So, it just goes to show you that it’s more about understanding your audience and the kind of message you want to communicate than trying to force a trending image just for the sake of laughs.

Here are some ways that websites can use GIFs on their website:

  • To “animate” an image that demonstrates progress or movement as it pertains to the story.
  • To depict short steps in a process—like a how-to—that keep the reader engaged and moving down the page rather than getting jammed up at one lengthy video.
  • To provide a humorous aside or pop culture reference that offers a quick respite from reading and then helps segue the reader back into the text.

We already know that video is huge in web design in 2017, so logically it would make sense that GIFs—basically, just shorter, soundless versions of them—would work just as well. The only real downside comes when they’re not used properly. In other words, if it’s obvious they were created just to push your company’s agenda and not to add any real value to the website, you run the risk of losing visitors as they spot the inauthentic gesture.


Emojis GIFs Memes - OnBlastBlog
The very recognizable Matrix meme used on the OnBlastBlog site.

Technically, memes aren’t just images that include a quick riff on the original quote. In fact, an Internet meme can be an image, video, hashtag, or even website. The term originated in 1976 when Richard Dawkins used it to describe a type of biological evolution. This makes sense since memes are our way of spreading an idea or image and watching as it changes from person to person.

I’d say that memes can be used for the same exact reasons and ways as GIFs. The main difference being that the memes are traditionally static, so they’re a bit easier to create.

I also think that memes have an additional use, and that’s for strictly promotional purposes. If you remove the emphasis usually put on them to be humorous, you could take a great looking, high-resolution image and place a fun and memorable hashtag on top of it to promote your services or content within your website.

For example:

Emojis GIFs Memes - FreeTheKnee
How to merge memes with your site’s self-promotional efforts.

All it took to create that meme was to find an image (or you can use one of your own), insert it into a meme generator tool, and then come up with a fun hashtag your visitors will remember.

Of course, just because memes are fun to create doesn’t mean that your audience will always understand or appreciate them, especially if they’re used too much. You also need to be careful about which image you use as well as the underlying message you want to convey.

12 Tips for Safely Using Emojis, GIFs, and Memes on Your WordPress Site

Having assessed the research and considered the possible use cases, I think there is an argument for incorporating emojis, GIFs, and memes into website content. However, this needs to come with the caveat that you need to exercise caution when using them. Here are some tips that can help keep you in the safe zone:

  1. Do thorough research on your audience, especially as it pertains to age and geography.
  2. Try to stick with references that are evergreen and won’t lose their relevance or impact in a year or two’s time.
  3. Use them sparingly, maybe once a month so that, when they do show up, they leave a lasting impression.
  4. Don’t focus on creating making it go viral. This is still about giving your audience something worthwhile and that adds value to their on-site experience.
  5. Make sure the image and/or message is relevant to and consistent with your website.
  6. Keep emojis, GIFs, and memes relegated to the blog.
  7. The best place for emojis may turn out to be live chat.
  8. Stay away from anything having to do with sensitive subjects (like politics).
  9. Remember to account for cross-browser and device compatibility, especially with emojis.
  10. If it’s 100% yours, add your logo, URL, or company name as a watermark.
  11. Be absolutely clear in your intent to avoid a misunderstanding or cause anyone offense.
  12. Remember: they don’t always have to be funny!

I also want to quickly add that there are a number of tools you can use to create these and add them to your WordPress site.

For emojis, you can use the Emoji Settings plugin to turn on emoji support. Then be sure to read WordPress’s Codex on emojis.

For GIFS, get the WP GIF Player plugin so you can upload your own GIFs that you’ve created with the Giphy tool.

For memes, you can use Meme Generator and then upload the image the way you would any other kind of media.

Also, don’t forget to A/B test. You might think you hit the nail on the head with your latest in-blog meme, but your audience may not feel the same way. This is especially important at the start when trying to gauge their overall interest in memes, GIFs, and emojis.

Wrapping Up

If you want to add humor or to find a creative way to add more visuals and less text to your WordPress site, but you just don’t think emojis, GIFs, or memes work for your brand, then don’t sweat it. There are plenty of other ways to let your sense of humor and personality shine through. Then again, you never know when you might run into something that inspires you to take a chance on one of these, so there’s no need to go writing them off just yet!

If you’ve ever used a meme, GIF, or emoji on your website, I’d love to see examples of it in the comments below.

Suzanne Scacca

Suzanne Scacca A former content manager and implementer, Suzanne Scacca uses the knowledge acquired while working as a professional desk jockey to craft content that helps users do WordPress better.