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A social media manager’s guide to emoji meanings in 2024
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A social media manager’s guide to emoji meanings in 2024

Social Media
July 9, 2024
Person typing on cell phone with emojis floating out of the phone screen on a light green background.

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Emojis. As social media managers, they octopi 🐙 our thoughts more than we’d like to admit.

They’re undeniably fun. But emojis can also be . . . confusing! 

To celebrate World Emoji Day – and bring a little emoji confidence to freelancers, teams, and agencies – we’re here to decode the 10 emojis every social media manager needs to know. 

Use this emoji dictionary to inspire your next social post. (Or tell your coworker the sweet little smiley they’ve been using doesn’t mean what they think it means.)

Ready to discover the 10 emojis that make a splash in 2024? Let’s dive in! 🤿

Decoded: 10 emojis every social media manager needs to know

These emoji meanings might surprise you . . . 

1. Slightly smiling face emoji meaning 🙂

Is it a sweet, innocent smiley? Or a patronizing, passive-aggressive smirk? If you ask us, it can be both! 

You can use this emoji to show positivity and friendliness. Or express irony akin to the “this is fine” meme. 

If you’re concerned someone may mistake your slight smile for a mocking grin (which does happen!), you may want to consider a more definitively happy alternative: the smiling face with smiling eyes emoji (😊).

2. Folded hands emoji meaning 🙏

We’d like to submit this emoji for the Most Versatile Emoji Award, please. (We would submit it for the Most Confusing Emoji Award, but a certain smiley at the bottom of this list already has that title.)  

Here are the top 3 ways we see the folded hands emoji being used:

  • Gratitude: If you want to say “thank you” (or plead with someone to do you a favour), this emoji may be a good choice. 
  • Prayers: You can also use this emoji to show that you’re praying or feeling blessed.
  • High-five: Sometimes the folded hands emoji is used to represent a high five. It’s rare, but it happens. Some emoji keyboards may even suggest it when you search “high five.” 
iPhone emoji keyboard with search term "high five" and the folded hands emoji as one of the search results overlayed on a light purple background.
The folded hands emoji appears as one of the search results in iMessage.

Orca tip: You can use the folded hands emoji to express any of the above sentiments (although gratitude and prayers are the most popular). When you pop this emoji into your posts, make sure your caption provides clear context. Otherwise, you may leave readers wondering, “Why are you praying for me? Should I be worried?” 

3. Person tipping hand emoji meaning 💁

Buckle up, because this fun fact had us looking like the exploding head emoji (🤯). 

The “person tipping hand” used to be called the “information desk person.” Did anyone ever use it to represent an information desk person? We’re not sure. 

What we do know is that these days, this emoji is all sass and sarcasm. Use it when the moment calls for a hair flip, a #SorryNotSorry, or a sassy, “You’re welcome!”   

4. Grimacing face emoji meaning 😬

When you want to say “Yikes!” or “Awkwaaaard . . .” this emoji will do the trick. It’s exactly what it’s labelled as: a grimacing face. Although we’d argue it’s also the embodiment of the Chrissy Teigen meme. 

5. Skull emoji meaning 💀

If your community is Gen Z, chances are that you’ve seen this emoji popping up in the comments. People use it to say, “I’m laughing so hard I’m dead.” 

As @boxmunk explains, it’s a replacement for the crying laughing emoji (😂) . . . but some users might interpret it as having a hint of a mocking tone. Our verdict? Brands can use this emoji – as long as their community uses it too. 

@boxmunk Has anyone else noticed that the skull emoji seems to be used more for mocking than for laughing? #skullemoji #imdead ♬ original sound - Boxmunk

6. Tomato emoji meaning 🍅

It’s like the thumbs-down emoji (👎), but with a little bit of spice. Use the tomato when you want to playfully dislike something – like the viral sound, “boo boo boo tomato tomato tomato.”

If you’re not familiar with the sound, here’s a get-to-know-you video with the creator, @niqqitee. 

@spotify You’ve probably heard this sound on your #fyp. Now get to know the creator, @niqqitee ♬ original sound - Spotify

7. Eagle emoji meaning 🦅

When you have something to shriek about, you can use this emoji to reach a higher pitch. It can represent a loud screech or an (unserious) attempt to assert dominance. 

Alternate meaning: You’re in the US and you’re feeling extra patriotic. 

Instagram post featuring Miley Cyrus "Party in the USA meme with caption "Happy 4th of July to our American Orcas" with a eagle emoji.
HeyOrca's Instagram post for Independence Day.

8. Face with monocle emoji meaning 🧐

Want to indicate you’re skeptical about something? This emoji is the perfect choice. It’s often used to show that you’re deep in thought, considering new information, or not totally buying something (and feeling a little smug about it).

If we had to pick a meme to represent this emoji, it would be the Cardi B meme: “That’s suspicious, that's weird.”

9. Smiling face with sunglasses emoji meaning 😎

When something makes you feel content, carefree, or confident, this emoji can come in handy. You can use it to say, “That’s cool.” Or a more ironic, “I’m chillin’.”

But, like many emojis, this sunglass-clad face can also have an alternate meaning. Sometimes this emoji is used to express “throwing shade,” a subtle way of criticizing someone. 

If you do want to throw shade (or show that you think something is creepy), we recommend the new moon face emoji (🌚).   

10. Cowboy hat face emoji meaning 🤠

Howdy! The smiley in a cowboy hat is the most misunderstood emoji in the US, according to Adobe

Orca tip: We use this emoji when we’re feeling confident, playful, whimsical, or adventurous. But you can also use it to express sarcasm or awkwardness. As @applyboard points out, you may even use it to poke fun at someone (like the clown emoji 🤡). 

Frequently asked questions about emoji meanings

Have more questions about emojis and their meanings? We’ve got answers!

Do emojis increase engagement rates on social media?

Yes! Instagram posts that use emojis can increase engagement by 48% and Facebook posts that use emojis can increase engagement by 25.4%. 

What are the most popular emojis in 2024?

According to Adobe, the most popular emojis in the US are the crying laughing emoji 😂, the thumbs up emoji 👍, the red heart emoji ❤️, the rolling on the floor laughing emoji 🤣, and the crying face with a single tear emoji 😢. Which one do you use the most?

Can you use emojis in a professional setting?

Generally speaking, the answer is: “Yes, you can use emojis at work!” That’s even more likely to be true if you work as a social media manager. 78% of people say using emojis at work can help your likability. But use your best judgment depending on your brand and the community you serve. Research shows that women are more likely to appreciate emoji use than men. And 15% of people over the age of 45 find emojis inappropriate. 

Do emojis improve email open rates? 

If you’re already a pro at using emojis in your social media content, that’s great! You might want to start using them in your email subject lines, too! Email subject lines with emojis generate 56% higher open rates than email subject lines without emojis. 

How can you use emojis and be accessible?

Yes, you can use emojis and still be accessible on social media. Be sure to use emojis intentionally. Don’t use an excessive amount of emojis in a row as it will create a suboptimal experience for anyone using a screen reader. And don’t rely on emojis to express complex or critical information. At HeyOrca, we also like to avoid replacing words with emojis – this helps ensure your text is still readable even if an emoji fails to populate. 


Now you know what these emojis mean when you see them out in the wild! For more free resources, social media news, and fun stuff, subscribe to our daily newsletter, the HeyOrca Brief

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