Social Pulse: Moving Beyond Words to Explore Emoji Trends Across the U.S.

By: Nicole Martin, MPH

June 4, 2020

Clarabridge Analytics
Clarabridge Engage
Customer Experience
Social Media

Using Clarabridge’s emotional intensity score, a map shows states and cities reactions to their opening status.

Date of Data Pull: 5/28/2020 7:54 PM
Source: Twitter, API Connectors
Current Volume: 1,907,435
Date Range: May 22, 2020- May 28, 2020
Tweets Related to COVID-19 & Supplemental Topics Classification Models Used: WHO Framework Model, Emotions Model, & Industry Specific Models

As many Americans remain inside under safer at home orders, analysts have found sweeping increases in the use of social platforms and, subsequently, an increase in the use of emoticons. Emoticons on social media enhance text-based conversations with indicators of facial expressions or intent.[1] In order to understand how Americans feel about their states’ opening status, Clarabridge once again assessed the emotional intensities expressed by people within each state. This week, we also went beyond words to analyze the emoticons on Twitter for more insight into how people really feel.

The Findings

As explained in prior posts, Clarabridge categorizes Twitter data using both structured attributes (such as location data) and Natural Language Understanding applied to tweet content (such as mentions of a particular mayor, city or state). Tweets are organized into models representing  reopened, regionally reopened, or shut down states and cities based off of a list published by The New York Times on May 27, 2020. Assessment of the emotional intensity of the tweets in each category then occurred. Below shows a map of the United States, with the color of each state indicating emotional intensity. The key below shows the opening status of each state (Green signaling opened, yellow regionally reopened, and red closed). Closed cities are outlined and labeled on the map. A brief time lapse shows the map from May 13 followed by May 22nd.



Similar to prior weeks, medium emotional intensity conveys an aggregated balance of factual, low-emotionally intense conversations and high intensity strong opinions. States with high emotional intensity, such as New York, show that extremely polarizing opinions dominate, overpowering factual news articles and other Twitter dialogue. Clarabridge explored emoticon usage to understand the differences between each status.

Social media data, particularly Twitter, lends itself to emoticon usage. Tweets with emoticons increase Twitter engagement by 25.4% on average.[2] In social media analytics, understanding emoticons can provide more information about what individuals mean when they tweet. For example, adding a (laughing face) to a tweet about mask usage can convey the emotional tone of the communicator, underscoring the initial intent of the tweet as light-hearted or silly. Using Clarabridge’s Entity Detection feature, the use of emoticons can be aggregated and analyzed. Below shows the top emoticons by volume within states grouped as reopened, regionally reopened, and shutdown.

Figure 1: Emoticons by Reopening Group (May 22 – May 28)

Figure 1: Above shows emoticons expressed on Twitter within reopening, regionally reopened, and shutdown cities and states.

Emoticons in social media analysis helps explore a user’s intent. Using groups above we can see differences in the tonality of conversations within each group. Within shutdown states we see the prevalence of a larger hammer and wrench emoticon, which started trending in response to construction work policies of the Illinois Governor. Regionally reopened states show a high volume of “curse face” emoticons, indicating immense frustration and friction around ongoing policies and protocols. Reopened states use a lot of “hmm” emoticons, which suggests overall skepticism with the new “normal”.

Language associated with an emoticon helps provide clarity in what types of discussions occur. Clarabridge’s drill-down capabilities reveal the top words associated with an emoticon. Below shows top conversations within reopened states that included the “hmm” emoticon.

Figure 2: Top Words Within Emoticon for Reopened States

Figure 2: Above shows the top words within tweets using the Hmm Emoticon.

Understanding depth of conversations come from an ability to interpret emoticons. Word clouds alone fail to convey the intensity and variety of emotion within social media. As the nation continues to reopen, businesses can keep a pulse on customer intentions, emotions, and feelings expressed on social media by investing in an AI-powered text analytics solution with a multi-faceted Natural Language Understanding.

As class of 2020 celebrations continue, this high school class received a special shoutout.

What’s Next

As summer fast approaches, nearly 53% of Americans plan to take a road trip this summer.[3] Next, I will begin to look at topics of conversation around summer travel and areas that drive high-effort experiences. Together, we will begin to explore what summer break looks like and what individuals seek in a post-COVID travel experience.


Other Articles in This Series:

Social Pulse: Mapping Emotional Intensity in Partially Reopened States
Published May 15, 2020

Social Pulse: Redefining a Great Experience
Published May 1, 2020

Social Pulse: Readiness to Return
Published April 24, 2020

Social Pulse: Empathy Through Action
Published April 17, 2020

Social Pulse: An Opportunity to Create Trust with Consumers
Published April 9, 2020

Social Pulse: A Craving for Understanding
Published April 2, 2020

Social Pulse: The Way We See COVID-19 Relate to CX & the Globe
Published March 26, 2020

Social Pulse: How is the World Reacting to the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Published March 20, 2020

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Nicole Martin is currently a consultant at Clarabridge. Prior to Clarabridge, Nicole received her Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from The George Washington University. During her time at GW, Nicole wrote her graduate paper on sexuality, sexual behavior, and mental health. In addition, Nicole taught as a Graduate Assistant for the Biostatistics Department at The George Washington University. During her time at Clarabridge, Nicole has worked with healthcare accounts to enrich their analytic capabilities, created customer journey maps for property and casualty insurance companies, and continued to support innovation for clients across various industry verticals.



1.] Sternbergh, A. (2014, November 17). Smile, You’re Speaking Emoji: The Rapid Evolution of a Wordless Tongue. Intelligencer.

2.] Day, C. (2020, February 13). Should Your Agency Use Emojis in Social Media? (Really?). Agorapulse.

3.] Myers, S. (2020, May). Fueling Life’s Journeys. Pilot Flying.

social pulse series title image
About The Social Pulse Series

Clarabridge has embarked on an independent research project to actively analyze the “emotional pulse” of social media users worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort’s main goal is to assess how people are feeling using Clarabridge’s Natural Language Understanding to glean insights from millions of unstructured data records. We hope to inform the public, provide insights to the scientific community and educate Clarabridge customers. The analyses in this series leverages Twitter data collected beginning March 12th using keywords such as “coronavirus,” “covid19”, and “covid-19” from Twitter. We continue to refine data collection and models as the situation evolves.

Clarabridge COVID-19 Command Center 

Questions about Coronavirus? Check out the following:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
World Health Organization (WHO)
Directory of Local Health Departments