How Facebook Reactions will change social media

In this guest post Con Frantzeskos looks at what Facebook’s new ‘reactions’ emoticons will change brands’ experience of social media.

Facebook has confirmed it’s now testing a new Reactions feature in Ireland and Spain which may be soon rolled out worldwide. Essentially the Reactions feature is similar to the traditional ‘Like’ button but it provides users with a spectrum of emotional responses. The new addition will allow users to Like, Love, Haha, Yay, Wow, Sad or Angry a post.

Users will be able to click one of the Reactions located in the same position as the current ‘Like’ button. The Reactions are symbolised by an emoticon which reflects a particular mood. This change allows users to express themselves beyond just ‘liking’ something.

One of the biggest problems with social media is the limit of expression and the absence of nuance. On Facebook in particular, there has been a tendency to react in bipolar extremes, either liking something, or trash canning and abusing it. Twitter is similar in that you only have a 140 character word limit to communicate, making it difficult to express rational thought – only an extreme of emotion or outrage. For example, if someone announces the death of a family member on Facebook it seems odd and actually quite disrespectful to ‘like’ it, however, with Facebook Reactions you will be able to express sadness through the sad option which would be an acceptable response.

This new spectrum of emotional responses on Facebook could have multiple implications. What could this mean for the future of social media?

Facebook's new 'Reactions' are a series of emojis

Facebook’s new ‘Reactions’ are a series of emojis

Like inflation
We may see “likes” fade as we all migrate to “Love”. This may lead to a furthering of extremes of expression online.

Social sharing Button inflation
If Facebook introduces 6 new engagement metrics this will take up a lot of space on third party websites – physically going from “Like this” to a wide variety of buttons on any given web page. Imagine what will happen if everyone else does this – Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks all deciding to move from simple, single buttons, to thirty to forty variations of reaction to a post.

Big data and attribution marketing
Will the intersection between location, mood, natural language programming and “Reactions” give us the most advanced view of mood, attitude and mental health ever assembled? This may have a broader effect on our understanding of nuance of human emotion, and the science of why we buy, what we are aroused by, and what impresses us.

Increased engagement
People will be able to react to posts beyond just liking them. This opens up far higher engagement on individual posts. More options for engagement will most likely increase user engagement which may increase Facebook’s ability to charge money for advertising – as engagement rates rise.

Sentiment analysis 
We will be better able to analyse which content causes which emotional response by analysing the Reactions.

Emotion overload
Are these emotions just the beginning? Will Facebook bring in the whole spectrum of human emotions?

Emotional targeting
Will the new addition spark a new way of targeting? Will Facebook allow advertisers to target users based on their current mood? If one person has an angry reaction to various posts will advertisers be able to target them specifically? ‘Angry, stressed? Take a holiday. Airfares on sale NOW”.

Proving people DON’T love brands
This will most likely prove that people don’t actually ‘Love’ brands. We may blame the thought that people don’t “Love” advertising, but it’s not the advertising they don’t love, it brands. Most of the time, people barely like brands, let alone love them. This will undoubtedly lead to a backlash by less intelligent marketers that in order to raise “Love” metrics, we should reduce the amount of branding on our advertisements. The opposite is true – we should never assume people love our brands, only assume people have no interest or have forgotten our brands – and in doing so, assume every piece of communication is the first piece of communication people will ever see. Don’t worry about “Love”.

From search to social to emotional discovery of brands
Will it impact on Facebook’s algorithm? Will Facebook show users more Loved content vs Liked content? In the past, we discovered information via search. Increasingly, we discover information via social referral. Now, we discover via attribution marketing fed with big data. So, emotional discovery may become a key driver of information discovery – people who are permanently grumpy may receive more bad news. People who are permanently outraged will receive hand-wringing news of global injustice on a consistent basis. People who are happy may continue to be served fantastic memes.

YouTube already has a dislike option and it doesn’t impact on anything at all. People don’t pay it much attention. Will this be any different?

Either way this new addition will provide users with a better way to express their emotions. As one  PENSO team member expressed: “I love them, I’ll use them all the time”.

  • Con Frantzeskos is CEO and founder of PENSO.


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