Facebook Reactions and Their Impact on Marketing

Social Media Marketing
••• Getty Images / Izabela Habur

Recently Facebook rolled out their long-awaited reactions, which include five new reactions in addition to the original "Like." The new reactions are:

  • Wow
  • HaHa
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Love

Users have responded very positively to the new reactions and are already using them to express a deeper variety of feelings about posts. It's not just users who are "loving" the new reactions, though--marketers are thrilled, but also confused and asking a lot of questions.

Why Did Facebook Add More Options?

Facebook has long toyed with the idea of adding a "dislike" button. Fears of internet bullying caused them to scrap the idea, though; a binary decision seems too limited.

A common complaint among Facebook users was that their friends would often post sad news about break-ups, deaths, and unfortunate like events. It seemed silly, and occasionally hurtful to have people "like" these statuses.

Why Did they Pick these Reactions?

Facebook considered the options carefully but decided that the options they chose best represented the strongest human emotions.

What will Happen to "Likes?"

Since adding the new reactions, the original "like" has retained its popularity. It's still people's "go-to" reaction, not to mention the fact that the "thumbs up" symbol is still an essential part of Facebook's brand.

While a number of overall "likes" may go down over time, these new reactions have a different aim: to get users to react to more posts.

Whereas they might not have liked or commented on a post that made them angry or sad before, with the new reactions.

How will this Affect Facebook's Data Collection?

Facebook's current plan is to treat every reaction, from "wow” to “sad” to “angry,” the same way. Facebook product manager Sammi Krug says, “We will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content.”

This means, at present, that whether you “sad” an ad or “like” it, Facebook's Newsfeed algorithm will measure it the same way; so will social media marketers who are researching their overall engagement metrics.

This will not always be the case. Krug indicated a plan to weigh the reactions differently over time. This makes sense--after all, if Facebook's aim is to fill a user's Newsfeed with relevant content, they wouldn't want to fill it with things that make the user "angry" or "sad."

It's not yet clear what this kind of weighted system will look like. As the reactions are still relatively new, Facebook hasn’t announced any definitive plans yet. Another reason for this apparent hesitation is they're waiting to see how people use the reactions. For example, a user might "sad" or "angry" a friend's status for a much different reason than they would express the same emotion about an advertisement.

How will this Affect Social Media Marketing?

"Social sentiment" analysis has been a popular trend over the last few years. There are many instruments designed to measure the specific emotional content of Facebook posts without delving into each one individually. Specifically, social sentiment analysis is designed for companies who want to understand what emotions their customers are feeling.

Facebook's new reactions make this analysis easier than ever.

Another challenge these changes have posed to marketers is how to creatively utilize the new reactions. Companies have already responded with messages like "Show your "love" for our product." The challenging aspect of the reactions is that marketers will have to think more than ever about what type of reaction their content will elicit. Whereas before it may have been fine to simply grab someone's attention, there is now an added pressure to aim for someone's funny bone, heartstrings, their anger, or their sense of amazement.

A New Frontier

Whatever your "reactions" are to the new Facebook options, they are opening a new frontier for users, data collection possibilities, and overall social media marketing.  We will just have to see how this plays out.