Facebook Reactions and what they mean for brands and consumers

After years of users campaigning for a ‘dislike’ button for Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has responded with something arguably better: a meaningful extension of the like button. Users now have the chance to respond with six different emotions: ‘like’, ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘yay’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’,‘angry’. Sure, there’s still no actual dislike button, and they lack true emotional range ( watch Disney’s ‘Inside Out’ for that) but i’m confident we can show our feelings with one of these six.

It’s a long-awaited update for Facebook but is it going to be a positive one? How will both brands and consumers react to this? It’s early days yet, but we could be on the verge of something pretty exciting. Facebook Reactions

So, what will change?

To kick things off let’s have a bit of context. Emojis, love them or hate them, have become a significant aspect of everyday communication. Apart from being just a great way of answering a message without ‘actually’ answering (perhaps there is some weight to the lazy millennial argument), they’ve evolved into a brilliant tool for brands to measure audience emotion — in relation to customer service and content — and for consumer interactions.

Facebook’s growth into a platform where customers can communicate with brands, and vice versa, is, effectively, how social media marketing came about. Now that Facebook Reactions are on the scene, however, to say that we’re all intrigued to know how this will affect brands and their B2C or C2B communication is an understatement. It’s the next step in social communication.

Zuckerberg has essentially created a more open and more vocal (if that’s even possible) environment for both brands and consumers. Let’s take managing a company page as an example. You can easily block people and, most importantly, hide comments (whether this is good practice is a different box of frogs, however). Yet with a Facebook like, you can’t remove it — and why would you, someone has liked what you’re doing. But this same function is applied to Facebook Reactions. The brand/company can’t remove them, so if someone uses an angry face on your content, it’s there to stay.

Whilst this may seem like opening up a can of worms on the surface, it’s designed to give brands a more accurate representation of what users think of the content they push out. If they’re angry with it, engage with them in conversation to find out why. If the customer feels like you value their opinion on something, and offer great customer service, then they’re more likely to buy from you, right?

The expansion of the like button represents an opportunity for brands to find out what their audiences like and dislike in a new, more reactive way. Sure you have analytics to see various engagement statistics, but emotional responses are a brilliant mine to tap into for fresh insights.

Will the consumer actually benefit?

For the consumer, it’s an easy way to interact with a brand’s content, without taking too much effort and/or exposure. And, for me, it means a much easier way for consumers to interact with content they don’t like. Having the option of something that’s more representative of what you actually feel, or if you just don’t want to comment, can potentially encourage engagement. This is perhaps most true with what we’ve come to define as the ‘silent user’: someone who doesn’t engage with a post at all, but could still have emotion towards it. I mean it really doesn’t take long to post an emoji, so the silent user may be no-more. In fact, as stated by Strategiq Marketing, “This could and likely will lead the Facebook newsfeed to show a much more realistic representation of the world we live in”.

Should the newsfeed organically evolve in this way, consumers will surely benefit with content that is based on what they emotionally respond to. It’s certainly a way to keep an audience engaged.

Can you really measure the emotions?

Facebook Reactions might just be a revelation to both brands and consumers. Consumers can subtly express themselves, and yes, as a brand, we ‘technically’ now have data on how our consumers are feeling towards us and our content. The question now is, how accurate and granular can we get?

On one hand, it’s going to be great — brands are likely to receive more realistic feedback. However, on the other, are we going to spend too long analysing how many ‘Wow’s’ we receive? And does one type of Reaction weigh more heavily in terms of engagement? For now, we can’t take a Facebook Reaction just for face value, there isn’t enough data to support what each Reactions means in terms of engagement. When there is, however, will Reactions be factored into the the content engagement stories we use to see what works? It’s inevitable, and over time we’ll have more understanding of how a Reaction influences content production in the future. A great move from Facebook, and one we’ve all been waiting patiently for — your move Twitter.

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