What You Need to Know About Facebook Reactions

(Featured image via Tech Insider)

On February 24, 2016, Facebook launched an update that was a long time coming – Facebook Reactions. Since the advent of the Like button the public has asked for its counterpart, a dislike button. Though Facebook didn’t give its users exactly what they wanted, the world’s largest social network did release 5 other “reactions:” Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry. Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement via his Facebook Page (naturally):

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Zuckerberg argued that not every post calls for a Like and thus 5 Reactions were released in order to fill this void.

 

Users React to Facebook Reactions

Some people were delighted by the release:

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While others were skeptical:

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In December 2014, Mark Zuckerberg explained why a Dislike button would never appear on Facebook saying:

“The like button is really valuable because it’s a way for you to very quickly express a positive emotion or sentiment when someone puts themselves out there and shares something. Some people have asked for a dislike button because they want to be able to say, ‘That thing isn’t good.’ That’s not something that we think is good. We’re not going to build that, and I don’t think there needs to be a voting mechanism on Facebook about whether posts are good or bad. I don’t think that’s socially very valuable or good for the community to help people share the important moments in their lives.”

And upon the launch of Reactions, Geoff Teehan, Product Design Director at Facebook, posted a lengthy post on Medium describing Reactions and the lack of a Dislike button:

“People need a much higher degree of sophistication and richness in what choices we provide for their communications. Binary ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ doesn’t properly reflect how we react to the vast array of things we encounter in our real lives.”

Others have speculated a Dislike button will never appear because advertisers will “dislike” it if their advertising dollars are spent being publicly ridiculed on the platform and thus may take their business elsewhere.

Another concern is that a Dislike button would cause bullying. Paper Magazine reported that model Cara Delevingne expressed her disapproval of a Dislike button, saying “If you can go around disliking someone’s pictures, that is going to set off a whole new wave of bullying. If it’s something that is going to cause people harm, I really think we should steer against that. ‘Like’ away – but if you have a bad thought about someone, keep it to yourself.”
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Lastly, some brands used Reactions as a marketing opportunity:

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Will Reactions enhance or diminish user experience?

Facebook launched Reactions in order to give users more ways to express themselves with the click of a button. According to Wired, about a year ago “Mark Zuckerberg had finally conceded that the platform needed a more nuanced way for users to interact with posts, for the obvious reason that not every post is likable.” Facebook users have had the option to like and comment on posts since 2009. This elevated the social interactions on Facebook, allowing users to rate a post “similar to how you might rate a restaurant.” Leah Pearlman told CNet in February 2009, when the feature began rolling out. She continued describing the feature: “We think of the new ‘Like’ feature to be the stars, and the comments to be the review.” Seven years and over 1 billion more users later, it seems the “Like” button no longer suffices.

Over the years Facebook has become more and more integrated into our everyday lives. As of July 2015, active Facebook users around the world spend over 20 minutes per day on the network (it doubles to over 40 minutes when only considering US users), accounting for 20% of all time online. Users use Facebook to stay up to date with friends, family, current events, favorite brands, celebrities and more. Additionally, being logged into Facebook means you can log into other sites and apps, such as review sites, social apps, ticket vendor sites, shopping sites and others, with the touch of a button (the “Login with Facebook” button) – no need to memorize yet another password.

With all this time being spent on Facebook, being able to express more feeling with the click of a button (versus taking the time to think of a comment and type it out on a post) will likely increase the amount of communication a user has with other users and Facebook Pages. Or at least this is what Facebook hopes to achieve. Additionally, according to Facebook, 90 percent of active Facebook users use the platform via a mobile device. Julie Zhuo, product designer for Facebook, told Wired, “Commenting might afford nuanced responses, but composing those responses on a keypad takes too much time. People needed a way to leave feedback that was quick, easy, and gesture-based.” Facebook users were using emojis so why not build the emojis directly into the social network?

Why did Facebook make the change?

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(Sources: Forbes, Wired and Slate)

While Zuckerbeg did give us some insight into why Facebook decided to move forward with Reactions, we can only speculate additional reasons. Since Facebook is first and foremost a business, continuing to find new ways to receive more revenue is definitely behind the motivation behind this change. Richer data will help Facebook determine what it serves their users in their Newsfeeds. Additionally, giving advertisers and marketers more tools to more effectively reach their intended audiences is important to keeping their business.

Also, although Facebook is the largest social network, it can go by the way of Myspace if it doesn’t continue to evolve to give users more options and the experience they desire while using the platform. While Facebook didn’t give users a Dislike button, it is giving users a new way to interact with peers, news organizations and brands. Keeping an interested and engaged network of users is key to Facebook’s continued success.

How will Reactions affect brands on Facebook?

Reactions can be a great tool for brands and their social media managers. The Reactions will help brands understand who their audience is in a new, deeper way. Additionally, brands can breathe a collective sigh of relief as Facebook announced any Reactions will have the same impact as a Like; as long as someone is interacting with your page, they will continue to see your content in their Newsfeed….at least for now.

Of course, Reactions do bring challenges to the table.

Since Reactions are so new, third party tools, such as Hootsuite, NUVI, Radian6 and others, haven’t caught up to this update yet. They won’t differentiate between likes and specific Facebook reactions, which means reporting will be far more manual until they do catch up. Additionally, if you are monitoring competitors through a third party tool, you’ll have to visit their pages to see what posts get Likes, Loves, Hahas, Wows, Sads, and Angrys.

Another concern is so-called Internet Trolls, defined by Wikipedia as “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.” Those who are just messing with these new Reactions may react with a “Haha” to a serious post or an “Angry” to a playful post. It’s not clear yet if this will be a problem brands encounter but brands do need to be aware of this possibility.

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(It’s important to note that originally Facebook had planned to include a Yay reaction but during beta testing discovered very few users used it)

Even though Facebook Reactions weren’t warmly welcomed by all users, it’s clear Facebook is determined to make them successful. While we don’t yet have data on how many Likes, Loves, Hahas, Wows, Sads and Angrys have been use to date, scrolling down one’s Facebook feed it’s clear that users are embracing this new feature.

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