In the last third of February 2016, the world changed.
Mankind threw away the shackles bottling up its passions in one fell swoop and people were free to like, love, and even get angry at the click of a button on Facebook. Hail Mark Zuckerburg! Facebook Reactions took over the dreaded Like button (“sad to inform you about the passing away of my great aunt; please pray” – “LIKE”).
The new buttons introduced are: Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry. Yes I know, you can WRITE and convey a much greater range of emotions. These Reactions, however, come in a neat pre-packaged click. If you are thinking emojis – congratulations. This is exactly what they are, just a lot less of them!
Marketers are already onto this. Chevrolet showcased the feature in their ad for their 2016 Malibu.
"They'll provide greater feedback," said J.R. Rigley, President and CMO at the packaged-goods company J.R. Watkins.
"We will know more about how viewers feel about the brand... The con is that they might not like the content. But some of that could be good, too."
So far, the greatest thing users dislike about this new feature is that it lacks a DISLIKE button. In these politically correct times, where calling a spade a spade will land you a racism lawsuit, perhaps Facebook wanted to avoid the hate-fest that YouTube comments have become. Trouble is, users might simply click the sad or angry buttons if they dislike something and no one will never know the difference.
Most of the internet is treating this change as one primarily aimed at marketers, further advancing the monetisation agenda of the social network.
There is no question that marketing and product managers can now gain access to a much deeper variety of Reactions to their posts. In fact, the Reactions button becomes an impromptu survey providing a richer response range than a simple “yes/no/can’t decide”. Most of the internet is treating this change as one primarily aimed at marketers, further advancing the monetisation agenda of the social network. In fact, their euphoria is palpable.
“This is a major change to the way we analyse [brands’] audiences and our work,” says Jason Stein, Founder and CEO of social media agency Laundry Service. “It really overhauls how you analyse your Facebook channel.”
“It is a breath of fresh air, it’s the right evolution,” says Chris Tuff, EVP and Director Business Development and Partnerships for the ad agency 22squared. “To delegate all interactions to a thumb’s up icon is a little ludicrous.”
For now, Facebook will treat all the Reactions on an equal basis, according to Product Manager Sammi Krug. In time, as different Reactions pile up, weighing algorithms may be developed to determine how content preferences are indicated. After all, the name of the game for Facebook is pushing the content you like – and ads along with them. One might argue that they just handed themselves a tough assignment as, for example, if you click sad, it will not automatically mean that similar posts won’t appear on the user’s timeline in future. In other words, Facebook made the Reactions for itself, not for advertisers.
It can be safely said that Reactions are not replacing structured surveys, research and focus groups anytime soon. Our social media presence is a fickle, volatile persona, often completely dissociated from who we are in real life. Thanks to a profusion of negativity, strong reactions and downright harassment on the internet, coupled to our nation’s penchant for intolerance, we have become very timid and cautious in expressing our opinions. Marketers and advertisers are often criticised for being shallow, judgmental and simplistic in their approach (see my past blog entries!) and an over-reliance on these kneejerk clicks (finger-jerks?) isn’t likely to represent the real thought process of the user base.
Growing privacy concerns are already making people think about clicking the Like button, and they are not likely to go for the Reactions option as a result.
All the same, the spontaneity of Reactions can prove to be an asset if you ask the right questions. For example, posting a picture of your latest product and gloating over the thousand ‘Loves’ it receives will add nothing to one’s knowledge – the user clearly loves your brand, which is why he or she is responding. However, if specific traits of a product are put up for debate, such as pricing, SKU size, variants, availability, even package design, that can be valuable. Impulse can sometimes be a direct signal from the subconscious.
It is too early to derive any conclusions about the efficacy of this era-defining innovation by Facebook. It is already being satirised and because it is just a fancy version of emojis, it might even fizzle out.
After all, it complicates things: LIKE was just one click, while this requires users to press or hover, and then go through a difficult decision of matching a nuanced emotion to an admittedly limited set of icons. All this while hiding behind the default LIKE button, meaning that many users might not even discover or use this feature at all. Nobody likes more work when they are browsing Facebook. It might also become a flawed source of information and not only for marketers and advertising agencies, but for celebrities and news sources as well. Growing privacy concerns are already making people think about clicking the Like button, and they are not likely to go for the Reactions option as a result.
Facebook Reactions’ fate will, as always, be dictated by its effective use or otherwise, and realising its limitations. Let’s hope that Facebook continues to tweak the formula based on its user feedback and usage patterns.