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Facebook’s Reactions – Turning Likes into Deeper Emotional Signals

Facebook | Social Media | 19 October 2015

Facebook’s iconic Like button has had a makeover. Just before 9pm on October 8th, Facebook introduced a pretty significant new functionality for users in Ireland and Spain.

Likes were once a revered form of currency that brands and consumers used to measure how much others appreciated the content they posted. For consumers though clicking “like” was a pretty blunt instrument which didn’t always feel appropriate for every occasion where we wished to acknowledge having seen a post. Reactions, as Facebook call them, enable users to express what may be a more appropriate emotional response for certain occasions.

We can understand that a “Dislike” button isn’t something Facebook would ever include as it could so easily be misused as a weapon of cyber bullying. The safe and sanitised, “Love”, “Haha”, “Yay”, “Wow”, “Sad” and “Angry” reactions have clearly been measured and considered so that they are less likely to become such a tool.

In the early days of brands being allowed on Facebook many raced out collecting likes by every means that they could, with their only real intention being to beat their competitor’s number. The majority of them missed the whole point of connecting with users on the platform and didn’t follow up with content that engaged with the audience they have fleetingly courted, and those who felt hoodwinked departed the brands community as quickly as they arrived. Those brands have had to redouble their efforts and pay handsomely to engage with a new tranche of potential consumers and have learned a valuable lesson about the need to nurture the communities that they build by providing content that people engage with on their purchase journey.

We will watch closely how brand communications gather reactions. Much of the branded content we see posted on Facebook is ignored by users as they fly through their newsfeed, but those brands are content with the few likes that they get to validate the appropriateness of the content they are sharing. Many now may be surprised that users start marking such posts with “Sad” or “Angry” reactions to express a negative sentiment when those brands thought that the content they were posting was actually on point.  It won’t take long for the trolls to put the buttons through their paces, we await their worst!

The new function though provides great potential for targeting of advertising. For example; those that express “Like” or “Love” could be remarketed with an enticement to purchase, while those that show a less warm emotion could be remarketed with content designed to change their perceptions. It also has really great potential for brands to target advertising based on a Facebook user’s reactions to their competitor communications.  Or it could be used to test something with consumers who could choose these emotional reactions to express whether they think something is hot or not! The one thing that we can be sure of is that Facebook have introduced this new functionality because they know how layering in empathy will enrich their data and ultimately result in greater commercial opportunities.

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