Things are about to get a lot more emotional over on Facebook. After years of resisting a “dislike” button for fear of making the social media behemoth too negative, Mark Zuckerberg has introduced Facebook Reactions – icons that allow users to respond in a much more emotionally expressive manner than has previously been available. While the “Like” button is still in action, the narrow scope of this function (where you were limited to either liking or ignoring a post. Unless of course you decided to comment with your opinions instead, which anyone who’s ended up in a Facebook argument with oddly virulent strangers knows can be a big mistake) led to users demanding more options.
In this update, this is exactly what they have. Now you can love a post, express your sadness, and even let people know your frustration. With some small potential to ruin friendships, (“Why did you say that my selfie made you angry?!”) posts will now show their top three reactions- putting brands in the new position of knowing when their followers and customers have responded negatively to their content. Or, indeed, absolutely loved it.
This is fairly unchartered territory. People are famously free and easy with their opinions on the internet, and can be much ruder than they would ever be in real life. This being said, more often than not people on Facebook would either like a post, or scroll past it, even when it elicited a minor negative reaction. The lack of an appropriate response to convey their feelings meant that they simply went unrecorded.
Previously, brands would know by the number of engagements- measured in comments and likes- how their content had gone down, but only in the broadest sense possible. Now, if you were aiming to be funny, you can have a much better idea whether the joke completely bombed by the lack of “Haha” reactions. You’ll also be much more aware if you’ve pissed customers off. Of course, if you wanted to evoke an angry emotion in your audience (perhaps in a “look how outrageous and unfair this is”) then an “Angry” response will be exactly what you were looking for, but generally brands will be aiming to be Loved.
Unfortunately, although you can assess with much more accuracy how people feel about your branded content with Reactions, in marketing terms it’s still a very blunt tool. An “Angry” response counts as engagement as much as a “Love” response does, and at the time being companies have no powers to target their content according to these reactions. So a post may be getting an overwhelmingly negative response – but it’s still engagement, and Facebook will still target your ads at these Facebook users, simply because they have interacted with you.
In finding out more about your audience, and tailoring your content, Facebook Reactions will be an incredibly useful tool. Being able to distinguish between what people have Liked and Loved will give a much greater insight into what goes down really well, rather than just fairly well, and you can assess whether your posts have had the emotional response that you intended. You will also know very quickly if a large number of people have found your post offensive, and it will increase empathetic relationships between brand and consumer.
A potential downside, apart from the current inability to target ads based on Reactions, is a new nervousness when you are creating content. Even a few “Angry” responses that you didn’t foresee or intend could really throw you off your stride and shake confidence, especially given the very public nature of this medium. Here it’s important to remember that not everyone will be a fan. If your pleasing most people, then there’s not an issue, especially as only the top three reactions will be displayed to those viewing your posts.
Targeting your ads accurately so they do not irritate the people for whom they are irrelevant will be a good start in making sure your reactions are positive, and you should be aware that many more people are now going to be empowered to interact with your content. Where the limited emotional range of the “Like” button meant that many people who would see your posts didn’t engage with them, the Reaction buttons gives them much more a chance to do so. This could be a great opportunity for your brand, and this new insight could end up improving your social media presence and benefitting your business.