Facebook announced last October that it was expanding the utility of its ubiquitous and iconic “like” button by augmenting it with five new emojis: “love”, “haha”, “wow”, “sad” and “angry”.
Since that announcement, the world’s biggest social network has been testing the new ‘Reactions’ feature in a selected number of countries across the globe, including Spain, Ireland, Chile, the Philippines, Portugal, Colombia and Japan.
According to the most recent media reports, Facebook will be rolling out the new initiative in the US and other big markets very soon, possibly within the next few weeks.
An extensive interview in Bloomberg Business with Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox, has revealed the process and thinking behind the decision to give users an extended repertoire of buttons with which to express their feelings about a post.
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Cox said the idea was to keep things simple and positive, which is why a “dislike” button was not introduced. Though instead of “dislike”, a user will be able to be “sad” or “angry” about a post. A “yay” button had also been mooted but dropped because it was not perceived as being universal enough.
Cox told Bloomberg the testing of the new feature has been positive, but would not divulge any further information. He did, however, give an insight into the mobile-first thinking that went into the conceptualisation of Reactions.
“You can love something, you can be sad about something, you can laugh out loud at something,” he said.
“We know on phones people don’t like to use keyboards, and we also know that the like button does not always let you say what you want.”
The change will not only impact on personal FB pages, it will also affect business pages.
Content you produce for your FB page will now be subject to a wider range of responses, beyond the straightforward affirmation of a “like”. The new buttons fill a gap between “like” and posted comments.
It creates a new category of meaning for page admins to decipher, carrying with it the possibility for both either deeper understanding of the user or just plain confusion.
As an example, you could imagine posting something about a new product or event and then receiving an equal number of “love” and “angry” button responses. What do we make of this?
Well one thing we could do is drill down into which of our users may love or be angry about this post and see what each set of users have in common. Is a particular demographic segment of users angry? Is it predominantly females under the age of 30 who love what you’ve just posted?
Previously we might have seen a flood of likes from a particular set of users and a few grumbling comments from those dissatisfied enough to articulate their feelings in writing.
Now, those dissatisfied users have the option of just being “angry”. They might not say exactly why they are angry, but we at least know they really don’t like what was posted. And we can get a gauge on what types of people we might have upset.
This is another layer of data that can be used to refine posts, improve interaction and ultimately better target users with the products they may be interested in spending money on. Facebook will also be using this data to further refine its News Feed algorithm.
Of course, a lot of the real heat will still come from comments. This is where people take a step beyond just hitting a convenient button to either express their positive or negative thoughts about what you may be doing.
‘Reactions’ promises to be an interesting addition to the FB experience. For business pages, the extended range of responses will give quicker, more comprehensive feedback about what posts get traction, especially from mobile users.
Let’s hope users continue to “love” your business page and that you can elicit the occasional “haha” and “wow”, while keeping the “sad” and “angry” reactions to a minimum.
Fi Bendall is CEO of The Bendalls Group, a business that leads STRATEGY : ADVOCACY : MOBILE delivering the business acumen to drive effective positive results in a disruptive economy for the C-suite. Fi has recently won a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence award. See more at: http://www.bendalls.com.au/