Facebook Reactions: Putting a Happy Face on Advertisers

By Denise Konkol on March 2, 2016

With the excitement and fanfare rivaling that of the news that Leonardo DiCaprio finally got his Oscar, Facebook’s unveiling last week of five new emojis gave users a choice in reacting to posts.

Welcome “Love,” “Ha-ha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” and “Angry.”

The Facebook Happy Face

Despite some minor grumbling from people that prompted an “All we wanted was a Dislike button” meme, Facebook Reactions got a favorable one from users. After all, the dilemma on whether to like a post on your friend’s dog dying was appropriate, or if they’d take your non-reaction to be indifference, was now finally resolved.

These new emojis were developed over a one-year period and based on what focus groups had to say. It became apparent to Facebook product designers like Geoff Teehan that if these were Reactions, they should also be able to react. So the faces do indeed laugh, cry, and bluster with the animation that was added. It was also suggested that these reactions be given a voice, to which a “maybe in the future” was the response.

The emoji’s are also driven by a user base that is increasingly more mobile. In December 2015, 1.4 billion people were scrolling through their newsfeed, 90 percent of them on a mobile device. If they wanted to leave a comment, they could – but if an emoji will express the same sentiment, why not offer that opportunity?


A Happy Face for Advertisers

However, no gift on Facebook is ever without an ulterior motive, and it’s certainly the case here as advertisers are already eagerly awaiting the data that these Facebook Reactions will deliver. Advertisers will have to wait for Facebook to differentiate among the reactions, but they can gauge reactions from ads placed on the newsfeeds.

Facebook’s Product Manager Sammi Krug explained that “If someone uses a Reaction, we will infer they want to see facebook happy facemore of that type of post… Over time, we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.”

Krug also explained the benefit to businesses and publishers will be to “better understand how people are responding to their content on Facebook.” The increase in options will therefore allow more people to click in response to a post, elevating engagement for everyone.

Along with the direct feedback on posts, the customization of the data to distinguish how many people were happy about a post or angry can certainly steer marketers in a clearer direction, while also seeing what their competition’s results have been. It hasn’t escaped us either that in a political election year, candidates will pay close attention to what makes people angry (especially if it’s an opponent), and who in fact is angry in order to target them to grab their vote.

A Lot to Like for Investors, Too

It makes sense. The more advertisers can target their market successfully on Facebook, the more they will use Facebook and the increased ad revenue serves pads Facebook’s earnings. Investors love a winner, and that’s the case here.

The genius of it all is that Facebook will not have to comb through comments on posts to categorize user reactions, because the users are going to be doing it for them. That also saves time and money, making the investment even wiser for Wall Street as the expanded data will no doubt drive profits up.


Jane and Joe Facebook: What will this mean for them?

It’s not entirely clear how your newsfeed will change, but the reactions you post certainly will begin to steer your content. If you tend to react with “Ha-ha” on most of the post that you react to, you might expect to see more posts that are deemed as funny. Similarly, if “Angry” is what has you reacting, more controversial topics may come your way.

At what point a post arrives in your newsfeed with a label of funny or angry is also not clear. Obviously to gain such a label, there needs to be some level of reaction to get there. And, do people who click on “Angry” really want more of the same? It would seem exhausting.

As the grand experiment unfolds, it will be interesting to watch how data is used, and what unexpected turns it takes. For now the only surprise has been how long it’s taken Facebook to add these faces.

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