What do Facebook's new reactions mean for marketers?

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Sometimes in (online) life, a 'Like' just isn’t enough.

Whether it’s your best friend’s new promotion (which deserves way more than just a 'Like'), a link about the refugee crisis or a photo of a sick puppy, 'liking' hasn’t always felt appropriate.

Thankfully, we asked and Facebook listened, and this week they released 'Reactions' to social posts.

This means that you can 'Wow' your cousin’s photos of Niagara Falls, “Haha” your boyfriend’s joke and 'Love' your co-worker’s wedding photos.

This is great, in a lot of ways. People have been asking for a 'Dislike' since the dawn of the 'Like', so it makes sense for Facebook to finally bring more options to the table.

The selection of the six chosen reactions - Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry - came after intensive research by Facebook with sociologists, and other contenders such as 'Yay' didn’t make the cut.

But what does this mean for marketers?

The first brand to fully embrace the changes were Chevrolet, who asked their followers to 'Love' their new Malibu, complete with a heart-warming video (“we Like, though we wish we could do more”).

 

 

There is obviously a lot of potential for marketers here to really understand the kind of content their customers and followers enjoy. Does your content produce 'Hahas' or 'Wows'? Which kinds of content produces more engagement?

How will engagement change?

It’s unclear at this point how engagement will change. Will our followers embrace change, with the humble 'Like' falling to the wayside? Or will they start out cautious and stick to liking until they get their head around the options?

There’s also the demographic to consider. If your target audience are older, will they embraces 'Wows' and 'Hahas' or will they be more comfortable liking? Or will the younger generation turn away from Facebook trying to be cool?

It’s hard to know yet. At the moment, all reactions will count towards engagement - an angry face is no less valuable than a heart - but who knows if this will change in the future?

One thing that can be expected, however, is a drop in comments. Traditionally. in situations where the like button was not “enough”, followers would leave a comment instead, but with the options to display their feelings more clearly, comments will likely drop.

How will content change?

This change could allow brands to produce more targeted content to their audience. If they find their most frequent reaction is 'Haha', maybe they will produce more humorous content.

Or if 'Haha' isn’t the reaction they are looking for, maybe they will try to create more 'Wow' content.

There is naturally a worry about the sad and angry faces. It will be unclear if your angry reactions are coming from customers angry at the content or at your brand, and whether some brands might try to take advantage of these more negative reactions by posting controversial or divisive content.

This is not always a bad thing though. I talked in my webinar last year about using 'soft controversy' in content marketing - such as the old “what do you call a bread roll?” debate - and these reactions would really add weight to this kind of debate.

Will the newsfeed change?

Will our newsfeeds start to fill with the kind of content we like depending on how we react to content?

Richard Sim, Facebook’s director of monetisation product marketing says, “Over time we do expect to have a better understanding of how these different Reactions impact what people want to see in their news feed. So it’s very possible that loves or hahas may be treated differently. We’re going to learn this as we’re going through testing.”

So yes, probably.

What marketers can do

For now, like any other change in digital, it’s important for marketers to keep doing what they’re doing and test the water. Facebook reactions are user-led, so there’s no telling yet how and if users will take to the new reactions. However, it’s essential that you start considering the “type” of engagement you hope to gain from each of your social posts and see how your following reacts.
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