Facebook recently made its Reactions available to all users.
When you logged on to Facebook and first saw the lineup of adorable little faces, you probably first reacted as a Facebook user and then quickly put on your brand manager hat and thought, “What does this mean for my business?”
If you felt a range of emotions in response to this batch of features, it affirms what Facebook’s research team uncovered about human responses.
Let’s look at the reactions you might have had to the new emojis, organized into six familiar categories:
Brand managers should like this offering, because it’ll make Facebook’s News Feed a more engaging and positive place to be. The more people engage and spend time on Facebook, the likelier it is that they’ll see a post or ad that relates to your brand.
Before, the only options were to “like” or not to “like,” so people would often just not engage at all. The more engagement your content receives, the better it fares with the Facebook algorithm that determines how many people will eventually see it. The more options for engagement, the more likely your content will be deemed engaging.
Usually, when pushing out content on Facebook, there will be a percentage of your community who will engage actively, another percentage who may feel the desire to leave a negative comment here and there, and usually, more often than not, the majority who will see your content and feel unmoved to “like” or comment on it, these users would probably simply ignore it. However with a much wider choice of reactions becoming available, this large percentage of silent users may just find a voice and start becoming more vocal on your page.
By lowering the barriers to engagement and heightening the fun, Facebook’s creating more opportunities for those whose reaction lies between “like” and a comment. Because engaging more intimately with members of your audience is a major reason your brand is on Facebook, we give this one a “love.”
Whenever changes like this occur, there are always unintended ramifications that are mildly amusing, if unavoidable. Because Facebook now has to generalize the way people engaged with content (instead of saying “liked” or “commented on”) we’re stuck with the vague “reacted to.”
In my news feed I was informed that a friend had “reacted to” a photo his wife had posted. I might previously have been told that he “liked” that photo; now I’m left wondering whether he liked it, loved it, was wowed by it, found it sad, or was angered by it. Does this matter in the grand scheme? No. Will it make me chuckle every time I see it? Yes.
If you’re not wowed by the new Facebook reactions feature, consider this: The whole reason this finally came about is because of mobile device use. Twenty years ago, very few people had mobile devices. Today, one of the most powerful and highly valued companies in the world is making product investment decisions based on our aversion to taking 15 seconds to type out a comment on the screen of a magical pocket computer.
…in December of 2015, 1.44 billion people accessed Facebook on mobile. Of people who access it on both a monthly and daily basis, 90 percent of them do so via a mobile device. Commenting might afford nuanced responses, but composing those responses on a keypad takes too much time. People needed a way to leave feedback that was quick, easy, and gesture-based, says Zhuo. Emoji, it seemed, were the best option.
Wondering who would react to this update with sadness? Think of the person in charge of social media reporting. Previously, their job included reporting on total engagement, “likes,” shares, and comments. Now, they will be reporting on total engagement, total reactions, “likes,” “loves,” “hahas,” “sads,” “angries,” “wows,” shares, and comments. Sad yet?
OK, angry is probably overstating it for this one, but there isn’t a “mildly concerned” emoji (yet). Although these emoji will give the silent members of your audience a voice, they might also create a situation in which people express vague anger about something without stating a specific issue that someone in customer service can address.
If a customer is upset about something, it doesn’t help the brand or the customer for that person to react simply with an angry emoji and move on. The concern here is that a post might get a number of negative reactions, but no real opportunities for you to respond in a way that will resolve the issue. If you notice this happening, look at what else is going on in your business and see whether you can at least use the sentiment to identify a trend that you can address for the future.
Sarah Matista is marketing communications manager at Vistaprint Digital. A version of this article originally appeared on Pagemodo.