Facebook Reactions are here at last

Editor Jessica Phillipson explains why you can now LOVE us on Facebook and what it means for content

You’ve seen the petitions. You’ve debated it with your friends. For years, Facebook users around the world have been appealing to bring in a ‘dislike’ button. Well now, the call has been answered and Facebook ‘Reactions’ are here.

Why the appetite for a dislike button? The general consensus is that ‘like’ is just a little bit too crude. For example, last week a video of tourists passing around a baby dolphin for selfies, resulting in the dolphin’s death, was trending on social media, yet this appalling act of cruelty received thousands of likes. Thousands of people did not like seeing this, but before Wednesday, a ‘like’ was the only way of showing your awareness – whether that be disgust, support or genuine like – of something. Dislike was deemed by Facebook decision makers to be too negative – who wants to scroll through a news feed clogged with hundreds of people’s bad vibes?

On the 24th February, this all changed as Facebook launched the emoji Reactions.

Users can now choose from six different reactions: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry. Rather than liking that picture of your mate’s dinner, you can love it. You can wow the fact they’ve already completed season four of House of Cards on Netflix just 24 hours after its release. You can respond with anger to that annoying friend’s all too perfect travelling photos (yes you look great in that bikini in South East Asia. So happy for you).

This global launch follows a trial in seven countries: Japan, Ireland, Spain, Chile, the Philippines, Portugal and Colombia, where uptake has been highly positive. The most noteworthy change for the global roll out has been the removal of a Yay emoji, as people weren’t using it enough. The most popular Reaction used in these countries has been Love – awww.

For content marketing, the introduction of Reactions means a much more nuanced response to your content. Likes, shares and clicks all meant more data about what people were interacting with, and this extra layer gives you another level of interaction. You’ll get to know your audience far better. For now, Facebook assures us that a Reaction is still counted by news feed algorithms as a ‘like’, but this could obviously change in future. The question to ask is whether a certain Reaction means users want to see more or less of something?

You can probably guarantee that if people like or love something they want to see more of that sort of thing in their news feed. But does it necessarily follow that something that someone reacts to with anger or sadness should be avoided? Isn’t that far too simplistic a reading of the human emotional spectrum? Anger and sadness drive us to action. We are moved to sign the petition, join the protest and take part in the charity fun run because a situation makes us sad, or angry, or frustrated and we want to change it.

Reactions won’t necessarily mean more audience interaction, but they will certainly help to understand how audiences are interacting. Make sure your content continues to wow, amuse, enthral and even anger your audience – be provocative. Get a Reaction.

What is your take on this latest Facebook update? Let us know over on Twitter.