Love at First Like

Facebook recently revised its trademark “like” with the introduction of five additional Reactions, designed to allow users the opportunity to better express their emotions. With the help and input of sociologists, as well as a year of testing in limited markets, Facebook states that these Reactions represent the spectrum of universal emotional responses, though not surprisingly there is still no dislike button to show disapproval. The new Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry Reactions currently all carry the same weight as the longstanding Like in terms of user interaction, but there are hopes that in the future these new choices will allow for a more accurate and refined understanding of user’s response to content.

Starting Point

According to Facebook for Business, the Reactions are not broken out as individual measures. While Reactions cannot be removed, they can be more accurate suggestions of user sentiment. For ad delivery, each Reaction is treated as a like, in other words, “love” and “angry” all currently carry the same weight as a thumbs up.

Potential Effects of Reactions

Over the past several months, many have speculated on what these new Reactions could mean for brands and companies connecting to customers through Facebook.

New Measures: These additional buttons, despite their identical weighting, are a way to better gauge sentiment and understand the sentiments of users. It could lead to more accurate content creation, resulting in more engagement from users. Thoughtful looks at Reactions might even allow for better marketing to and targeting of particular audiences.

Faster Feedback: These “universal” emotions will allow users a quicker option for offering at least a cursory opinion without having to comment on a post. While some predict that this will increase engagement, that growth will come at the cost of comments.

Hope of Better Understanding: For smaller companies, tracking the spread of Reactions in reply to a given post will be easier than for larger companies. There is hope that these new choices will be an accurate representation of users feelings about given content, and Richard Sim, Director of Monetization at Facebook, stated, “Over time we do expect to have a better understanding of how these different Reactions impact what people want to see in their newsfeed. So it’s very possible that loves or hahas may be treated different. We’re going to learn this as we’re going through testing.”

Rhetoric of Reactions

At this moment, the Reactions of Facebook are suggestive of a problem in digital cultures overall. These Reactions offer users the illusion of input, when as far as the data and the business end are concerned it all means the same thing. So right now, Reactions offer a mere illusion of control and contribution, but as the video game industry has known for years, the illusion of control and choice can be a powerful tool in the digital world.

Perhaps once the differentiation Sim mentioned starts to come into play, users will be able to have an accurate say in what appears on their news feeds and elsewhere. Of course, that is likely to be a long way off; no one expects Facebook to release a revision to their algorithms without a long period of extensive testing.