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It's finally here: after months of speculation following Mark Zuckerberg's comments about the creation of a Dislike button, Facebook has unveiled an extension to the Like button that will allow users to express emotion when reacting to content.
As Facebook product manager Sammi Krug explained:
For more than a year we have been conducting global research including focus groups and surveys to determine what types of reactions people would want to use most.
We also looked at how people are already commenting on posts and the top stickers and emoticons as signals for the types of reactions people are already using to determine which reactions to offer.
Ultimately, Facebok settled on six emotions: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry.
Users are not required to use Reactions. They can still opt to simply Like content, and the ubiquitous Like button will remain in place.
To provide a Reaction, users can hover over the Like button in the desktop experience or hold down the Like button in mobile experiences to expose the additional Reactions.
What Reactions mean for the News Feed
Facebook's Krug says that all Reactions will be treated equally by its algorithm as far as the News Feed is concerned:
Initially, just as we do when someone likes a post, if someone uses a Reaction, we will infer they want to see more of that type of post.
In the beginning, it won’t matter if someone likes, “wows” or “sads” a post — we will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content.
But over time, Facebook will evaluate how different Reactions are used and could tweak its algorithm to weigh Reactions differently.
If this happens, it's not inconceivable that Reactions like Love, Haha and Wow could be more favourable than Like, Sad or Angry, so brands will want to pay attention to developments in this area to ensure they can incorporate Reaction-related algorithm changes into their Facebook content marketing strategies.
Brands could benefit
While there's risk that Reactions could some day complicate life for brands as far as the News Feed algorithm is concerned, they also stand to benefit from users' newfound ability to express emotion when reacting to content.
Right now, much of the sentiment analysis that brands perform on social platforms like Facebook is qualitative and based on free-form unstructured data, like comments.
With Reactions, brands will be able to gauge sentiment on the world's largest social network in a quantitative way.
The importance of this shouldn't be underestimated, and savvy brands will look to analyze Reactions, which can be monitored under Page Insights, as quickly as possible.