Facebook’s ‘Reactions’: Over-Reaction is the Only Sure Thing

Every time Facebook makes a major change there’s an unavoidable avalanche of predictions from the marketing community.

The introduction of Facebook’s ‘Reactions’ is the latest change to get the crystal ball treatment, but Facebook itself doesn’t even know what impact this will have on brands yet.

That’s right, we’re all going to find out together…

Facebook ‘Reactions’ – A Quick Recap

In short, Facebook wanted to make it easier for people to express a broader set of feelings within the platform.

As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg explained:

“Not every moment is a good moment – if you share something that’s sad, like a refugee crisis that touches you or a family member passes away, it may not be comfortable to like that post… I do think it’s important to give people more options than liking it.”

Here is the full line up of ‘Reactions’:

Facebook Reactions Full Set 2016

You’ll start to see these rolled out in the coming weeks.

Can we answer the ‘what does it mean’ question yet?

In my opinion, no.

The success of Facebook is due in part to the immense amounts of data it is able to collect from users and brands alike.

While there has been some testing of ‘Reactions’ in the last few months in selected markets, Facebook hasn’t released any data that provides us with anything concrete.

This puts marketers in a challenging position as it won’t take long until some of these questions filter through:

  • If 4 people are ‘angry’ about one of our posts should we ban talking about that subject in the future?
  • It doesn’t look like your page activity is getting enough ‘love’ should we be doing something different?
  • Why has our referral traffic from Facebook dropped so much in the last month? Does it have anything to do with ‘Reactions’?

The classic mistake is to take a very early sample, panic and rip up the existing blueprint.

Don’t do that. Let it play out a bit. Let some of the data come through and identify trends that exhibit longevity.

Even the though the ‘wait and see’ approach is advised, it doesn’t mean informed predictions carry no value. In fact, having some of this information in the back of your mind could come in very handy, especially internally.

Here’s a summary of the popular commentary we’ve spotted around the web:

  1. Nothing will change – It’s very possible that there’ll be an early surge in use of ‘Reactions’ before things settle down and go back to the way they were. ‘Likes’ will still dominate, when someone is ‘angry’ they’ll feel compelled to leave a comment and responses to ‘sad’ news will be handled privately.
  2. More headaches – Customer service is already complicated for brands within Facebook and the introduction of the ‘angry’ reaction makes it even easier for frustration to be displayed. It makes sense to assume that the overall volume of Reactions activity will influence newsfeed visibility in the way ‘likes’, ‘comments’ and ‘shares’ have done to date. This means that if hundreds of people hop on the ‘angry’ bandwagon in relation to a post, it could create a real-time fireball.
  3. Brand activity becomes ‘safer’ – The prospect of making people ‘sad’ or ‘angry’ isn’t usually at the top of the wishlist for marketers and communicators.
  4. More insights to play with – It’s an obvious one, but adding new ways for users to respond means page owners will have new ways to analyse activity. While more data usually makes marketers happy, trusting it early on will be difficult as benchmarks will be scares. Accounting for likely re-calibration post launch isn’t easy to grasp either.
  5. Facebook’s ad product increases in power – While Facebook have justified this move as user-centric, it certainly doesn’t hurt their advertising product either. While it isn’t clear how Reactions data will influence ad planning, common sense says it will help with hypertargeting. If it helps with hypertargeting, it will help sell things. If it helps sell things, advertisers will invest even more money into Facebook.

These are just a handful of potential scenarios but as mentioned throughout, we’re collectively in the dark until the roll out kicks in.

The one thing that can be predicted with certainty?

The over-reaction to ‘Reactions’ is only just beginning.

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