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Facebook Reactions: No Longer Limited by the Like

Liking stuff has its limitations. Because, let’s face it, some posts on Facebook are just plain unlikable.

Say, when someone you follow talks about a rough day, or shares a sad news item, or shows support of your rival team in a championship game. And up until now you’ve only had a handful of options when you encounter these kinds of posts in your feed:

  • Comment “I can’t like this!”
  • “Like” it grudgingly, then explain that you’re liking only to show support.
  • Not respond at all.

The last option can really strike fear in the hearts of brands and advertisers that thrive on engagement. Not respond? You may as well not even be on a social network!

For years, Facebook users have been asking for more ways to express themselves. The introduction of Facebook’s Stickers in mid-2013 — initially available for instant messaging and later expanded to comments — took some steps towards solving the problem but never quite made it all the way there.

So after several months of careful research, analysis, and testing, Facebook has just rolled out its final answer. It’s called Reactions, and it’s a set of emotions that serve to supplement the old “like” button. Now, in addition to the traditional Like, you can choose from Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry.


To access the new Reactions, just tap and hold the Like button, then tap to choose. The top three reactions plus a total reaction count appear on a post under the Like, Comment, and Share buttons.


All you need is love — and data aggregation

While the new Reactions help users find more ways to connect, they arguably offer a bigger boost to brands, advertisers, and Facebook itself. Why? More metrics to track. More data to fine-tune content-serving algorithms. Better-targeted posts and ads.

Really? All that from a few extra smiley-face guys?

Yes, really. At least a little further down the road.

As of right now, an Angry reaction on Facebook counts the same as a Love reaction — the almighty algorithm will take any reaction as a hint that you want to see more of that type of content. Eventually, however, Facebook plans to become more discriminating. “Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see,” Facebook Product Manager Sammi Krug explained.


What does this mean for your future News Feed? Greater control over your content, for starters. And marketers should start getting excited now about the impact Reactions could have on campaigns, such as the potential to connect individually with customers based on sentiment, or the potential for segmented targeting.

Matt Lang, a senior social media strategist at digital agency RAIN, gave a good theoretical in an interview with WIRED:

“If an automobile [brand] puts out a post to affluent millennials, and half of them really ‘love’ the post, putting up the ‘wow’ emoji, and half put an ‘angry’ or ‘sad’ emoji, that’s really interesting. The advertiser could then say to Facebook, ‘Let’s exclude those who used an ‘angry’ or ‘sad’ reaction and include those who used ‘love’ in the next ad campaign.”

The bottom line

With Reactions, Facebook gets more data to track — and so do marketers. Better tools and processes will come with time, but if you’re a marketer you’d do well to start planning to maximize engagement now.

Do you plan on using the new Reactions? Which one is your favorite?


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