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The Big Deal About Facebook Reactions No One’s Talking About

Enter The Emojis

It’s easy to think that the update is a ploy to reach out to the younger demographic (who’ve been more and more hesitant to use it). There’s more to Reactions than meets the eye, though…

Facebook, in all it’s artificially intelligent, algorithmic, data-collecting wisdom, knew that the simple “Like” button couldn’t stand on its own for much longer. It simply couldn’t cover the full rainbow of human emotions and sentiments. There’s something weird about “liking” posts about losing someone to cancer or articles on the deplorable conditions of Syrian refugee children. So what’s a social media behemoth to do?

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GIF Courtesy of Wired

They dug deep into their data and searched specifically for one-word comments (hey,” “yay,” “wow,” “sad,”), emoji sticker usage, and uses of “haha.” Short of making a dislike button (and providing fuel for bullying, thus discouraging users), they created what they think of as a broad enough spectrum of reactions for the masses to employ.

In The Near Future…

At this very moment in time, analytics for Facebook Reactions doesn’t give us much, asides from a basic count.  When we are given in-depth access though, the implications will be huge. Advertisers, data geeks of all industries, and publishers should be waiting in anticipation. This isn’t just some little tweak to the timeline. Putting things into perspective, let’s consider the fact that Facebook is:

Imagine the masses who use Facebook as their home page on the internet; they’re instantly connected to the news, their favorite brands, and their peers. The content they see is dictated  by Facebook’s algorithms, which will now be weighted with data collected on their Reaction-usage.

Now, imagine a timeline where you’re fed content so specifically tailored to you, it’s as if it knows what mood you want to be in. Facebook will detect which content has emotionally resonated with you by the Reaction you use.

Advertisers can currently hone their targeting in on behaviors, interests, and demographics, and should soon have the ability to optimize for Reactions. Once you can pick out the emotion best associated with the highest engagement metrics and spreadability, you’ll have an even clearer direction for content creation. Now, in addition to audiences being able to connect and engage with your brand, you’ll be granted insight into how they empathize with it, giving rise to a whole new set of metrics. In time, Reactions will enrich your personality profiles and psychographics by a whole new dimension. Harnessing emotions will be less of a guessing game from this point on…

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“Bring up that mood report for last week…”

Publishers will have to consider tracking a new set of KPIs for articles in the near future. If an article has produced predominantly “haha” Reactions, resulting in more shares, comments, and clicks, they can shift focus to producing humorous content. Knowing that their “wow” Reactions had resulted in a spike in followers would raise the bar on how much weekly growth they should aim for, and how to maintain a constant stream of “wow” Reactions. Consider cause-related and non-profit campaigns, whose content’s goal is to make readers empathize with them– they’ll now know what content tugged the most at readers’ heartstrings with a simple “love” or “sad” Reaction.

So What’s The Big Deal?

The one factor that everyone will have to consider (yet won’t have any control over), is how exactly Reactions will be weighted and how heavily. Will your last “angry” Reaction towards Donald Trump’s latest antics influence your timeline by including less and less Trump articles? Or will the algorithm pick up on your “angry” reaction and focus on producing other content evoking that emotion? What will the Facebook algorithm give priority to: the raw emotion itself, or the content that helped produce it?

If it’s the former, then Facebook will have been given control over your mood and the ability to influence how you feel. Think that’s a stretch? It’s already been experimented with, in a somewhat controversial study done in 2012. While it’s likely they’ll shy away from flooding your timeline with negative stories, hitting users with more feel-good, dopamine-inducing emotions is a great (if not a somewhat morally ambiguous) way to keep them checking on their timeline more times a day for their “fix.”

After all, this is the closest to real-time emotion-tracking on a large scale anyone’s ever gotten, not to mention an ability to directly influence those emotions. Those factors combined, would give Facebook and its ad platform an almost unfair, monopolistic ability to reach audiences. Is there really any competition, after that? What search or display ad network, social media platform or other media will be as precise and targeted?

It’ll only be a matter of months before we can fully gauge the far-reaching effects that Reactions will have. In that time, it’s suggested that you Facebook responsibly (and wait for the follow up article, duh).