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5 Ways Facebook Reactions Could Make Marketing Difficult

Facebook will soon be launching “Reactions”, an emoji toolbar that gives users five new alternatives to the Like button: Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry. For marketers, this means more insight into consumers’ emotional responses — but are the tools available to quantify that data? Here are five things all social media marketers need to consider before Reactions are rolled out:

Could Facebook Reactions lower engagement?

When people have too many options, choice overload can occur, causing consumers to avoid making a decision at all.

Social users share, like, or comment on content because it supports or aligns with their sense of self. They are telling the world who they are and what they believe in. They are shaping the way others perceive them.

When you consider these psychological reasons for interacting with content, those six Reaction choices become a bit more weighted. Firstly, do all users want to be seen as the kind of people who use smiley faces? Not all Facebook users speak emoji as a second language. The invasion of emojis could baffle and alienate some demographics.

Secondly, consumers might fear that using the Love emoji too frequently makes them look childish and overeager, or that the Sad emoji reveals vulnerabilities that they’d rather not share. 

And what happens when consumers don’t know how to respond to something? If a video makes them feel several emotions at once, do they opt for Haha emoji or Sad emoji? Or do they just keep scrolling without engaging at all?

What exactly are users reacting to?

When a consumer uses the Angry emoji, for example, marketers will need to determine whether this anger is directed at the brand or the content. The difficulty here is that it’s going to vary.

If Facebook Reactions existed when Cecil the lion was killed, a brand sharing the news would likely have received dozens of Angry emojis in response to that post. Obviously, consumers aren’t upset with the brand here — the anger is clearly directed at the content.

However, if a brand shares a new promotional video and users respond with Angry emojis, it’s safe to assume that the promotion has offended people in some way. If consumers use Reactions to express emotions towards content and brands, it will become much harder to see trends when analyzing several months’ worth of data.

Another thing that will make Reactions hard to measure is the fact that sometimes, an emoji just won’t cut it. A brand’s content might inspire so much fury that an emoji — with its cute round face — just isn’t an accurate representation of how they're feeling (and for certain people, nothing compares to cursing in all caps).

Where does it leave the Like?

For some users — particularly those who are anti-emoji — the Like will continue to be the default form of acknowledgement. For users excited by the novelty of choice, the Like might become neglected, at least initially. Marketers will need to figure out how consumers are using the range of Reactions. Not all demographics will use them in the same way, and this needs to be factored in when measuring social engagement.

How will the Newsfeed algorithm adapt?

Initially, Facebook plans to count any Reaction as a sign that the user wants to see more content of that type. As demonstrated above, negative reactions in particular are not always that straightforward.

Unless Facebook can find a way of determining the intent behind the Reaction, it can’t be sure that an Angry emoji means “I’m angry this is happened, but I’m glad I read the article” or “I’m furious at this brand and I don’t want to see this stuff again”.

How will measurement and analysis be affected?

Facebook Insights is basic and limited enough as it is. If it’s going to handle a range of Reactions, the dashboard is going to need some work. Can marketers expect Reaction graphs that show how people have responded to content over the past six weeks? Will it be easy to view Reactions up against overall engagement and reach, so brands can see whether sad or funny content is the most successful? Reaction data will only be valuable if we have a way to use it.

On the other hand, Facebook topic data might be more equipped to handle Reactions. Where sentiment analysis is concerned, this could be a gold mine. But topic data is still in its infancy, and is only available via a selected number of DataSift’s partners. This isn’t something that the majority of small businesses are able to budget for — at least not yet. In the mean time, they'll need to find their own ways of dealing with the data.

How is your brand preparing for the arrival of Facebook reactions? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

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