Earlier this month, reports started circulating of a new Facebook test which put Reactions within Messenger, enabling users to more easily respond to specific messages within a thread.
Facebook has now confirmed this, announcing that Reactions will be made available to all Messenger users, while also adding another new tool to better rationalize group chats.
First off, on Reactions - as explained by Facebook:
"Message Reactions add the ability to react to an individual message with a specific emotion, quickly showing acknowledgement or expressing how you feel in a lightweight way. For example, if someone messages a photo of their cute pet, you could respond with the love reaction. Or, if someone is trying to coordinate dinner plans, you could easily respond with a yes or no reaction to indicate your preferences."
As we noted in our earlier post on this, the addition makes sense, and may actually be a better home for Reactions than Facebook proper, as in Messenger they have a purpose, a reason for their use.
While Reactions on Facebook are an interesting novelty - and Facebook's data shows that they've been used 300 billion times since launch - they still don't get applied anywhere near as much as the common Like (for context, Facebook reportedly generates around 4 million Likes per minute).
There are various reasons for this, but a key factor is that Reactions don't, functionally, add anything to the process. Sure, they give you another way to signal how the post made you feel, but for whom? It's not necessarily obvious how a friend has reacted to a specific post, you're just seeing it in your News Feed because they reacted to it in some way. And even if you do know how they responded, that doesn't necessarily add a lot to your experience - it just gives you, personally, an alternative response option.
On Messenger, Reactions will serve a direct communication purpose, and solve an existing problem in an efficient way.
The problem with Messenger group threads is they can get hectic, crowded with conversation and responses that stretch on from various queries, making it hard to know who's responding to whom, which question you're answering, etc.
Reactions provides a solution - at least partially - on this front, making it easier to rationalize your conversations, and do so quickly, without cluttering up the overall stream.
As outlined in the above image sequence, to add a reaction, press and hold any message, and then tap to make your selection from the Reaction set.
"You'll be able to see how people have reacted to a message in the lower corner of the message. There, you'll see the reactions people selected alongside a number indicating how many people reacted to the message. Tapping on the emojis will show you which members of your conversation reacted which way."
You'll be able to use Messenger Reactions in both group chats and one-on-one conversations.
And then there's the other new tool, called Mentions.
As explained by Facebook:
"Mentions is a way to directly notify someone when they've been mentioned in a conversation. To mention someone, type the "@" symbol or start typing the first few letters of the name or nickname of the person you want to notify and select them from the list. When the message is sent, it will appear with highlighted text for the others in the group to see."
Essentially, this is extra measure to make sense of group chats - by making mention of a specific person, you can more clearly delineate that you're addressing them, directly, which will help them keep track of the most relevant messages.
As you can see in the above sequence, when a person is mentioned, he or she will receive a new kind of notification that lets them know they were called out specifically.
"That way, it's easy to jump right back in to the conversation to answer someone's question or to provide a response."
All group chat members will still get notifications as they always have, but only the specified person will get a specific update like this when they're @ mentioned.
Really, both seem like quite logical inclusions in the Messenger process, adding clear, functional value. In addition to this - and as noted by Marketing Land writer Tim Peterson - the ability to @ mention other accounts could also open the gate for more bot interactions in Messenger chats, similar to what Google has done with Google Assistant in Allo.
Being able to bring in Messenger Bots could provide the same functionality, enabling users to book restaurants or check information within a group thread. Such functionality hasn't been noted as yet, but it would make logical sense.
Facebook also notes that Reactions and Mentions will be available for Work Chat in Workplace, their professional networking tool - which essentially Facebook on a closed, organizational network.
It'll be interesting to see how the new option plays with Messenger users.
Both Reactions and Mentions are rolling out from today and will be available globally in the coming days.