TL;DR: Yes, but not to the extent you’d like them to (yet).
Facebook sent shockwaves with its plan to do away with a single ‘like’ button, augmenting it with five additional ways to engage posts. Meet ‘Reactions’:
First and foremost, of course, this feature benefits users – followed quickly by Facebook. Users now have more ways to express themselves quickly. And Facebook will of course ramp up its already impressive treasure trove of data, which it will feed back into user experience for its products.
There will be a number of impacts for brands, some immediate and direct, some a bit farther away.
Reactions should immediately be useful as they help better explain sentiment, helping marketers understand why users interact with content as opposed to simply *if* they interact. At a post level, we can analyze whether a certain topic produces the effect we intend.
Many brands have used comment evaluation as a way to measure this sentiment. Reactions look likely to take this qualitative metric and set a new, quantitative (and possibly stronger) sentiment metric alongside it.
It sounds like a dream come true, maybe, but there are a few catches:
- At the time of writing, reactions do not appear separate in post-level Facebook Insights data downloads.
- Even when they do, some of the reactions do not lend themselves to clear-cut interpretation. In particular, ‘Haha’ could laugh with you or at you; ‘Wow’ could be impressed or distressed.
Longer term, this array of actions may push brands to become more calculated with the content they publish, with some entities expanding the sentiments they seek to provoke. Posts could be developed that highlight a problem that a product purports to solve, for example, in an effort to drive negative sentiment. That creative could then be followed up with some that presents the product as the solution, perhaps to that same audience.
It’s also likely that engagement with content will rise overall – first due to interest in the new features, but sustaining due to the diversity of the reactions. Additionally, the simplicity with which a user can share reactions should keep the numbers high.
One metric that could fall as a result of reactions, though, is comments – and with it the additional qualitative data. Whereas users previously needed to explain their more complex reactions via comment to convey them, they can now take the quick route and simply click a button if happy, humored or horrified.
The fact that Reactions data has yet been included in ads reporting casts some doubts over what the exact implication for advertisers themselves may be. We can take some insights from them at a by-ad level, but this would only be a slight improvement over analyzing by comments.
What the reactions could do, however, is further refine Facebook’s advertising algorithm by creating new dimensions around its already robust topic data. This would definitely allow the platform to push efficiency of advertising through better matching affinities.
Further down the road, Facebook could also develop the ability to retarget users based on not only if a user engaged with certain content, but how they engaged. The future of this concept is not apparent – Facebook does not even currently allow retargeting engagers (though Twitter does). However, it could be a longer-term development as Reactions reporting gets refined.
For now, however, Facebook asserts that “reactions will have the same impact on ad delivery as likes. We will spend time learning from this rollout and use feedback to improve.”
Overall business impact:
In a social space where brands have needed to try harder and harder to stand out and elicit engagement, Reactions could be impactful for marketers who will now be able to glean more insight into the audience engaging with their content, further strengthening the ability to service and fulfill customer’s needs.
It is not immediately clear how Reactions will help better demonstrate the ability to generate a quantifiable return for marketers, but the feature should help strengthen content learnings as the ‘Like’ becomes more impactful and shakes it’s ‘vanity metric’ reputation.