Does Facebook Reactions Change The Game?

Last week saw one of the more substantive changes to Facebook in recent memory: Facebook Reactions. Blogger Andrew Hutchinson wrote on Social Media Today about how Facebook Reactions came to be, detailing a fascinating path towards Facebook’s push to know more about you than ever before.

The interesting thing about Facebook Reactions is the amount of data it provides—and not just to Facebook. Sure, Facebook is now learning the nuances of the way you emotionally react to your feed, insomuch as emojis communicate nuance. But now you can go beyond a simple “like,” which, as powerful a data tool as that is for organizations, is pretty one-dimensional. The new options for reacting to a post change the game, especially for purpose-driven organizations, for whom an emotional engagement is almost always a marketing necessity. 

No Longer Afraid To Go Negative?

As Facebook realizes that negative feelings are feelings, too, many brands will likely want to steer users away from using the angry emoji in reaction to a post. More commercial brands like, say, Kashi or J.Crew, probably don’t want their audience to associate their content with anger. But the addition of the angry emoji, as well as the sad emoji, can prove useful for purpose-driven organizations.

When your mission hinges on a divisive issue, your content often requires the audience to feel outrage. There hasn’t been a way, up until now, for users on Facebook to react without taking time and energy for a comment.

Previously, there was no quick way for a user to respond to, for example, an upsetting post containing a statistic about the oppressed rights of girls across the world. And if that user didn’t want to leave a comment, there was no way for the purpose-driven organization to know if they were inciting an emotional reaction. Now, because it’s easy to quickly mark outrage for a post like that, there is potentially more opportunity for purpose-driven organizations to know whether or not their content is effective.

Take a look at the Facebook page for the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for environmental causes. This week’s post detailed the devastating Peruvian oil spills, mentioning the oil company behind it. Of the 27,000 reactions on the post, 1,600 of those were angry, and 2,000 were sad. 

In another example, look at the Facebook page for the nonprofit, Operation Lifesaver, aimed at reducing train track-related injury and death. Their posts frequently share news that is disturbing because there is an injury or death involved, posts not appropriate for a simple “like.” Now, their posts have the potential for increased engagement, as you can see with their post, about photographers dangerously trying to get photos on the tracks. 



More Data is More Data

Regardless of whether or not negative emotions are immediately useful for your brand, Facebook Reactions now provides organizations with more data. And more data is always more data. This can be useful in generally learning about your audience: Do they engage more with a certain kind of content? Do they engage in a particular way more frequently? 

One way to use the new information is to measure Facebook Reactions on a post against your goals. Was your goal to get engagement via making your audience laugh, and did Reactions prove that?


Or did you hope to surprise and delight with your content, and are the Reactions a mix of “love” and “wow” emoji?

You can also use Facebook Reactions to inspire goals you might not have had before. Perhaps your content always skewed positive, aiming for likes and comments. Now you might diversify—try out different content forms or tones, aiming for users who are itching to use the new Reactions.

Whatever you end up using Reactions for, it’s clear that it’s a boon for purpose-driven organizations, or those with divisive missions. It’s also going to be interesting to see what kind of data is collected by brands in a post-Reactions world.