Rohan Mann
Mar 29, 2016

Reacting to Facebook's 'Reactions'

Rohan Mann of Isobar Singapore provides an early look at user acceptance of Facebook's new 'Like' button, how brands can make use of it, and some additional changes that marketers would welcome.

Rohan Mann
Rohan Mann

Facebook recently rolled out the new iteration of its ‘Like’ button, Reactions. Although many I know would have been happy with just a new ‘Dislike’ button, it is an interesting change from a user’s view. Expanded from more than just the trademark ‘thumbs up’, Reactions allows users to select from other emotions: Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry.

But aside from giving users more avenues for expression, what does this mean for brands on Facebook, and what is our reaction to Facebook Reactions?

First things first, this update is naturally targeted toward news updates. As much as brands want to be in that space, it is still called the ‘News’ feed? So, if you are a news or content publisher, the new Reactions fit in seamlessly with your Facebook content. Expressing sadness over a recent tragedy, anger over a new regulation or amazement over a bit of lesser-known, mind-blowing trivia, you can tell this update is heavily skewed toward you. While emotions like sadness and anger seem like the most natural response to certain updates from friends and news publishers, they can be seen as negative responses on brand communications.

That said, there are plenty of ways in which brands can observe and then capitalize on this new update. Read on.

Let’s look at fans’ response towards Reactions. Yes, even though ‘Like’ has been around as long as the mammoth platform itself and is deeply entrenched in the daily user experience, we have been seeing slow but steady adoption of the new Reactions among Singaporeans. The ‘slowness’ in adoption can in part be attributed to the current way users need to select the new Reactions, which is long-pressing/hovering on ‘Like’ first and then selecting the preferred emotion. ‘Like’ seems to be the one with the least amount of steps involved.

Going behind the scenes next, the Facebook Insights at the backend only calculates the total number of Reactions a post receives and does not differentiate between the individual reactions. So unless you are the rare brand that makes one post a week and doesn’t rely on analytics tools to assist in reporting and measurement, it is going to be difficult for you to create customized content based on eliciting a specific response as it cannot be measured that way, yet. I suspect Facebook will make that change in the near future, so there would be future possibilities for brands to be more optimized in its content delivery to offer customized posts for its audiences.

Therefore, for users to actively use the Reactions and for Facebook to allow brands to measure individual reactions, there is still time.

Why not use this time to test and learn anyway? Social marketers have always learned from and thrived during such windows of opportunity. At Isobar, we have been playing around with Reactions since its launch in the region. While we understand it is not going to be an immediate shift in ‘fans’ adopting the new feature, the signs so far are encouraging. For posts that are humorous, the ‘Haha’ Reaction has seen a natural entry into fan engagements. For content around star products which fans have high affinity towards, we have seen super-fans respond with ‘Love’.

Organically, these new Reactions are still only 1 to 5 per cent of the engagement volume, compared to the good old ‘Like’. That said, when we have explicitly asked fans to pick a specific Reaction as a means of engagement, we have seen it increase to as far as 25 to 30 per cent.

So, brands can already start creating content that’s tailored to a specific reaction and thus are more likely to garner the desired response from users. Everything from the image to the copy could be done with the precise goal of gaining a ‘Haha’ reaction, for example.

Brands could also use Reactions as a benchmark into what sort of content each of their fans like, and provide them with the opportunity to dish up more of that same content. For now this will be manual while measuring success, but it is not that difficult to gauge from the Timeline itself.

Looking forward, there is a wish list we have around Reactions. Right now, Reactions only applies to posts, and not individual comments on a post, but that would be a nice feature to have as well. Reactions on comments would allow brands to see how users feel about other user comments. For example, if a post had garnered a nasty comment from a User A, a brand would be able to see from the type of reaction it receives, if other users were in solidarity with User A’s comment and thus enables the community manager to take appropriate action.

In addition, it will be very useful if brands are allowed in the future to target (or exclude) users based on their reactions to our posts, perhaps? Also, making it easier for brands to measure individual reactions and if needed, include ‘negatively skewed’ reactions as part of negative feedback?

Also, how exciting would the platform become if Facebook enables the ‘Reactions’ function for brands? This would add more personality to a brand page as the brand could react to users’ posts. Reactions for Instagram, perhaps? We have our fingers crossed.

So yes, if we have to pick our choice of reaction to this new feature, it would be a resounding ‘Like’ right now, moving steadily towards ‘Love’ looking at the potential opportunities and steady user adoption rate. And if Facebook does deliver on any of the items from the wish list above, ‘Wow’.

Rohan Mann is Associate Director of social media at Isobar Singapore


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