The ‘Like’ is dead. Long live the ‘Wow’.

The new Facebook Reactions have finally arrived. Everyone is trying out their new ‘Love’, ‘Haha’, ‘Wow’, ‘Sad’ and ‘Angry’ buttons with the liberal zeal you get with any shiny new toy. But what does this mean for brands in the long run? My initial thoughts - quite a lot! Here are a few first impressions and predictions on what changes the new Facebook Reactions might bring.

A richer measurement of social content

The most obvious takeaway is that Facebook engagement is going to be a lot more interesting to measure. Before, brands could only tell how ‘Liked’ their content was. Now they can see the quality of that ‘Like’. Do people think their content is funny (Haha)? Do they find it inspiring (Wow)? Or do they just really, really like it (Love)?

What’s more, where the ‘Like’ total used to sit there’s now the top three Reactions ordered by popularity from left to right, providing an immediate snapshot of how your content’s doing. Reactions not only provide a much richer insight into how people feel about brand content, they also bring us one step closer to quantifying the emotional connections we build with our audiences.

A better understanding of ‘Brand Love’

Now here’s where I get excited. Facebook Reactions are going to help brands verbalise who they want to be to their audiences, and what kind of relationship they’re looking to build. Ok, maybe I’m over-aggrandising this, but I really think these Reactions could provide a shorthand way of talking about brand positioning and the content we create to support that.

Dove, for example, might look to create content that earns ‘Love’s and avoids ‘Angry’s. Expedia may aim for ‘Wow’s, whereas PaddyPower might be ok with a couple of ‘Angry’s as long as they’re outweighed by ‘Haha’s. How we quantify this, e.g. how we figure out the optimum balance of ‘Angry’sto ‘Haha’s for a cheeky brand personality, may take a little while. But one thing for certain is that our understanding of ‘Brand Love’ is going to get much richer and more descriptive.

More negativity?

People have been asking Facebook for a ‘Dislike’ button for years. The new ‘Angry’ Reaction is probably the closest we’ll ever get. However, this does herald a potentially ‘scary’ change for brands. Before, if people didn’t like what a brand had posted, their only choice was to comment. This required thought and effort, and could expose them to uncomfortable online arguments. Now, voicing your displeasure only takes one click.

My guess is that there’s going to be a sudden increase in perceived negativity. That said, I wouldn’t panic. These reactions are nothing new; they’ve just been hidden until now. If anything, ‘Angry’ could help brands better tailor their content to their audience’s likes and dislikes. Think about it: Maybe that post last year didn’t get much engagement not because people didn’t see it, but because they disliked the content. 

The end of the ‘Like’?

At the moment, users can only access their Reactions by hovering over the existing ‘Like’ button. People rarely linger over their likes, so there’s a chance folks are currently overlooking the new options altogether. Another factor to bear in mind is that hover states aren’t mobile friendly – hence the lack of Reactions so far on the app. Based on this, I’m guessing the hover state is just a temporary solution. But what’s going to be the next step?

I think the ‘Like’ button is going to be replaced with a ‘React’ button. Selecting this would bring up your Reaction options, including our old friend the ‘Like’ which will have be demoted to a co-starring role. I’m not sure how much this will lessen ‘Like’s weighting, but it should be noted that ‘Love’ has already stolen the top spot.

In conclusion, exciting times are ahead

To be honest I didn't really believe Facebook back in October when they first said they were going to do this. It seemed as unlikely as Twitter developing an edit function. But now the Reactions have arrived and the social media world is abuzz with new possibilities. Facebook has changed the game yet again, but it's also an exciting step towards learning how to better ‘Love’ and ‘Wow’ our audiences.