Our Reaction To Facebook Reactions

After months of experimenting with their ubiquitous Like button, Facebook has launched the new Reactions extension, giving users the freedom to express various emotions on posts and photos. The update allows a user to engage with content in more ways without words, and it taps into the global trend for more expressive, simplified communication methods.


Like, Dislike, and Reactions

Since its initial launch in 2004, Facebook has relied on its Like button as the primary form of simple expression for users. During the 12 years since then, there have been numerous rumors swirling around about how to adjust or update the famous feature. Discussions of a Dislike button gained popularity, but Facebook held out with more robust plans in mind.

Looking to improve engagements, Facebook began conducting global research in 2014 by forming focus groups, launching surveys, and observing how current users engage with content. This research helped determine what types of reactions people would most likely use and which emoji were globally understood to express certain emotions. Their findings led them to five new reactions that allow users to express different emotions: “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad,” and “angry.”

The criteria for the new Reactions are simple: find sentiments that were universally accepted and expressively accurate. With Facebook serving over 1.59 billion users globally, it was important to find nonverbal expressions that spanned across languages. Facebook eventually decided to use animated emoji due to their universal popularity and expressive use.


While the update is a major step for Facebook, the changes from a user experience standpoint are relatively minor. Facebook Reactions act as an intuitive extension to the current Like button, which will remain the default functionality. Users can access five additional animated emoji named for the reaction they convey by holding down the Like button on the app or hovering over it on your desktop. In addition to the traditional Like, users can now choose between “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad,” and “angry.”

News stories will now display the top three engagements between Reactions and Likes; formerly only the number of Likes were displayed. Users can view a deeper dive of Reactions by clicking on one of the emotive icons, which will display a breakdown of users who engaged with the post. Similar to a Like, notifications from Reactions will appear in the Notifications tab with a note that someone “reacted to your post.”

At this time, pages are not able to export Reaction data nor retrieve it through the API. Users can expect the new insights data to be made available shortly, but Facebook has made no information available at this time.

What Brands Should Expect

What should Community Managers expect?

Facebook sees Reactions as an opportunity for brands to better understand how users are responding to their content. The extension gives brands the ability to understand users’ daily emotions, ultimately leading to the creation of more tailored content. With the Like button remaining as the default functionality, overall engagement is expected to remain the same. However, the increase in options could lead to some users feeling overwhelmed and not reacting at all.

Admins will be able to see Reactions to their posts on Page insights. Brand pages can expect to see these Reactions reported for their post content, and should use these metrics as additional, real-time insight for their page’s content strategy and creative development. Facebook recommends that brands continue posting things that their audience finds meaningful and continue using Facebook’s Page post best practices.

What are the regulatory implications?

In the Pharma industry, each brand will have to consider the question of reportability based on the particular Reaction. On their own, Reactions should not be considered a reportable incident, but there may be scenarios when a Reaction is paired with additional information that could be considered an adverse event. The adverse event would likely be triggered by the additional information though, and not solely from the Reaction.

Pharma Pages should also consider their personal use of these new options. The use of a Reaction from a branded account on another Page could be interpreted as an endorsement, and must be considered when developing and reviewing content—but, the traditional “Like” is and should continue to be available in all cases.

Pharma brands will have to set internal guidelines and determine reporting practices for this new feature. Overall, the impact of Reactions on branded posts should be minimal, but whenever there is a hint of an adverse event or product quality complaint, it should be treated as one.

Will Reactions impact paid media?

Facebook has yet to let on about how Reactions will impact paid initiatives. With the introduction of Facebook’s “Feed Quality Panel” and “Relevancy Score,” Facebook could introduce new advertising features correlated to new Reactions. Seemingly, this wouldn’t penalize “Love” or “Angry,” but would allow advertisers to optimize ad buys against the Reaction of their choosing. If “Love” reactions generated higher website conversions, then the new data capture mechanism could be a big boost for advertisers (and Facebook).