Last week, Facebook globally launched the alternatives to its trademark “like” button known as “Reactions.” Facebook users can continue to “like” or “comment” on posts, but now they can also select from six different animated emoji: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry. There is a likely deeper reason for the existence of those new friendly and cute emoji: richer data.

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Why Amplify Reactions?

One of the biggest problems with the “Like” button is that it was very limiting when responding to a friend who is going through a tough time. For example, “liking” a photo about someone that has lost a loved one feels inappropriate. That is why many people suggested Facebook should make a “dislike” button. Under these circumstances, Facebook users will now use the “Sad” emoji button instead of the “Like” button.

Facebook users have been responding more frequently to posts using the “Reactions” options. Currently, the Facebook News Feed algorithm will factor the “Reaction” button as much as the “like” button. So posts that receive a like, love, haha, wow, sad or angry clicks will appear higher equally. But Facebook will eventually determine different ways to rank posts based on the “Reactions” it receives.

Why Didn’t Facebook Make A “Dislike” Button?

At a town hall meeting in September, Mark Zuckerberg addressed a question about why Facebook did not have a “dislike” button. Zuckerberg said that Facebook did not want to make tools that would let users easily criticize each other, but the social network company was looking for ways to express sympathy.

Is There An Ulterior Motive To Facebook Reactions?

Facebook will be collecting data from each of the new emoji. As mentioned earlier, the data collected from each of the “Reactions” will be used to personalize everyone’s News Feeds. This information could also be used for tailoring ads to users based on how they “React” to content.  The “Like” button has been used to indicate the types of posts they want to see more of, but “Reactions” actually provides Facebook with details about how they feel about the post.

My 2 cents:

Of course Facebook’s emojis are a data play, but they’re also a client facing play. Zuckerberg is right in keeping the Facebook society fundamentally positive or “sympathetic” and he is right in identifying that there is a craving for additional ways to react to posts. But most importantly, Zuckerberg is spot on in understanding the additional reactions means additional insights; sellable insights. One must wonder how clinical these emojis will be in the long run; will they be as emblematic as the fabled Like?

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