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Facebook Reactions 101: how to harness the hidden power of emoji

What's the point of all those sad and angry faces? You can uncover a deeper understanding of your audience, says social media expert Lisa McKenzie
March 2, 2016
By Lisa McKenzie


Lisa McKenzie is a professional social media marketing strategist who teaches at Concordia's Centre for Continuing Education.

It's quite difficult to take the hundreds of possible human emotions and summarize them into a “like” — alas this has been our dilemma on Facebook.

There is no doubt that the “like” button serves a purpose if we're reacting to yet another funny cat video, but how do we show support for a friend who has just lost their mother? Sadly, a “like” just won't do it.

For too long now, we've been waiting for more, and after many months of testing in Ireland and Spain, Facebook released Reactions to all users last week.

Facebook Reactions, in a nutshell

Reactions is a set of six emojis rolled out to personal and business pages to help users express more exactly their emotional reactions to posts — like, love, laughter, amazement or surprise (wow), sadness and anger.

If you use Facebook for personal entertainment and to stay connected with friends and family, Reactions makes for a more colorful landscape. If, however, you use Facebook as a business networking, marketing and selling tool, Reactions will allow you to uncover a deeper understanding of your audience through the emojis they are using to engage with your posts.

These "reactions" are visible on each post and, if you're managing a Facebook business page as a page admin, you can now see them, at the post level, in your Facebook Insights. Reactions to your posts are tallied globally and do not show specifically who used each emoji.

A brilliant marketing tool – or meaningless info?

Reactions is not a game-changer when it comes to social selling. The opportunity here is to further develop a conversation around the post, by asking people to elaborate on their chosen reaction.

Do we really want "Kim" to further share her "anger" emoji sentiments? The extreme love, wow and anger emojis will be your biggest business opportunities, while the "like" responders will be less interested in elaborating.

Conversations are good, as they allow us to guide our interested audience along the buyer’s journey, facilitating their experience. They are also a good opportunity to discover a few ambassadors who LOVE your brand.

Will a positive reaction to your post give it more visibility in Facebook’s News Feed, and will a negative reaction give it less visibility? In terms of engagement, all "reactions" should be measured the same, but only time and Facebook’s algorithm will tell.

The biggest win for marketers is how Reactions might be integrated to the audience segmentation features on the Facebook ads platform. This would allow you to design ads specifically targeted at people who have used certain emojis when reacting to a specific post or subject.

For example, in the search for a receptive audience, will a drug company be able to target everyone who has used the sadness emoticon more than 10 times a day? Will the next Hollywood comedy blockbuster be able to target only people who have used the laughter emoji after watching their trailer?

But beware — the last thing you want to do is get buried in more stats that don't tell the whole story. So treat Reactions as the sprinkles on the cake, and not the whole cake.


Keen to know more? Sign up for Social Media Fundamentals and other courses at Concordia's Centre for Continuing Education. Or read about Lisa McKenzie.

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