Facebook’s new Reactions buttons do a lot more than give people new ways to express themselves – they can also help advertisers deliver much more targeted messages.

Last week, the social network’s long-standing “Like” button was joined by emojis expressing “love”, “wow”, “haha”, “angry”, and “sad” that people can apply to posts and stories in their news feeds.

Facebook Product Manager Sammi Krug said in an official Facebook blog post: “We see this as an opportunity for businesses and publishers to better understand how people are responding to their content on Facebook. Page owners will be able to see Reactions to all of their posts on Page insights. Reactions will have the same impact on ad delivery as likes. We will spend time learning from this rollout and use feedback to improve.”

This move is clearly aimed at boosting revenue for the firm, which earns most of its money from ads. “Like” is far too broad a term and is not always the most appropriate way to show support for content that might be well-written or interesting but is sad in nature, for example. Until now, “Like” was being used to express everything from agreement to condolences. The new reaction choices will let Facebook collect far more nuanced data on how users react to a post.

Advertisers have long strived to get a firm grasp on how people actually react to their ads, and these buttons will essentially do the work for them, providing a powerful analytics tool for Facebook and advertisers alike.

While some have questioned why the firm is limiting responses to just six emojis, the truth is that this gives them six times more information than what was available before, which means the data will be more specific yet not too broad to analyze with relative ease. When an advertiser notices their “angry” responses far surpassing their “love” ones, they can correct the situation quickly without having to take the time to sort through thousands of comments and categorize their sentiments.

Facebook can use this data to personalize feeds so that they remain interesting to users; this is similar to how their software already decides which ads to show users in their feeds. “Liking” something spurs Facebook to show users more of the same content, and the new buttons can hone this delivery even further. Ensuring that users get the content they want – whether they’re looking for something funny, controversial, or uplifting – prevents advertisers’ valuable audiences from clicking away to other sites.

Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews


Writer at Fourth Source.