The 24th of February ’16 is going down in the history books. After several campaigns of Facebook users requesting the platform to enable different options (e.g. a dislike button), Facebook introduced this new function yesterday (see the video). The emoticons are called reactions, and enable all users to express their feelings towards a post with the following emoticons: Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry. Their expressions are quite straight forward, and add a lot of new options as extension to the traditional Like, that is still available.
How does it work? It is almost as quick as ‘liking’ a post on Facebook before the update. However, if you want to add a different emotion to it, you hold on the the button a little longer to show and select one of the other reaction options. Facebook choose to keep the default on ‘Like’, they do not give a reason for that but the best reason is probably that users need to get used to the changes. Keeping ‘Like as the default will mean that customers do not have to change their use of the platform if they do not want to.
But is it going to change the use of Facebook? I cynically wrote the comment about the history books, as people were able to express their emotions with for example reactions in the comments before. However, these reactions enable users to quickly show their feelings towards a post. But there are some differences between commenting and ‘liking’ on a post. These differences can be compared to the Word-of-Mouth (WOM) class we had, where the difference between a review and a rating are described.
This topic is more related to the electronic version of WOM, called eWOM. eWOM is defined as “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual, or former customers about a product or company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions via the Internet” (Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004). The communication on Facebook is both between people as a social communication and between companies and customers. Making it a complicated but also interesting interaction.
I want to compare it between reviews and ratings. Both companies and customers add content to the platform. They are also able to respond to the content to others; either with a short and fixed rating, the reaction buttons, or a self-written and more personal approach, the comment. Ratings and reviews work in the same way, and have their pro’s and cons. Ratings or ‘liking’ costs less effort, is easy to understand and can be aggregated better at higher volumes, compared to reviews. However, reviews and comments tell more about the actual reaction of a person, so they give better insight in why a person feels that way (King et al. 2014). As Facebook is a social network that is used for personal connections as well, the community engagement of leaving a ‘like’ might be important. However, this gave some issues with posts about sensitive subjects such as a refugee crisis or sad post of a friend. You want to show your support, but it was a different emotion than liking it. They used to do so with a comment, however the new reactions enable customers and friends to show their emotions in an even simpler (less effort) and faster way.
This all taken together, what will be the advantages of this update for Facebook? In an article of Time, from last year, the author wrote about the possibility of the ‘Dislike button’ and explained what that giving the users more options to respond to a post would alter the platform in multiple ways. First, ‘Liking’ was binary, you either gave a ‘like’ or you did not (Luckerson 2015). It was used to come up with trending posts for your News Feed. Aggregating these new reactions can make it more difficult. Facebook will need different big data tools to come up with the best News Feed in the future. However, it also opens up new possibilities. Leading to the second change, and an important one from both personal as business perspective. Facebook is commonly used as a distraction place, you scroll on your newsfeed and check out what is happening in the world. But these reactions go further, you are able to share emotions, and receive emotional reactions from others. Meaning that we are able to communicate on a more emotional level on Facebook, and in the long term, spend more of our time and share more of our life on Facebook. Making it a better social network, but more important (from business perspective) leads to more interaction, ads, market value and more dollars (Luckerson 2015).
What looks to us as a cool, long awaited feature of a few emoticons, can actually be very lucrative for Facebook and its commercial partners. Then again, it also adds to the utility of the platform for us as users. Making it an interesting update, I would like to see some research on in future.
Hennig-Thurau, T. et al., 2004. Electronic word-of-mouth via consumer-opinion platforms: What motivates consumers to articulate themselves on the Internet? Journal of Interactive Marketing, 18(1), pp.38–52. Available at: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1094996804700961 [Accessed July 9, 2014].
King, R.A., Racherla, P. & Bush, V.D., 2014. What We Know and Don’t Know About Online Word-of-Mouth: A Review and Synthesis of the Literature. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 28(3), pp.167–183. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1094996814000139 [Accessed July 9, 2014].
Luckerson, V., 2015. Here’s Why Facebook Wants a “Dislike” Button | TIME. Sept. 15 2015. Available at: http://time.com/4035551/facebook-dislike-button-zuckerberg/ [Accessed February 26, 2016].