Every movement begins with a moment.
By now you've likely heard about Facebook Reactions, the social pioneer’s new approach to eliciting engagement from users. An extension of the ubiquitous Like button, Facebook Reactions are pleasantly easy to discover and invoke.
"To add a reaction, hold down the Like button on mobile or hover over the Like button on desktop to see the reaction image options, then tap either Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry."
While marketers and analysts have long been on the quest for effective sentiment analysis (example: http://bit.ly/1Q8sRf81852 (pdf) | http://tcrn.ch/1QL6ZKo), our digital reactions remain difficult to decode, and the formats at our disposal leave too much to interpretation.
Even in the era of micro-video (Vine, Instagram, etc.), video still does not lend itself well to passive consumption. We can skim text and retain the parts that interest us, but with video, if you blink, you may miss a crucial context clue.
While very popular on the modern Web — and in the case of Tumblr, almost as valuable a currency as the classic Reblog — animated GIFs are impervious to search without human assistance (think: tags added by the audience). As such, they may lose meaning outside the culture/intent of its originator. Admittedly, that’s sometimes the fun of reaction GIFs.
You know those clever memes or still images overlain with biting, witty text? They are great and engaging, yet they assume a certain familiarity with the image content and likely have little relevance beyond the origin culture. These defy search-ability and therefore, data-mining, rendering them unattractive to data nerds.
There's an under-reported but undeniable movement by publishers away from public comments interfaces. Reader comments are notoriously volatile, potentially offensive, burdened by the cloak of anonymity and are perceived as lacking value. Publishers like The Daily Beast (http://t.co/i1drjWEcEf), The Verge (http://t.co/icTFfpOBRb) and Popular Science (http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments) are abandoning this experiment. There's also the TL;DR (i.e., “too long; didn’t read”) problem.
Enter Facebook to save us all.
Early responses to the Facebook Reactions feature often expressed confusion or disappointment, frequently echoing one big question from users: “Why did Facebook give us Reactions when all we wanted was a Dislike button?” The big answer: “One, because it’s Facebook and two, because Dislike doesn't provide enough information.”
Do you dislike it because you're temporarily in a bad mood? Do you dislike it because it offends your cultural/political/personal sensibilities? Is it a sad post and therefore not “Like”-able? Do you dislike it because you've seen it a gazillion times? Does it strike you as staged/inauthentic? Do you dislike it because it's an ad?
Facebook is wisely betting that the best way to correctly gauge sentiment is to collect it in data-mineable terms from the human source. A simple Dislike button fails to deliver valuable nuance.
This author has long asserted that Facebook wants to be the owner of people’s data, big and small. I have told anyone who will listen that I believe Facebook's popularity will eventually flatline; and while one’s personal presence there will be both customary and expected (sort of like the phone book of yesteryear), it won't be the primary place to spend one’s downtime. Facebook surely fears such a fate and, as such, is smartly doing everything it can to dodge that kill move. And even if Facebook isn’t the most popular platform, it still wants to be relevant — and, preferably, dominant. Toward that goal, Facebook strives to have better information about the motivations of anyone who touches its platform (Facebook user or not). Our emotions/reactions factor very strongly into this pursuit.
With this added dimension to the data layer, Facebook could conceivably:
Further, Facebook could extend its digital insights by associating it with Facial Recognition (does your face match the emotion you're reporting?), voice input “Apple Watch, tell Facebook: This makes me so angry” and biometric monitors (think next-gen input devices).
Facebook won’t give us a way to suppress content or content sources because that would likely be anathema to its ability to get data from us. A simple kill switch turns off the flow of useful information about how it makes you feel.
Lightweight Polling Isn’t New
Many of Facebook’s competitors have explored related mechanisms.
OpinionLab led the charge with their input forms, but they became a dumping ground for recurring appeals for a simple customer service phone number.
Google News & Google Now improved upon that model with their own lightweight polling, gauging your continued interest in content.
Twitter introduced polling in late 2015 (http://bit.ly/1oN4z1G).
With the arguable exception of OpinionLab’s Comment box, the above examples of lightweight polling lack the ability to capture why people feel a certain way. Leaving that crucial element open to interpretation relegates one’s data insights to the dustbin of relevance.
I’m deliberately avoiding mention of Apple Watch’s heartbeat and emoticon messaging because we’ve yet to see that converted into any meaningful data.
So What Happens Next?
Facebook’s approach isn’t perfect. We’re already seeing social mentions of ways to enhance its value (see above), but in my estimation, it’s currently the game to beat. Smart marketers will regard Facebook Reactions as an important experience opportunity to leverage for the clients we serve and the digital experiences we build — especially as a way to gain insights into the perceived value of the experience “moments” that we create.
Just curious... do you see facebook reactions becoming a valuable metric for content creators, be it professional news outlets, corporate marketing teams, or amateur bloggers? Will our analysts be breaking down reactions in their reporting for clients to provide more granular detail into performance?
I think you are spot that this will be great for Facebook's own agenda of world domination, but I'll be interested to see how other companies utilize the functionality.
The links in paragraph 3 are broken.
Here are the full url's, in context.
"While marketers and analysts have long been on the quest for effective sentiment analysis (example: http://www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/ICWSM/ICWSM10/paper/viewFile/1441/1852 (pdf) | http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/03/twitter-raises-its-enterprise-cred-with-thomson-reuters-sentiment-analysis-deal/), our digital reactions remain difficult to decode, and the formats at our disposal leave too much to interpretation."
Hey Jamie, thanks for the feedback.
I believe marketers will take Facebook's first shot as an inspiration to try their own experiments.
I expect to see brand-specific implementations of this data collection, both macro (how have the first 2 weeks of Roomba ownership been?) and micro (How do you feel about your the state of your floors now that you have a Roomba?) levels.
Or, consider how a consumer-facing financial service provider might gain emotional data from customers regarding their financial health, thereby triggering relevant follow-up.
On another note, AdWeek wrote about the desire for good data interpretation back in June, 2015, but they were focused on emojis.
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