A regular criticism of social media interactions is that they reduce the world to a singular emotional dimension - I read this thing you just said, and I like it. Or not. Maybe I show that I agree with you by retweeting a thing you just said.
I am of the opinion that the secondary level of interaction is where the real nutritional value of social media lives. We can have a categorical conversation; I can quote you in a retweet and respond to it; I can respond to an image you posted with a link to something relevant. A business can respond to criticism or praise and treat social media as a customer service channel. These interactions are how technology opens the world up, and this has been the net effect of the largest social media platforms whether everyone likes it or not.
Today saw the release of Facebook Reactions, and it scratches a particular itch that’s been itchy for a long time - how many times have you wished for a Love button? (Or, I suppose, seen your Aunt lament that she does not have a Dislike button to apply to a political post or an update about your cousin’s broken arm.) Now you have access to Love - finally - plus Yay, and Sad, and Angry, and HaHa or, as I think of it, roflmaoz. There’s even a Wow in there. Look:
I like them, and I have already seen clients and friends across multiple levels of technological proficiency start using them. I also know that this solves one of Facebook’s biggest existential challenges: how do you show someone that you are aware of something sad that’s happened to them? If a loved one dies, and I post about it, and you Like it, I assume you aren’t actually excited about that person being dead, but that you are trying to show your support or love for me with an insufficient tool. Now, you can show that you are Sad. I will appreciate it and you don’t have to feel weird about how you’ve shown it.
I’m sure that last paragraph sounds insane and like what an alien race might write in a 7 minute class presentation about how humans express emotions, but in this case, I think it has real value. Facebook has replaced many other forms of communication for many people all over the world, and they use it to keep up with friends and family in a centralized place. It doesn’t make the interactions any less meaningful than, say, an email, and it allows you to have social (and / or group) interactions that might not otherwise be possible outside of a family reunion or wedding.
There’s also definitely a value to advertisers. You, as a Facebook user, now have a much more sophisticated and fully-formed toolbox for responding to content from brands. One of the things I love about Facebook is that it enforces standards which try to keep content interesting and prevent spam. They’ve made it almost impossible for a used car salesman to yell at you like he does on TV. You’ve got to get over a bar that requires quality, and compliance, and thought, and planning, and that’s why Facebook feels so different than the rest of the internet. Now, when we run an ad, we’ll not just have information about total engagement, we’ll also have a feeling thermometer. So if a ton of people interacted with our branded content or with an advertising spot, we’ll have a much more accurate idea of how you felt about it.
Finally, Reactions provides an opportunity for you to open Facebook up again. Many of us have hidden posts and blocked Pages and turned the world’s most vibrant social media platform into a closed feedback loop of people that agree with us. But now, I can see an update about Donald Trump saying something insane and I can respond appropriately, in platform, with real data in context… as opposed to just unleashing a rowdy stream of invective.
Well, maybe I’ll do both.