Changing the way in which we use social networks can often be a very tricky task for the developers behind them. People aren’t massive fans of changes, especially to things that become staples within their day-to-day lives.
It’s likely this is the reason why it took so long before Facebook rolled out its new Reactions, which today has added new dimensions to the classic Like button and potentially change the service in a massive way.
On the surface it’s been an idea that’s been around for a long time and makes sense to be implemented. Liking a post about the death of a loved one or something that enrages you doesn’t really seem the most appropriate way of engaging with the content, but as it’s the only option available it’s something that people do anyway. The idea of a “dislike” button has been around almost as long as Facebook itself, with users wanting a way to show their dissatisfaction with a post as well.
But in Facebook’s defence, creating a way of disagreeing with post does change the nature of the platform. Having a dislike button would be too negative they decided, and certainly it could be used by people in a way that is much more controversial than before.
That’s why the new Reactions have managed to find a middle ground between free reign of expression about the merits of a post or page and keeping things simple to understand – which crucially helps them connect with users and advertisers.
The implementation of the new Reaction is simple, clean and works both on desktop and mobile. On your computer you simply hover over the old like button to see the range of options available to you whereas on mobile you simply tap it to choose your reaction. Nobody is going to struggle with the new concept and it’s going to be used often by the hundreds of millions of people who check their Facebook daily.
Another interesting thing about the new Reactions is that they will be used by Facebook’s news feed algorithm to decide which posts appear first when you log on. Initially any reaction by one of your friends will help nudge it closer to the top, but the company hopes that by collecting data on what people like to see, whether it be posts people find funny or posts people find sad, they will be able to better tailor the News Feed to users’ interests. As a way of shaking up something so fundamental to the Facebook experience which at times has been its’ Achilles heel it is definitely a smart move.
One of the things that may be missed by the wider public with this roll-out is the business decision behind it. Any service that’s available for free means the customer is the product, and Facebook is one of the key examples of that. Facebook advertising makes big bucks, and the algorithms that drive these targeted ads to your home page will now have a new depth of data to work with to bring advertisers into your life.
The new power for businesses on Facebook is a double-edged sword, though, as now people will have the ability to show their displeasure on a company’s posts and pages in new ways – as Facebook have confirmed that they will not be able to block users from reacting with anger or sadness. This hands back a bit of power to consumers who may be under more targeted advertising than ever before, but they can at least voice their opinion back the way as well.
On the whole, Facebook Reactions is a simple but clever way of providing both users and advertisers of Facebook a new way to engage with their platform. It’s one of those rare social network innovations that has the potential to change the service for the better and be welcomed by all parts of its’ community. But like every other social media innovation, it’s up to the test of time whether or not the change is for the better.
But for now, my reaction has to be: