After more than a year of working to build alternatives to its trademark ”like” button, Facebook's has globally launched emoji “Reactions.”
Users can still respond to a post or comment with the traditional “like” button. But starting Wednesday, holding down the “like” button on mobile or hovering over the icon on desktop, gives users an expanded menu allowing them to choose from six different animated emoji “Reactions”: Like, Love, Haha, Wow Sad or Angry. “Reactions” are designed to be an extension of the “like” button as opposed to a full-on replacement. Users will be notified when their posts receive ”Reactions” in the same way they’re notified about “likes.”
Facebook said it wanted to give users more authentic ways to quickly and easily respond to posts, whether they are sad, serious, funny or happy. Before emoji “Reactions,” users were often put in the awkward position of resorting to “liking” a post about a death or one that expressed frustration or disappointment, without distinction from how one would “like” an engagement photo. “Reactions” should solve this problem.
“We heard from people that they wanted more ways to express themselves on Facebook,” said Facebook product manager Sammi Krug. “When people come to Facebook, they share all kinds of different things, things that make them sad, things that make them happy, thought-provoking, angry. We kept hearing from people that they didn’t have a way to express empathy.”
“Reactions” should also help Facebook boost clicks. Krug said the team was initially concerned that housing “Reactions” behind the “like” button could make the feature difficult for users to find, but that hasn’t been the case. Users who have ”Reactions” have already been responding more frequently to posts than users without them. A bump in Facebook's already strong engagement would be well received by investors, as well as by advertisers, who can learn more about users through data on their emotional response to content.
Before Wednesday, “Reactions” were available in only seven countries: Ireland, Spain, Chile, the Philippines, Portugal, Colombia and Japan. Krug said results from those countries have been highly positive. Individual users are using “Reactions” more and more frequently. In Spain, for example, people’s use of “Reactions” has doubled since October. Love has been the most popular “Reaction” across countries so far.
Krug said the countries were selected to represent a range of cultures and languages to ensure “Reactions” would be understood universally. Facebook used feedback from those markets to fine-tune the feature. The most noticeable change from original tests in those countries was the removal of the “Yay” emoji, which had less appeal and usage as the other “Reactions.” For now, Facebook is launching the “Reactions” without “Yay.”
“The ‘like’ button is so well used among cultures, we really wanted to maintain that,” Krug said. “The ‘Reactions’ we have here are very applicable across cultures. Reactions is really a step in the direction of being able to feel like you can actually imagine how I’m reacting when you post on Facebook.”
Facebook started its research more than a year ago by studying the ways people were already expressing themselves on the social network through stickers and emoticons, as well as through the tenor of comments across the site. Facebook also carried out focus groups and surveys to see how people would react to different emojis. Facebook also worked with professors specializing in non-verbal communication at the University of California, Berkeley to help make the emojis human and relatable.
Krug said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg felt strongly about the company’s need to create some kind of ”empathy” button, and a year ago, formally made a team to address the problem. Zuckerberg was involved in the entire development process, Krug said, from overseeing the emojis’ animations to the expressions on their faces and looking over test data. It was especially important to Zuckerberg that the feature be an extension of “like” button and not a replacement.
Zuckerberg said during a town hall in September that users have been asking for a “dislike” button for years. In the session, he said Facebook has resisted making tools that allow users to easily criticize others, but that Facebook was working on a feature to facilitate the expression of sympathy and negative feelings on the service.
“As you can see, it’s not a ‘dislike’ button, though we hope it addresses the spirit of this request more broadly,” Facebook’s chief of product, Chris Cox, said in a Facebook post when the company announced its test of ”Reactions” in October. “We studied which comments and reactions are most commonly and universally expressed across Facebook, then worked to design an experience around them that was elegant and fun.”
Facebook said it will take a few days for the feature to roll out to all users globally across its iOS and Android apps, desktop and the mobile web. The network’s 1.59 billion monthly active users must have the latest version of the app to see the feature. Animations will be available on Wednesday on mobile and will be on desktop soon, Krug said. Initially, Facebook’s algorithm will weigh the use of any “Reaction” the same way it considers a “like”: Whether someone “sads” or “wows” a post, Facebook will view the interaction as a signal that the user wants to see more of that type of post. Over time, however, Facebook says it may employ a more nuanced understanding of whether users’ “Reactions” mean they want to see that content.
Facebook said it will continue to gather feedback on the feature and could tweak it down the line. While the company doesn’t have plans right now to expand “Reactions” to other Facebook-owned apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, the feature could carry over to other apps in the future.
For more information: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathleenchaykowski/2016/02/24/facebook-no-longer-just-has-a-like-button-thanks-to-global-launch-of-emoji-reactions/#58f090804994