Facebook Reactions: Everything You Need To Know #smlondon

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Back in October 2015, Facebook’s CTO Bret Taylor came out publicly stating that Facebook would never have a dislike button to mirror the infamous and symbolic like button. The reasoning behind this is to avoid a Reddit style up-vote system, Facebook also fear that it would generate a negative atmosphere.

They did however, come out saying that they are going to expand the Like button and introduce Reactions:


When Facebook introduced the Like button in June 2010, the purpose was not so users could randomly and aimlessly interact with content, Facebook wanted to streamline the user experience for people who wanted to express that they liked the content, but didn’t have enough to say to justify a comment – before the Like button they posted one worders like ‘cool’, ‘wow’ and ‘awesome’.

So over the last five years we’ve become like chasers, we’ve adopted the thumbs up symbol and recognise it on a global level. So now, with six more options to choose from, are we ready for this level of emotion?

This post aims to be the ‘everything you need to know’ about Facebook’s latest feature including what they are and why Facebook has introduced them, how to use them correctly as a user and what impact/opportunities they present brands.

What & why:

This feature has been tested over the past few months and while it necessarily isn’t a new feature (rather an expansion of an existing one), we now can long press the ‘Like’ option (or hover over on desktop) and express ourselves on a wider spectrum. Rumour has it Mark Zuckerberg called the Facebook team into a room and acted upon user feedback, based on the fact that not every status shared on Facebook is likeable, but evokes an emotion.

We’ve already experienced the phenomenal rise of the Emoji and how they are disrupting our language, but there are a lot of Emojis – in fact according to Emojipedia there are 845 emoji characters in total – which in comparison to the world’s smallest language, Toki Pona (which consists of only 123 words), is a lot. So how did Facebook narrow the vast range of emotion down to six? So they fit nicely on a single line, easy to use and not much more effort than liking a piece of content.

Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post on launch day said:

Not every moment you want to share is happy. Sometimes you want to share something sad or frustrating. Our community has been asking for a dislike button for years, but not because people want to tell friends they don’t like their posts. People wanted to express empathy and make it comfortable to share a wider range of emotions.

The answer? They enlisted the help of UC Berkeley Social Psychology Professor, Dacher Keltner. Keltner worked as a consultant on the movie Inside Out and had worked with Facebook to develop Stickers, which was introduced to the Messenger App in 2014.

Initially, Keltner told Facebook they needed twenty to twenty-five different emoticons to cover a wide range of emotions. But this was too many – this would make the user experience clunky and be a much greater engineering process, so they decided to use the data available to them and focus on the most used Stickers and sentiment themes across the platform, and established the six: Love, Haha, Yay, Wow, Sad and Angry. Yay didn’t make the final cut.

They then drew up different versions of the reactions, and started testing them in various countries, working on the design of the emoticon as they needed to be universal and leave no uncertainty as to what they mean.

In order to integrate these into the interface, only the ‘top 3’ most selected appear at the bottom of a post with an accumulation ‘Reaction Total’:


Looking past the narrative and PR about this being a move to expand Facebook’s emotional palette and offering, it’s just a big push to increase post engagement. Increased engagement isn’t a bad thing, it ultimately means that over time the content you see will become more relevant and more personalised.

How to use them:

Reactions present users and brands with a great opportunity to further emote themselves on the network, but they run the risk of being used incorrectly and inappropriately, and if used in the wrong way, you run the risk of annoying your friends and followers.

So, in my opinion, this is how you should use these new emotion outlets:


The purpose of this emotion is to enable you express that you find someone’s post funny, without the need to comment. Use it when someone posts a meme, or a joke – it’s even acceptable to use it when someone goes on a one man mission to right the wrongs in the world (or more specifically the train they get to work).

It’s never ok to use this however when someone posts about personal loss (goes without saying) and you should also avoid using it sarcastically – there’s nothing more awkward when someone does something sarcastically and the joke is lost on everyone.


This is for when you more-than-like something. The love sticker was the most used sticker in Facebook’s Messenger app and while the temptation may be there to make this your default go to and replace the like, I would recommend holding off a bit and use it sparingly.

You don’t want to become known as a chronic lover or accidentally cause friction amongst your friends by loving everyone’s post, then only liking Alan’s… (sorry, Alan).


Wow should be used for, well, moments of amazement – like if one of your friends passes an exam or climbs Everest – it’s a wide spectrum. It’s nice to let people know that you appreciate them and their achievements. Again, I would avoid using this sarcastically.


This reaction needs no real explanation, it is the perfect replacement for the like button if someone shares something that, isn’t happy.


A tricky one – do you use this to express your displeasure at what someone has shared, or do you use it to agree with someone who is angry? Both.

However I would advise using the angry reaction if you’re in any doubt.

How will this affect your page?

These reactions should not be seen as a threat. If someone decides they want to use inappropriate reactions on your content, let them – people who have genuine complaints will continue to post on your Page’s wall or comment on statuses. They are an opportunity to gain a greater insight into how your content is being received by your audience.

As a page owner, you can see a breakdown of the reactions your posts have received in your Facebook Insights:


Reactions will also have the same impact on ad delivery as likes have done previously. For the time being – until Facebook make’s any changes – brands and pages should continue to focus on posting great, engaging content as they have done previously and learn from the reaction feedback you get – just don’t go love chasing!

[Featured image: Bakhur Nick / Shutterstock.com]

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Dan Taylor

Account Manager at SALT.agency
Dan is a Technical SEO Consultant & Account Manager @ SALT.agency in Leeds. He enjoys all things digital, Hull City and gin.
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Dan Taylor

Dan is a Technical SEO Consultant & Account Manager @ SALT.agency in Leeds. He enjoys all things digital, Hull City and gin.