Why Marketers Say Facebook’s New Emoji Reaction Buttons Are ‘Long Overdue’

Brand players and agency execs weigh in

Headshot of Christopher Heine

Facebook today revealed a test in Ireland and Spain involving six emoji-based buttons that give users the option to express sentiments other than "like." The new possibilities—which appear alongside the "like" button—include "love," "haha," "yay," "wow," "sad" and "angry."

So far, the business world appears to be in favor of the sentiment buttons, which Facebook calls Reactions. Six of the seven marketers Adweek spoke with were decidedly eager to see the buttons rolled out to the social site's U.S. audience.  

"They'll provide greater feedback," said J.R. Rigley, president and CMO at packaged-goods company J.R. Watkins. "We will know more about how viewers feel about the brand, which could be helpful to us. The con is that they might not like the content. But some of that could be good, too." 


Indeed, when the emojis become permanent fixtures on Facebook worldwide, it will affect marketers because the tallies for like, wow and angry will show how users really feel about the branded content. There appear to be ramifications for Facebook's news feed algorithm, but how exactly that plays out won't be known for some time.

Mike Proulx, evp and director of digital strategy and tech innovation at agency Hill Holliday, said Facebook's emojis reflect how the world in general has embraced the fun-looking ideograms, which got their start in Japan

"A move toward broader emoji-like ways to give instant feedback on Facebook posts is a smart one—and long overdue," Proulx added. 

Jason Stein, CEO at Laundry Service, concurred. "Over time, likes on Facebook became a lightweight, proxy metric."

A richer offering of negative sentiment stats can help social-media specialists do their jobs better, said David Carter, chief creative officer at Mithun. 

"The data will help marketers break down the posts more specifically," Carter said. "It's super easy for someone to click on the 'like' button. But if a person takes the time to select one of several buttons, I'd say that's a higher level of engagement."

It's not a small move by the social network, which for years has shown a predilection for tweaking its platform (sometimes to the chagrin of its users). 

"Facebook has taken a big step towards providing consumers with a louder voice for brands to listen to," said Todd Grossman, CEO at Talkwalker.

And Sean Cullen, evp of product and technology at Fluent, had this take: "I wouldn't be surprised if advertisers gain access to this data over time and start targeting campaigns based on the emotional state of various consumer segments."

Though, not everyone thinks the new options are good for brands. Amy Edel-Vaughn, content developer at EGC Group, said of paid Facebook promos that brands might find themselves buying ads and seeing negative reactions but not being able to respond to them in kind as they have with comments.

"While negative comments can actually help brands open the door to discussions, creating opportunities to offer customer service, clear up misunderstandings and address rumors, a [negative] button would not create the same room for two-way conversations between brands and fans," she said. 

Stein from Laundry Service pointed out that Facebook is likely more concerned with the mobile user experience with its latest iteration.

"Reactions allow for meaningful communication in a split second, which is great for people on the go who may not want to type," he said. 

One thing appears certain: The buttons are coming to a Facebook page near you.

"We'll use the feedback from this to improve the feature and hope to roll it out to everyone soon," wrote Chris Cox, Facebook chief product officer, in a brief post this morning on his personal Facebook account.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.