Why PR Practitioners need to react to Facebook’s Reactions

Back in November, I wrote THIS article about the new Facebook reactions feature. I still wasn’t prepared when I opened up my Facebook app yesterday and suddenly saw the reactions on my own dashboard. My face probably looked fairly similar to the “Wow” face.

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Photo Credit: Adweek

With my public relations background, I immediately began to think about the negative side of this reactions bar. The reactions are beneficial in giving companies better insights into what their publics are thinking- do they love or hate the company? Are they giving your post ‘Love’ or ‘Angry’?

How are companies going to handle getting negative reactions on their posts? Instead of just negative comments, posts can have large numbers of ‘Angry’ or ‘Sad’ reactions. Negative comments are sometimes buried deep within the chain of comments, but ‘Angry’ reactions will be prominently displayed at the top of the post, showing everyone the 118 ‘Angry’ people who didn’t like your post. If a company is being transparent, it wouldn’t be deleting negative comments anyway, but there’s no way to hide the ‘angry’ reactions people give your post without deleting the post entirely.

And this will change the way public relations practitioners will engage with Facebook.

It’s no longer a simple ‘Like’ or ‘Comment’. These are reactions. It goes beyond whether or not people are engaging with your posts, but how are they reacting? And not just how are they reacting to your posts, but how are they reacting to your company?

Before reactions, people often ‘liked’ posts simply to show whether or not they wanted to engage with a company. It was more of an acknowledgement than it was an accurate expression of whether or not someone actually ‘liked’ the post. The Facebook reactions tool provides a more accurate representation of the publics thoughts and feelings. This in turn will help companies “gather much more nuanced data on how users are reacting to any given post”.

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Photo Credit: The Verge

As reported by the Verge, Facebook Reactions helps fill the gap of a lack of nonverbal cues that occurs with digital communication. Much of our communication is nonverbal- our facial expressions, our gestures, and our body language. Emojis are so popular because they show the facial expressions people are unable to show with a text. Facebook Reactions does the same thing.

When creating the new reactions tool, Facebook wanted to make sure to keep away from anything too negative, such as a simple dislike button, but wanted to find a tool that was universally useful to all users.

Reactions is not by any means a new internet feature. Across the internet, users make reaction videos on YouTube, use reaction gifs on various internet sites, and repurpose other users work.  The interesting part of the tool will be how companies use it to their advantage, and how PR practitioners adapt it to their field.

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