The new Facebook Emoticons: Thumbs up for Facebook advertising?

Facebook logo thumbs up like transparent SVG
Last wednesday Facebook rolled out it’s new emoticons. A reaction to the complaint that there was no ‘dislike’ button, these new emoticons have been tested in Ireland and Spain since October. Now they’ve been released globally.

In addition to the usual’Like’ response you can now use ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘sad’, ‘wow’, and ‘angry’ tags. To access these new emoticons just hold down the ‘Like’ button on your mobile device or hover above the ‘Like’ button on a desktop computer and the new emoticons will appear. Then you just tap one of the buttons to add the selected icon to the post.

Generally these new options are seen as a good thing. However there is some potential for confusion. During testing there was a ‘yay’ button, but that was dropped as it emerged people didn’t really understand what it represented. Sooner or later some disaster or tragic event will occur and people will want to express how they feel. The ‘sad’ emoticon would seem the obvious response, but it’s expected the ‘love’ emoticon will also see excessive use in this circumstance and will hopefully be an expression of sympathy for the victims and relatives, rather than a ‘I love it’ reaction.

However the new icons don’t only represent an opportunity to better express ourselves. There’s also the use of the emoticons to gather data about how we react to posts. Advertisers will be able to use this data to improve targeting and deliver more effective advertising campaigns.

This data is not available now. Facebook have not revealed when they will make it accessible. Currently every emoticon that is used to respond to an advert will be counted as a ‘Like’. This seems a strange decision as it means for now Facebook will be assuming that you want to see more of the same type of content, even if you’ve used the ‘angry’ icon. Facebook have said they will decide later how the new reactions will affect a person’s newsfeed.

Advertisers were hoping they would be able to take advantage of the new emoticons sooner. For example, you can imagine how useful it would be to have a more accurate way of measuring responses to political advertisements in an American Presidential election year. Each campaign could more easily target people who didn’t like seeing posts from or about a political opponent.

The new icons would also help tweak an advertising campaign. Advertisers could check that an intentionally humorous ad was getting mainly ‘haha’ reactions, or that an ad they assumed would be favourably received was not getting too many ‘angry’ responses. It could also influence ad placement, with advertisers monitoring the icons placed on posts near their sponsored post and moving it away from posts getting’angry’ or ‘sad’ reactions and placing them nearer ones with more positive reactions. This would bring a new dimension to split testing.

Facebook receives over 96% of its total revenue from advertising. Presumably the more information an advertiser has about how we use these new reactions buttons, the better targeted we will be. This means an ad campaign can be made more effective, and that means advertisers will spend more money with FaceBook. I really can’t see this information being kept from advertisers for too long.

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