Will the addition of emoticons (emojis) to Facebook's 'Like' button be a positive move for businesses?

David Bryan, MD of Opace, explores whether the new emojis are a positive move for businesses and users on Facebook, or whether they have simply been introduced with an ulterior motive in mind

One of the most recent Facebook updates, introducing ‘Emoticons’ or ‘Emojis’ reaction buttons, has been brought in to widen user’s ‘Like’ functionality and interaction with their fellow peers, friends and pages. It is something that some users have been waiting a long time for, and while some are still asking for a ‘Dislike’ button, generally the new Facebook emoticon buttons have been received well. However, it appears that the introduction of the new Facebook emojis may also have a more hidden motive behind them as well. 

The new Facebook emojis (reactions) explained

The new Facebook emojis, or ‘reactions’ as they’re also called, have recently been introduced after being tested back in October 2015. Alongside the traditional ‘Like’ button that we are all used to they have also introduced ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’ and ‘angry’.

Users have been asking for a ‘Dislike’ button for a while as well, but there has always been a lot of pushback on this, mostly because a ‘Dislike’ button may not convey the correct emotion. However, if someone has posted up a status about a funeral or a pet passing away, a ‘Like’ button doesn’t quite fit either. Therefore, with the range of new emoticons, Facebook claims to be allowing users a greater choice when expressing their emotions to help get their point across better and to help them empathise with the person they are reacting too. This seems fair, right?

Source, Bangor University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca8t9JMxLwc

Is there a hidden motive behind Facebook emojis?

As well as allowing users more functionality, the buttons have also been introduced by Facebook to harvest further data on their users. With this data, they can specifically personalise what content they show to each user, therefore increase time spent online. Facebook have always allowed for the collection of data in what their users were viewing and ‘liking’, but now they can get to understand their users on a much deeper and more emotional level. What do they ‘love’ so much that it warrants the use of a different button to what they’ve used to before? What makes them ‘angry’, so angry that they don’t want to see it on their timelines?

Facebook for business – how do the new emojis help?

The benefits of the new Facebook emojis for businesses are obvious; it’s an ingenious marketing strategy and with hundreds of thousands of emojis used already on Facebook in posts and Apps, it’s becoming more and more like a tool for business as each update passes.

With the introduction of these new reaction buttons, businesses will quickly be able to tell which content they need to produce more of, and which content hasn’t quite clicked with their wider community. Generally, businesses collect this data through surveys and feedback forms, but if we’re honest, who has time to fill them out anymore? Users, however, can use emoticons to display their emotions quickly without even realising they are essentially filling out a much shorter feedback form. The new emojis and benefits of data-harvesting are not the first instance where Facebook have tried to merge the worlds of social media and business closer together.

On a side note, Facebook will be introducing Ads to its Messenger App

We have seen this through targeted sponsored advertising on Facebook, and now through the announcement that Facebook will be introducing ads to its Messenger app. While Facebook have claimed that these won’t be ‘ads’ and will instead be ‘marketing’, they will be allowing users who have previously contacted a page on Facebook to be directly contacted by that business through Messenger. What the limits will be to this are still yet to be revealed, but it’s clear Facebook are capitalising on the large amounts of user data and user interaction they have.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did say in 2014, after acquiring WhatsApp, that he doesn’t believe ads are the correct way to monetise messaging applications. WhatsApp’s CEO Jan Koum also supported this view in 2012 when he wrote: “Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought”, but that they are also a huge waste of resources. However, Facebook’s investors will be pressurising Zuckerberg to introduce further ways for the social media giant to churn out revenue given as of yet there are no forms of advertising or marketing on the Messenger app. With over 800 million monthly users, it’s an obvious market to tap into, and some small updates have already been introduced, for example users can book an Uber using an address from the app.

Conclusion

For businesses using Facebook for their B2B marketing, the upcoming and recent changes discussed above could be extremely beneficial; they allows businesses to target and interact with their users in ways that they haven’t previously been able to. They can reach new audiences, gather new data and develop an effective social media strategy around this. However, businesses must still make sure that they are targeting potential customers correctly, both within Facebook and outside it. Not all users will use the new emoticons and not all users will contact Facebook pages, so these two updates cannot be relied upon completely.

Facebook is still an incredible resource to tap into for businesses and a great tool for B2B digital marketing if used correctly, but reaching through to wider audiences isn’t always easy. Social media marketing needs to be delivered with a clear strategy in mind. Marketing campaigns need to consider other social channels too, so they're not relying on one single source and placing all of their eggs in one basket. Such channels might include Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and more recent platforms such as Vine and Snapchat, to really have an impact. Of course, they must also remember to produce equally effective content as well as to make the most of these social media channels and that means using a range of visual media (images and video) as well as text.

An integrated strategy such as this may include blogs, whitepapers, e-books, podcats, PR/news, photography, infographics and video, to name just a few. By joining up various marketing channels, strategies and content types, businesses have a much better chance of achieving the overall results they are looking for, providing there is an underlying strategy coordinating these efforts to deliver a common goal. The use of emojis will allow businesses to gain better insight into which content and strategies are working best for them. It is clear that Facebook is becoming more and more targeted at businesses. With over one billion users, businesses that don’t make use of the social media platform and make use of updates such as the Facebook emojis, risk falling behind. 

Main image credit: Frank Behrens