Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Facebook's new emojis go beyond the "Like"

After months of testing, Facebook took the wraps off of its new "Reactions" emojis this week, and as expected the Internet melted down.

Users have complained for years that "Like" wasn't always an appropriate way to express non-verbal emotion - for example, when your friend's pet just died or she lost her job. So Facebook has finally expanded the list of emojis available to users. In addition to the traditional Like, users can now click on a Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry emoji. too.

After piloting the new emojis in Ireland, Span and Chile, they've been rolled out globally on both the Facebook.com website and in its mobile apps. You'll want to update your mobile app to take advantage of the new capability.

Using them is fairly simple: Just long-press over the bottom of a post on mobile (or hover over it with your mouse on a desktop browser.) A panel with the six emoji options pops up. Select the one you want and voila, you're done! Notifications throughout Facebook have been updated to reflect the number of "Reactions" to a given post, and Facebook displays how many of each a given update has received.

On the surface this seems like a simple extension of the Likes that we've been using for a few years. But behind the scenes, there's a longer-term plan.

Facebook says it "counts" all of the new emojis as Likes. For now. But that doesn't mean that over time it won't start tracking them individually - and then using that knowledge to more closely target ads and other marketing. The fact that Likes (and Wows, and Angry, and...) exist off of Facebook, on partner sites, gives Facebook another powerful avenue to collect user data.

That data is lucrative, and these new emoji are little more than a long-term data play. That's smart business, and we should never be under the illusion that Facebook is doing this to be nice. Facebook is always focused on growing audience, deepening engagement and selling the results to advertisers.

With this firmly in mind, this is another brilliant move by the company to keep us in its world for more time, and to interact with it, and each other, more profoundly.

1 comment:

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

And already, I am feeling annoyed by the new emojis -- instead of just clicking "like" to give quick feedback on a friend's post, I now have to decide if I stick with like (and if I do, does it look like I didn't think about it first?) or if I ought to give more (better?) feedback. Facebook just got more complicated. I hadn't even considered the info-farming behind the change. *sigh*