Facebook knows your feelings

For years the users of Facebook have inquired the social media to supplement the familiar like-button with alternatives such as a ”dislike” button. We now know that this button never came to be but in hindsight Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook obviously never let go of the idea of other ways to interact with content so as of march 2016 reactions were introduced to Facebook.

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With reactions Facebook has introduced 5 additional ways to interact and express emotions towards content. Rolling out reactions Facebook published a blogpost

“We understand that this is a big change, and want to be thoughtful about rolling this out. For more than a year we have been conducting global research including focus groups and surveys to determine what types of reactions people would want to use most.”

As covered Facebook states that Reactions are not meant to completely replace the like function but should rather work as an extension that provides users with more ways to react to content. Facebook will undoubtedly argue that this feature is made for users, giving them a chance to express their feelings better. But analyzing this new feature from a big data perspective it makes you realize exactly how much Facebook will eventually benefit from this feature if when it gets accepted by the crowd. To shed light over this let’s first take a closer look into how the News Feed works.

The News Feed is the heart of Facebook, displaying updates from family, friends and all other things you like or potentially like. The content of our individual News Feeds is neatly personalized so that it fits our taste – or at least personalized the way facebook thinks fit our taste.

How the News Feed determines whether something might be interesting to us or not is not something that is likely to be disclosed anytime soon. However, the product team for News Feed at Facebook has revealed that the News Feed works with hundreds of variables when it decides what content to present to you. So as you can imagine, the News Feed works with a rather complex algorithm when it chooses what content to display to you.

But before Facebook could afford to hire an army of software engineers that could drive the News Feed into what it is today they had to do things much simpler. And how they did this in the beginning was with the like button. A stroke of genius as it was this not only allowed users to interact with content in an easyand simple fashion – It also made it so much easier to produce the algorithm for News Feed now when there was a very strong measure for sorting – Likes.

Suddenly Facebook had a way of measuring what impact different content had on different people. And to make it all better people were willingly helping them in this process.

As brilliant as it was the introduction of the like button had a lot of knock-on effects. Just as well as Facebook were able to see what content created the most traction so were the users. This led to users taking a more scientific approach towards writing status updates and another central issue – How would they ever know how you felt when you decided to click the like button? As of before the introduction of Reactions, Facebook had no real opportunity to know what emotional response you felt when you browsed through the updates on the News Feed.

But with reactions this will potentially no longer be an issue. Facebook will argue that this is because users should be allowed to express another set of emotions symbolized with the new emoticons: love, haha, wow, sad and angry. But as with everything Facebook brings to its users there is a double purpose at work and that purpose involves data. Lots of lots of emotional data contributed by users showing how they feel when they see different content. Imagine a user base of 1.5 billion users willingly informing about their emotional response to different content. Amazing.

This is kind of extraordinary since this provides Facebook with a much more nuanced picture of how users react to any given post. If users adopt the reaction feature this is a major win for Facebook since this ultimately can be the steps towards creating an even smarter News Feed. A News Feed that in the future will deliver just the right mix of different content that will play on all of your emotions. Why would you ever leave Facebook if you could have all your emotions satisfied at that single place?