What Facebook 'Reactions' Will Mean for Savvy Marketers

Three Ways Brands Can Take Advantage of New Emojis

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Happy? Sad? Excited? Angry? Facebook is opening the door for people to express their emotional reactions with just one tap on their mobile device. The aptly named "Reactions" feature was announced just days ago by Facebook, for the primary purpose of making it easy for users to express an empathetic response to a post, aside from the "like" button. Six new emoji faces will be labeled "love," "haha," "yay," "wow," "sad" and "angry."

Facebook 'Reactions' buttons
Facebook 'Reactions' buttons

For brands, this feature unlocks a massive opportunity to not only understand what consumers are feeling, but why they are feeling it. According to Forrester Research, emotional experience accounts for almost half of customer loyalty to a brand, while cognitive loyalty accounts for only about a third. "Emotion was the No. 1 factor in customer loyalty across 17 of the 18 industries that we studied," said Forrester analyst Megan Burns.

Here are three ways savvy marketers can take advantage of Facebook "Reactions:"

1. Understand the drivers of customer emotion.
While Facebook will likely offer some analytics around the number of likes, loves, wows and sad faces, businesses need to take this data to the next level and pair it with associated comments. With text analytics, businesses can interpret large volumes of free-form customer feedback. When coupled with the data from Facebook reactions, this data will reveal the "why" behind the emotion, even with thousands of comments.

For example, a customer named Katie responds to a post about a new electronics product by hitting the angry button. She also leaves a comment in which she describes her frustration with the battery life of this new item. Pairing this comment with this angry reaction becomes a key data point in understanding the drivers of anger.

Meanwhile, customer Steven hits the love button and comments about how easy the product is to use. This is one data point that correlates love with ease of use.

It's important to note that the "Reactions" feature is designed to make it easier for mobile users to react without having to type a comment on their device. This means that comment volume may decrease as a result. It's therefore more critical than ever to analyze all of the comments that a brand's post does receive, and tie those comments to their corresponding emoji reactions in order to better understand customer sentiment.

2. Make business changes that matter.
The ability to understand the drivers of customer emotion is a critical first step in making changes to the business that improve the overall customer experience. This feedback data is immensely valuable in driving decisions across the entire business.

In the example above, both comments were focused on the product itself. But what about the marketing campaign running to support the product? Do customers love it or does it somehow rub them the wrong way?

What about customer support for the product? When Steven calls the customer service line, can he quickly reach someone that can solve his problem? Further, front-line operations teams can also use this new data to make sure they are providing a positive in-store experience when selling the product.

Overall, marketers managing a brand's Facebook page will soon have access to even more insights about the drivers of customer emotion, and that's extremely valuable to the business at large.

3. Engage and respond with empathy
"People aren't looking for an ability to down vote other people's posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Just as Facebook users are looking for a way to express empathy, they are also looking to receive it from businesses when they take the time to provide feedback. Timely and empathetic engagement is a critical piece of the customer experience.

Emotionally intelligent businesses have a process for immediately understanding and prioritizing customer feedback (such as Facebook comments, tweets, survey responses, and reviews) and responding in a timely, empathetic way. We like to call this whole-brain thinking -- that is, combining facts with emotion to engage the customer on an emotional level.

Even without the Facebook "Reactions" feature, businesses that truly understand how their customers feel can do this today. For example, a hotel brand announces on its Facebook page that it's offering a special discount for Thanksgiving weekend. A customer comments that he is annoyed because he can't get the discount code to work when making online reservations through the mobile app. The hotel's social media team prioritizes this comment over other comments because response time matters and responds back with an apologetic response and a solution for the customer's issue. It then flags this issue for the product team so the technical issue is corrected to prevent the same reaction from additional customers. That's putting factual data together with emotional data to drive action. That's whole-brain thinking.

Overall, Facebook "Reactions" represents a huge opportunity for businesses to gain even more insight into the customer experience. When used smartly, this new data source can power everything from marketing strategy, product enhancements, customer service improvements, and social customer care processes. Now is the time for marketers to develop a plan to process this new stream of customer data so they can take advantage of it at launch.

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