If Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) tests with a next-generation like button in Ireland and Spain go as well as the social network hopes, the "Like" button we've come to know so well will soon be replaced by a handful of emojis users can choose from. But why emojis? As it turns out, Facebook's bet on emojis is based on far more than simple hunch that these will be popular with users. Data suggests emojis are now a prominent facet of online conversations -- and the social network wants in on it.

New Facebook Like Button

Facebook's new Like button, called Reactions. Image source: Facebook

The emoji craze
Emoji use has soared during the past two years, according to data from a recent poll of textPlus users. Users of the app, which allows people to send texts and make calls for free and boasts a 70 million-plus user base, are using emojis more than ever. 

Consider some of these takeaways from the textPlus poll:

  • Nearly 100% of people between ages 13 and 24 said they are using emojis regularly.
  • 31% of respondents said they use emojis "all the time" and 25% said they use them "most of the time" when texting.
  • 32% of respondents said they sometimes have full conversations only using emojis.
  • 3 out of 4 respondents said they use emojis and stickers more today than they did "a year or two ago."
  • 33% of respondents said they would text less often if emojis weren't available.
  • 47% of respondents even said they would text an emoji to a co-worker or boss.

Reviewing this data, it's clear that emojis are becoming a key part of online conversation. Indeed, even Facebook is already using emojis and stickers in its Messenger app.

Even more, with 33% of textPlus' user base saying they would text less often if emojis weren't available, it's possible that Facebook's introduction of emojis could actually boost engagement for the company. And going further, the introduction of emojis could prompt greater engagement from a younger generation that uses emojis "regularly."

Facebook Reactions

Facebook Reactions. Image source: Facebook

Facebook's "reactions"
Facebook's new Like button, which it is calling "reactions," was created partly as a response to a concern from users about feeling uncomfortable when Liking posts that prompt emotions such as sadness or anger.

"As you can see, it's not a 'dislike' button, though we hope it addresses the spirit of this request more broadly," said Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox in a Facebook post.

Reactions users can choose from include the traditional Like, angry, haha, love, wow, and yay.

If Facebook's Reactions button does solicit greater engagement from users -- and a review of textPlus' extensive survey suggests it will -- the introduction of Reactions could pan out to be an excellent strategic move for the company. With the majority of the Facebook's revenue coming from advertising, the more data the social network gets from users, the better. And as an added bonus, the engagement data from users with Reactions will offer more specific information on users since there is more than one response to choose from.

While Reactions may only be in a testing stage today, an undeniable emojis craze will almost certainly usher this test into a global product rollout for all users.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.