Remember all that talk of Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) possible new like button, which featured seven emojis instead of a single thumbs-up option? Well, it's now more than buzz. According to Facebook's most-recent update on the feature, the social network is about to launch it across all of its platforms.
"Reactions" is about to go global
The next-generation like button, which Facebook calls Reactions, allows users to choose from a range of emotions, expressed with emojis, including angry, sad, haha, love, wow, yay, and the good ole' thumbs up. The new button would mark a big change from the current button, which sports only a single way to interact with content without typing a response.
Initially available only in Ireland and Spain as a test, Reactions has apparently expanded beyond an experiment to preparations for a major rollout.
"Reactions is going to roll out on every platform," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed during the company's most recent earnings call. "We're testing it in a handful of countries to start, just to make sure that we have the UI and interaction simple enough that people could express more of what they wanted without getting in their way."
Zuckerberg said tests of the new like button are "going well" and that he thinks Facebook will "roll it out everywhere pretty soon."
The button may see some tweaks before it goes global. Facebook is still testing ways to integrate it in the most optimal way. Indeed, Zuckerberg said the company has already made some changes to the initial version of the revamped button.
Why is Facebook's new like button so important?
Reactions is an important evolution of the like button for several reasons.
First, there's the obvious: Only having an option to react with a thumbs up can leave users feeling awkward when "liking" something that actually prompts sadness or anger -- not the emotions typically associated with a thumbs up. This awkwardness has repercussions. Zuckerberg said during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call that this dilemma is the core reason for the next-gen like button:
But the philosophy behind it is that when you only have a 'like' button, if you share a sad piece of content or something that makes you angry, people may not have the tool to react to it and therefore over time the community feels less comfortable sharing that kind of content on Facebook. And we want people to be able to share all of the things that are meaningful to them, not just the things that are happy and that people are going to like when they see it.
Second, the improved like button could boost engagement on the platform. And higher engagement means more data about users for advertisers -- Facebook's bread and butter. Zuckerberg said he believes Reactions will boost both engagement and sharing on Facebook. And he's probably right: There's an undeniable emoji craze.
Third, more options than a thumbs up means the data Facebook does collect on users' interactions with posts will be more specific -- another win for advertisers on the platform. Consider a possible beefed up ad product: Armed with more specific data, Facebook could eventually launch ads targeting users who feel a particular way about given topics.
If rolling Reactions out "pretty soon" means before Facebook's next quarterly report, hopefully the company will provide a useful update during its next earnings call so investors can consider whether or not this could be a meaningful catalyst for building better ad products, and boosting engagement on the platform.