The Real Reason Why Facebook Introduced Reactions

You may have noticed a very interesting feature, that’s been widely liked (or love reacted to) by Facebook users, that has just made its way to messages and comments - FB reactions 😍

It has given users the previously unavailable ability to express their true emotions on social media. When people see cute cat videos, they can express their love. When they see funny prank videos, they can express their laughter. When they see Comey’s testimony - well okay, they haven’t made a reaction for that yet (but I’m sure it’s being prototyped in Menlo Park as we speak).

Rolling out Facebook reactions was a genius idea - but not for the reason you're thinking.

To explain why reactions were created, we need to understand a little bit about Facebook’s revenue model. Facebook’s revenue is primarily driven by advertising - those ads on the right-hand side of your news feed, ads promoting candy crush-esque apps, ads that appear before you can watch that cool BuzzFeed video your roommate shared.

Facebook charges a premium for advertising through its platform, and companies are willing to pay it. That’s because Facebook is the best at targeted advertising.

Let’s say you develop a game for teenagers and call it War of the Worlds. Instead of advertising to the 1.9 billion Facebook users of the world, Facebook lets you do something special.

  1. You can advertise to teenagers.
  2. In Metropolitan cities.
  3. Who have liked the pages candy crush, ninja jump, and jetpack joyride.

You have just narrowed down your targeted advertising audience from 3.7 Billion people to an audience of 50 Million people who are much more likely to download your application.

This is where reactions catalyze the whole model. But let’s connect the dots a little more succinctly, so this makes sense.

See, impactful targeted advertising works based on personality. You want to advertise your product to personalities most likely to buy/download/adopt your product.

Let’s create a (very very basic) personality* for John Smith in 2016:

Screenshot 2017-12-07 13.08.25.png

Personalities determine advertising

  1. Male
  2. 21 years old
  3. Lives in San Francisco
  4. Likes the pages Apple, Android, Bill Gates
  5. Recently liked a video introducing the iPhone 8

Based on this information alone, I know a few things about John. He's young. He likes technology. I have a better idea of what to advertise to him - let's show him ads for phones. He seems like he would like buying an Android or iOS-powered smartphone.

But now, let's introduce reactions into the equation

I now know that John 'loves' every video released by Google that talks about new Android features. John is 'wowed' by the new camera in the latest Samsung phone. John gets 'angry' every time he sees a news article talking about the superiority of Apple products.

Let's show him advertisements for Samsung phones, and avoid Apple products at all costs. He is much more likely to buy a Samsung Android phone, and so Apple doesn’t need to waste their time or money advertising to John.

Screenshot 2017-12-07 13.08.49.png

Facebook understands what you truly like, what angers you, what saddens you, and what makes you laugh. FB has changed the landscape of what it means to understand their users. And once you understand your users, you can offer better-targeted advertising. If you built an app called War of the Worlds, and you’re debating where to advertise to get the most bang for your buck - Facebook just made that decision a very easy one. 

Facebook has strengthened its hold on Social Media advertising and its primary revenue stream by creating reactions.

Introducing Facebook reactions was an incredibly intelligent move on Facebook’s part (even if it was primarily a business move 😉 ).