With over 1.55 billion active monthly users, Facebook is the largest social platform in the world. This colossal social network has ingrained itself into the social interactions of children, teenagers, and adults alike. Be it venting about a traffic jam, or expressing political views, everyone has a channel to voice their thoughts, show off their possessions, and cry their sympathies.
The interactions within Facebook, and all platforms of social media, follow a complex set of rational and irrational behaviors that are windows into the larger complexity that is human social behavior. These complex behaviors are also shaped by the structure of Facebook, and the executives at Facebook know it! Users have to abide to the communication tools available, whether it is the option to write on someone’s timeline, to like or share a post, or to click you are ‘interested’ in attending an event. “Facebook understands its leading role as an identity platform,” writes Dr. Markus Giesler, marketing professor at Schulich School of Business.
Currently, Facebook’s structure mainly fosters positive behaviors, namely, publicly showing interests through the “like” button. This structure has helped to create what many call a lack of authenticity in the content found in Facebook, as human emotions go far beyond only positivity.
In September of this year, the CEO of Facebook stated that the company was working on a solution that would meet the needs of the larger community, responding to users who requested a dislike button. Later, in October, Facebook launched ‘reactions’ in a test market, which is a set of emojis used to convey six additional feelings such as love, anger or sadness.
This “emotional evolution” of the most iconic tool of social media will extend online social behaviours beyond positivity, and possibly, making interactions more true to the real human behavior.
For marketers, it is key to realize that a wider array of feelings will increasingly be available to be associated with marketing campaigns, which can yield an increase in negative responses to advertisements imposed to users or content that is not appealing. A second key implication lies within the virality of content, as most likely Facebook will change the structure of what becomes more visible to users, and thus, viral.
Some strategies marketers can use to make the most of Facebook’s new emotionally fueled move are:
● Be ready: Start developing content that is adapted to this “emotional evolution”, as it will help to understand faster the implications to different campaigns.
● Explore: As the behaviour outcome is not certain, the only way to get the best results is to be open to explore different moves.
● Be agile: As “negative” feelings can now be more quickly associated with campaigns, a closer monitoring of new content will be needed, considering that no marketer will want his/her campaign associated with 1,000 feelings of online anger right at users’ fingertips, for example.
Everardo Aleman, Swapnil Dadhe, Hailey Halpern, Sanat Kumar, and Rahul Malik are students in Markus Giesler’s Customer Experience Design MBA elective course at the Schulich School of Business, York University.