This is the first in a series of posts designed to generate conversation (and hopefully some insights) on breaking developments in public relations and marketing. It will be interesting to see how many posts involve Facebook.

What is it?

Facebook is testing Reactions as an easy way to respond to posts beyond liking or commenting. Of course, this includes posts from businesses.

Where is it going?

While Facebook wants more engagement from mobile users, we think this development is a bigger change than it might appear on the surface.

Imagine what is possible when you know how people feel about what you share. And imagine what happens when people react sarcastically to posts (yes, this happens!). Sentiment data has long been a sore subject for content creators and marketers; machines are still poor at deciding how people feel. But can we really trust how people use these emoji reactions? Even though it’s user-generated, will the sentiment be true at scale?

Also, Facebook is everywhere. Their comment system is baked into online news and user data is shared across authentication with other Web services. Where do you think you’d share surprise, anger and sadness outside of Facebook?

Why does it matter?

A few points…

  1. Engagement will grow via Reactions: Facebook wants more of it and so do Page owners.
  2. Targeting will get tighter: Facebook says it will treat these actions similar to Likes; you’ll see them in the insights panel. The open question is how we’ll be able to use the granular sentiment data. Obviously the data will show how users react to content. Will we be able to target perpetually angry users? Sad ones?
  3. Ubiquity will have unintended effects: As individual Facebook users, we are the product. As Page owners, we are likely going to be able to buy attention beyond Facebook into their broader ad network, and content creators will likely bend to the reactions of these users.

So, what do you think? Is this a big deal? What did we miss? How do think it will play out? Join the conversation on Twitter.