Engagement Reporting: How to interpret the new Facebook Reactions System

Whether you Like, Love, Angry or Sad the new Facebook Reactions system, it's here to stay and it raises some complex questions for community managers. What is a Love? Is it worth more than a Like? Does an Angry Reaction need to be reported as negative feedback? Does it all count toward engagement?

Like, Love, Angry, Sad, Haha and Wow were introduced universally last week as a more diverse range of options for Facebook users' responses. Diversity in feedback gives both users more options to respond, and community managers a headache. While a Like's value stays the same, we potentially need to start to take into account that there is a variable value in the other Reaction responses as they require more effort to submit and have contextually different meaning.

Facebook Reactions Example 1

As a social media agency we try and maintain consistency and clarity in reporting channel statistics back to clients, but the reactions system gives rise to a question in reporting: does it need to be done on a contextual post by post basis?

Imagine you post on Anzac Day as a major supermarket brand, only to receive a lot of Angry Reactions because of the seemingly tactless nature of your content. Now imagine that you're a prominent news agency posting about police brutality, evoking some passionate response from your followers and a large number of Angry Reactions. While both of these situations receive Angry counts that are high, the different context and drivers behind the content mean that Angry has very different implications.

So if we want to try and measure Reactions we're left with a couple of options. Either we try and put a numerical value to each Reaction, so that we can feed them all through and come up with a 'rating' for each post, or we take our time and analyse each post individually throughout the month, reporting on the specific post and its context. One requires a shift in our amalgamating and reporting programs and the way they measure an Engagement Rate, and one requires manual reporting, post by post, that is already giving me palpitations.

We can report contextually on each individual post, deducting Angry or Sad reactions from our engagement rate, combing manually through the data to work out a true and accurate representation of our communities feelings. This holds a lot of value as context is often already lost on a monthly quantitative reporting cycle. A consumer brand having a nightmare week of recalled products may experience their highest engagement ever as consumers complain and react incredibly negatively. The manual effort involved in doing each post, line by line, may be prohibitive as active brands are sometimes posting several times a day, putting out constant content.

Our other option would be to rewrite the way we calculate engagement as an equation. If we were to give a numeric rating to each Reaction, and subsequently to a Comment and a Share, we'd start with a table like this:

Facebook Reactions Table

While this seems a little arbitrary, it's a starting point to how we would measure the value of interactions in a post Facebook Reactions timeline. Reactions factor in higher than that of a single-click like, but still lower than that of a Comment or a Share.

There is also a very strong chance that Reaction use will decline as its initial shine wears off and the process of hovering over the Like button to wait to React becomes something that impatient users aren't willing to put up with. Like all platform changes we need to let it play out for a month or two before leaping up and down, being Wow as a client or being Sad or Angry as a community manager.