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Facebook Reactions on Mobile
Courtesy of Facebook

Facebook Won’t Use New Emoticons to Target Users—For Now

Feb 25, 2016

Facebook advertisers love the idea of using the social network's new anger, humor and other emoticon buttons to better target audiences, but they are :( that the company is not letting them do so right away.

The network, with 1.6 billion users, on Wednesday rolled out its new "Reactions" button, which expands the range of emotional responses far beyond the "thumbs up" known as "like." Facial expressions tagged "love," "haha," "sad," "angry" and "wow" now can be used to respond to a post.

But Facebook (fb) will not differentiate between the responses to determine a user's interests when it places ads and other posts in a customer's news feed. All reactions will be counted as additional likes, meaning Facebook will assume that the user wants to see more similar content, even if the person responded with an "anger" emoticon.

Facebook said it would decide later how new reactions should be weighted to personalize news feeds. But that is not soon enough for advertisers, who want to fine-tune their messages now.

"I think we should be able to use it for targeting," said Jonathan Adams, chief digital officer at New York-based Maxus Americas.

"If I am Hillary, I would be thrilled to target people who can't stand Trump right now," he said, referring to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Corporations would be eager to study responses to determine whether chronic users of "sad" or "haha" buttons were more likely to buy different products, for instance, advertising executives said.

Advertisers said they hope Facebook would provide data showing the new range of reactions to posts and ads - to see whether an ad meant to be funny elicited 'haha', for instance - so they could tweak ads accordingly. Facebook distributes such information about 'likes' and has not said whether it would give out information on "reactions."

"There hasn't been much of an opportunity for people who are less vocal on social media to vocalize satisfaction," said Chris Gilbert, senior social strategist at digital agency Kettle.

Advertisers will eventually be able to use the reactions to target audiences, he said. "It's going to have a pretty big impact in understanding our work."

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