Will Facebook give marketers analytics for Reactions?

Warning: this content is older than 365 days. It may be out of date and no longer relevant.

UPDATE: The answer is yes, in the new Facebook Reactions API.

Marketers want Facebook Reactions analytics for more precise sentiment analysis. Will Facebook give it to us? Yes.

First announced last fall, Reactions are now available to all Facebook users. Instead of simply choosing to Like a status, Facebook users can now choose a variety of different reactions such as Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry:


These Reactions currently have no granular impact on Facebook’s reporting; in your Page insights, they all show up as a Like count in the data export:

reactions show up as all Likes.jpg

However, marketers are clamoring for individual Reaction types in analytics. Why? Sentiment analysis is notoriously unreliable. It’s difficult for machines to understand context and tone. Imagine you work at Brand X. Your main competitor is Brand Y. Suppose you see this Facebook post:

“Brand Y totally sucks. I really hate them. They ignored me the last time I called in. I’m going with Brand X. At least their service doesn’t completely suck.”

A machine will score this as a negative sentiment post. It is – but against Brand Y only. Machine understanding of natural language still couldn’t effectively parse this as a post in support of Brand X.

Suppose, however, we could get Reactions data and it was filled with Angry. Would we have a better understanding of sentiment? Yes. What if all the reactions were Haha or Love? That group reaction might show the comments in a different light.

Are there any indications Facebook will give us this data? Possibly. Let’s dig into some technical details. First, in your Facebook Page Manager (or Business Manager if you’ve converted over), you’ll note that Posts now have Reactions broken out:


This is the first serious hint Facebook may provide rollup reporting on different Reaction types. Note as well that Facebook classifies all Reactions as Likes here, rather than serious negative feedback (at the bottom right side).

What else hints at Facebook providing Reactions data? We can turn to the post itself, in the code. Here’s what the ugly source looks like:


If we clean it up and search for Reactions, we start to find some gems. Look how Reactions are stored on page:


This is an array, which is a useful way of storing data for tabulation and later analysis. Note that Facebook is doing the math right in the code, counting up reactions.

Facebook even has Reactions stored which are not live, such as Dorothy, Toto, and Confused:


This hints at future expansions of Reactions; by storing Reactions data as an array, Facebook can add or change Reactions down the road very easily – and the data accompanying them.

What should you do as a marketer? For now, keep an eye on your Facebook posts by overall Likes. Take a careful look at your top 10% of posts with high Like counts and dig into the Reactions by hand. Are your posts garnering regular Likes, or are they garnering Angry?

If you’re a marketing technologist, reconfigure your social media monitoring databases with a new index to accommodate Reactions by type and count. You’ll be well-prepared for when Facebook makes the data available.

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