A short history of Facebook reactions

Back in February 2016. Facebook reactions were added to the News Feed in the form of emojis, as a long-awaited alternative to the famous Facebook ‘’Like’’ button. However, the first public reaction was not as great as planned. People haven’t used the new emojis a lot. Their primary choice of reacting to newsfeed content was still a familiar ‘’thumbs up’’ or a ‘’Like’’.

According to the research done by Quintly in 2016., only 2.4% of all interactions with content was through the new Facebook reactions emojis. All the other interaction was made through the Likes, shares, and comments. You may ask why are we talking about the 2016.? Well, we wanted to emphasize how much the situation has changed in the last two or so years.

Since that long gone 2016., Facebook reactions have not only stayed on the platform. They’ve become an essential part of it. They impacted its newsfeed algorithm.


Why the need for reactions?

Reactions were first released as a response to many pleads directed to Facebook to include a ‘’dislike’’ or a ‘’thumbs down’’ button in its newsfeed. Considering the public opinion, Facebook assigned a special team for this task. The result was something even better. A full spectrum of emojis with which you can react to any Facebook post, comment or, added later, a friend’s inbox message.

The emojis include six different emotions: Love, Ha-ha, Wow, Sad, Angry, and, the classic Like. This was a well needed Facebook innovation. Some tragic life events like deaths, break-ups or other situations which people often share on their profiles just weren’t a likeable content. Even so, people wanted a way to express feelings on Facebook without writing a comment.

The good thing was that the new Facebook reactions function precisely the same as Likes. You just need to hold down the Like button. The reactions menu will appear above it. There, you can easily choose the best fitting emoji to the post you want to react to. You can only add one type of reaction per post. Understandably so. Available emotions are quite different from each other, so you won’t really have a dilemma between choosing love or angry emoji as your reaction.

How do Facebook reactions affect your Page visibility?

How do they impact the Facebook algorithm?

Now we’re getting to the critical part. In 2017., Facebook had finally confirmed the rumour that Facebook reactions have an actual impact on how your newsfeed is updated.

“Over the past year we’ve found that if people leave a reaction on a post, it is an even stronger signal that they’d want to see that type of post than if they left a Like on the post,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “So, we are updating News Feed to weigh reactions a little more than Likes when taking into account how relevant the story is to each person.”

Why so? Well, reacting with a reaction emoji takes an extra step which a user needs to take in order to show their emotion. While merely liking a post shows to Facebook that it’s a content you’re interested in, responding with emotion, sends an even stronger signal and shows a deeper level of user engagement.

On our blog, we recently wrote an article, Facebook posts without paid Facebook reach are (almost) useless, where we talked about the drop in organic posts reach. So, it’s not hard to conclude that any form of better visibility of your page should not be taken for granted.

It’s important to mention that Facebook still stands with its statement that all reactions are weighted the same. Whether you’re reacting with ‘’love’’ or ‘’sad’’, the algorithm will still be impacted the same. Yet, stronger than if you would have reacted with a simple Like.

What does that mean for your Facebook page?

Well, it means you need to work harder on creating content engaging enough to encourage your followers to leave their reaction on your post. By doing so, the algorithm will automatically award your Facebook page. It will put it more often on concrete user’s newsfeed as it will be recognized as something that he or she enjoys more than other content available on Facebook.

Once again, there’s not yet a distinction made between emotions shared on Facebook. Don’t expect that you won’t see anything from a Facebook page to which posts you always react with an angry emoji. On the contrary, that is a content which will appear more often on your newsfeed. A little bit confusing, we must admit.


So, to get the wanted reactions, you need to be creative. If you need some inspiration, read our blog post about the Top 10 solutions for inducing creativity. In the end, always make sure to encourage your followers through the post copy. Remind them to use reactions. Include a voting post in your monthly content schedule where users can vote by using the Facebook reactions. The more your users get accustomed to using reactions on your post, the more visibility your content will get in future. So, remember to use this option wisely.


Darija Ilić

CM at Kontra agency, journalism and PR major, animal lover and travel enthusiast.