With close to a billion daily active users, there's no denying that Facebook, when paired with a social media analysis service, is a powerful tool for any communication professional seeking to connect with their target market on a global digital stage.
Just how useful is Facebook's 'like' feature?
A digital thumbs up allows users to show appreciation for content, but it does have some limitations.
Part of Facebook's popularity stems from the many ways it enables users to interact with each other. From text-based posts to images, real-time chat to video, the social media platform imposes few restrictions on the way people can express themselves.
However, one feature that has always felt fairly limited is the 'like' functionality. While it does give users a quick and easy way to show their appreciation for a piece of content, its simple, binary nature allows for little in the way of expressive freedom. What's more, given how easy it is to 'like' something, the true value of these interactions to brands is a matter of some debate.
However, this could be set to change, following the announcement that the tech giant has plans in the pipeline that may breathe new life into the 'like' functionality.
The introduction of a 'dislike' button
Facebook is finally making a "dislike" button http://t.co/FF0aMZ4knK
— TIME.com (@TIME) September 16, 2015
Earlier in September, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at a Facebook Q&A that the company intends to introduce some form of dislike button that will give users the option to express different reactions to social posts.
"I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we're working on it and shipping it," said Mr Zuckerberg, as quoted by Time.
The Wall Street Journal explained that, historically, Facebook has been eager to steer away from a 'dislike' button, amid fears that it would lead to widespread negativity across the social media platform. In line with these concerns, Mr Zuckerberg explained that the new button would act as more of an emotional tool than a criticising weapon.
"What [users] really want is an ability to express empathy," said Mr. Zuckerberg. "If you're expressing something sad… it may not feel comfortable to 'like' that post, but your friends and people want to be able to express that they understand."
What does this mean for communications professionals?
How will Facebook's new button affect an organisation's exposure in the digital space?
As social media tracking tools might show, content that gains traction in the form of likes and comments is given higher priority by Facebook algorithms and is thus exposed to a wider audience. Will Facebook begin to take 'dislikes' or other emotional responses into account and begin penalising material with this sort of mixed feedback?
The answer to this question still remains to be seen. Nevertheless, from a communications point of view, the new feature needs to be taken into consideration, and a thumbs down has the potential to be as damaging as a thumbs up is beneficial. A button that gives consumers the ability to instantly express their negative feelings towards a product, service or company could significantly impact a brand's perceived trustworthiness in the digital space.
However, it does also pave the way for some exciting opportunities for communications professionals. For example, the new button and the varied feedback it provides may offer additional insight into the types of content consumers want. When used in conjunction with media tracking tools, savvy communicators may actually be able to leverage it to their advantage and increase brand engagement as a result.