What Does Facebook’s Rumored Empathy Button Spell Out?
Facebook filed for IPO in 2011 and hordes of profit mongers joined the board. Maybe it’s only coincidental, but since then Facebook has stalled new innovations. However, with Zuckerberg’s latest announcement, the good old days seem to be coming back.
The “empathy” button
Just few weeks back, Zuckerberg informed us from a Q&A platform that Facebook is working on a button for users to click in reply to posts made by people in their friendlists on disastrous events such as a war or a natural calamity.
Sympathizing not disliking
For a long time, Facebook users have been craving for the “Dislike” button. To their surprise, the empathy button would be different from the rumored “Dislike” button.
The punchline is compassion, not irritation. Users won’t click on the empathy button just to vent out their anger or frustration. On the contrary, they’ll click out of compassion and solitude. Strange as it may sound, this is what Facebook is up for.
What Zuckerberg initially said might raise some confusion; he said; “I think people have asked about the Dislike button for many years…today is the day where I actually get to say that we’re working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it.” It sounds like he’s talking about something that’s close to the “Dislike” button.
But then he said; “We didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create.” This statement cleared all doubts.
Insights for brands
The “empathy” button can deliver brands some useful insights. On today’s date, the interaction between a brand and its audiences is one-way. The new empathy button, however, can change this by making the interaction two-way. Users would be able to put their thumbs up for a branded product or service just as the’d be able to down their thumbs.
If a user doesn’t like a branded product, he’d most likely abstain from liking it on the brand’s Facebook page, that’s all. But there’s no way for them to express their anger or disappointment. Brands want to know what users feel about a product/service; if there’s ratio between positive and negative responses from users, it’d be convenient for them to quantify the level of engagement, which is otherwise difficult.
The data from GlobalWebIndex points at something very interesting. In March this year, 19% of total Facebook users have unliked several brand pages that they have earlier liked. They unliked because they were somehow not happy with the brands. If there was a way for the user to inform the brands that their products/services are bugging them instead of impressing them, they probably wouldn’t have unliked.
The empathy button may help them express themselves more clearly to a brand, and that’s precisely what brands want. They want to know the likes and dislikes of every potential audience.
Not everything is rosy about the empathy button. There are some slippery slopes that a brand needs to cross very cautiously. One such slope is negative publicity; a user might feel pissed about a brand, and slam it openly, resulting in negative publicity for the brand.
Brands these days are pouring millions to set their online reputation management strategies. Such promotional efforts might fly in the face of the empathy button as vitriols might go viral on a social network, causing users nit-pick a brand’s faults.
This innovative style of marketing allows for a connection between a brand and its audiences; it’s a proven, yet sublime connection. Contemporary neuroscience is backing this marketing approach; it states human beings are biologically programmed to crave for sympathy from another human being.
After the gossiped button becomes a reality, it might take empathy marketing to a whole new level. As I mentioned in a paragraph above, quantifying the engagement level is somewhat difficult, which makes the job of an empathy marketer hard. He can use the empathy button as a leverage.
New era in marketing
The empathy button will mark a new era in marketing. Once launched, it’ll turn ordinary expressions of solace and compassion into marketable parameters to measure the success and failure of a brand’s strategies. We can set the ethical issues aside for now, but if this becomes a trend, it’d be very difficult for us to continue doing so.