For years, Facebook users have been begging for a dislike button, primarily so they can have a way to show support to their friends who post unhappy statuses without having to comment. Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his team was working on the very thing so many users have been clamoring for.

Sort of.

Zuckerberg describes the new functionality as more of a way to express sympathy than straight dislike for something, leading many to refer to it as the “empathy” button. Introducing this new feature is a careful balancing act between giving users what they want without creating a system where people are able to down-vote the posts they don’t agree with. While no one knows exactly what form this functionality will take, it’s been suggested that the use of emojis could play a major role.

Although this may not appear to impact business pages on the social media platform on the surface, the potential certainly exists. To take a deeper look into how the “empathy” button may impact business pages, MarketingLand spoke with several marketing experts, turning up mixed reactions to the coming change.

While Jan Rezab of SocialBakers didn’t see much impact on Facebook Pages, Kevan Lee of Buffer viewed it as an exciting step that would potentially allow marketers to learn even more about their audience, providing the opportunity to better create marketing messages that were in step with consumer sentiment.

Emeric Ernoult of AgoraPulse didn’t feel that it would by any means drastically change the way businesses run their social media pages, but he did agree that the potential for more data was a positive step. Since page owners only have information on how many people unfollow the page, hide a post or report the post, giving users the ability to express more negative emotions about content can help marketers understand whether a problem truly exists with the content or if the user was simply attempting to unclutter their newsfeed.

And the potential for enhanced data doesn’t stop there. According to Nate Elliott of Forrester Research, “it could one day let marketers target fans based on those fans’ relationship with the brand.” Depending on just how this new functionality plays out on Facebook, it could provide brands the opportunity to find out which of their followers respect or love their brand as opposed to simply staying connected to the brand out of necessity. The beauty of having this type of information is that marketers could show different content to users based solely on how they feel about the company.

Of course, the “dislike” or “empathy” button leaves a lot of room for bad user behavior, warns Katy Keim of Lithium. She believes that while Facebook’s intentions may be pure, this enhanced functionality could lead to:

  • Brand shaming
  • Bullying
  • Reduction of quality comments
  • Replacement of nuanced opinions with an oversimplified emoji.

Finally, Lynette Young from ClaimWizard takes a more disturbing view of what could happen if this type of data was given to marketers. She wonders if this opens up the potential for users going through unhappy or tragic circumstances to be bombarded with messages and content by marketers hoping to profit off a user’s situation.


Beck, Martin. Will Facebook’s “Empathy” Button Be Good News For Marketers? MarketingLand. September, 21, 2015.