Let's be more clear -- will they mean anything that is of any consequence? Actually, to nail it down even further, will they means anything that is of consequence to anyone outside marketing --will they be something you can take to the board? If not, then why bother?
The problem with social is that it typifies what others in any organisation will refer to as the flimsy, wishy-washy side of the department. Imagine a CFO who didn't know whether the refinancing of an old warehouse was going through or not but can assure the board, six bank clerks said they liked the idea. Or the sales manager who hasn't closed any deal this quarter but a dozen people shared brochures with friends and family. That has to be how non-marketing colleagues view social figures which are supposed to reveal success but show no link with anything concrete a member of the board could get behind.
I'm not saying social isn't important and doesn't contribute, but answer this: how many times have you been told that at a convention a big brand is going to reveal the metrics that ensure it knows social is a success, only to find you get a story about a video going viral? Often a figure for reaching people that compares well to television is trotted out, but still the gaping chasm remains. If a CEO were to ask what happened to the budget of X given to social, how much more than X did it bring back to the business?
One of the best social speeches I've seen in recent times came from Adobe, which claimed that people who interacted with a post in some way were two to three times more likely to become a customer than those who did not. There you go. That's a finding right there that can be taken to the proverbial bank. Maybe the statistic a marketer is looking for doesn't come through completed sales, it could be brochure orders, appointments booked or contact details received -- it might even be a tweak to a service or a new product design that came about through an online discussion.
How social is measured will obviously vary on the brand, its customers and the nature of a campaign but, you can guarantee, if any marketer wants to impress the powers that be in their organisation, supplementing a number of "likes," with how many additional "yay" and "wow" comments may be a start -- but it's most definitely not the ending. There's nothing wrong with the "reactions" that are being tried out, then -- in fact, they may be of considerable use to garner different reactions from social media users. The danger is, of course, that marketers stop at measuring the reaction and not what happens because of that reaction.
A new car, for example, may have different potential buyers. The "wow" crowd may truly love it, but can't afford it, whereas the "yay" crowd may well, for arguments sake, be those who can afford it but were waiting for the manufacturer to get around to adding a feature or engine. The two different reactions may well prove useful, but only if they're seen as the starting point of further enquiry.