Relationships, which are complicated enough in real life, can become veritable enigmas on Facebook. That’s why there’s an “It’s Complicated” option. Over the past few months, Facebook has been testing a feature that let’s Facebook users ask one another about their relationship status by pressing an “Ask” button. The new feature will probably make Facebook more enjoyable for some users and a little more annoying for others. This post will explain how the Ask button works and why it matters for marketers.
The Ask button appears in front of sections of personal information where the owner of the viewed profile has left the relationship information blank. Friends can then “ask” their friends about their relationship status just by clicking the button. The friend has to leave a note explaining why they’re asking.
Some have noted that the feature will make Facebook more useful for dating. As a simple example, a friend can hit the Ask button and then inquire if the person would like to go get dinner.
Despite the usefulness, the new feature may seem frightening and annoying to some. Slate’s Lily Hay Newman wrote, “Now Facebook wants to give stalkers the option of being direct, so the company has a new “Ask” button that lets users scope each other out.”
Another thing to keep in mind is that, in the past, there was nothing stopping a person from sending a private message asking them their relationship status. In many ways, the feature only makes it easier for people to ask the question in a way that encourages the user to add data to Facebook.
Though still in the trial phase, the button has already created a stir among users. There are multiple threads on the Facebook community forums where users are inquiring about how they can get the button for their profile. There is also reason to believe that this feature will be expanded to other sections of personal information on Facebook. The Ask button is an equally effective way to get people to divulge their employment information, educational background, etc.
Business owners and marketers may be wondering why Facebook would bother with any of this or why it matters to them. The answer to these questions are related. Realistically, everything Facebook does has a profit motive behind it, and this is no different. To advertisers who are using Facebook’s ad network to target users, it’s important that as many people as possible fill out as much data about themselves on Facebook as possible.
As was mentioned above, if someone asks a person about their relationship status in a private message and they reply in a private message, there’s no benefit to Facebook. But if the Ask button encourages them to reply to the same question by clicking a button identifying their relationship status, Facebook now has marketable data that can used for targeted ads.
The Ask button demonstrates some of the best and worst aspects of Facebook all at once. For example, despite the concerns over the amount of personal data Facebook has from their users, this data and targeted ads based on it are the primary way Facebook is able to make money from advertisers and marketers. Furthermore, the Ask button reinforces that Facebook is good at finding ways to encourage people to give up that information. The Ask button is a clever way to get friends to badger friends for the good of Facebook.
The Ask button may be coming soon to a profile near you, so be on the look out. In the end, besides boosting the effectiveness of Facebook’s advertising network, there’s little reason for marketers to be too concerned with it. Still it’s good to know that Facebook is continually thinking of ways to make the platform more valuable to marketers.
To learn more about a less creepy Facebook feature, check out the news on the anonymous login feature for some apps.