Does the Facebook ‘Ask’ button mean anything for digital marketers?

This week Facebook launched a new button visible on the profile page of each account, called ‘Ask’. This feature allows people visiting the profile of a user to ‘ask’ about aspects of the person’s profile information, including relationship status, employment, current location, what college the user attended, and what date they graduated. The button has been referred to as a step towards a Facebook dating service, for example, whereas others have said it’s a step even further into the world of over-sharing. But will this new feature have any benefit to those within the digital marketing industry?

Facebook’s main ‘power’ is data collection, which of course is beneficial to digital marketers and advertisers. It would seem that the implications of this new button is to extract even more data from their unsuspecting users. Facebook's challenge is to make sure the data they’re collecting is accurate, and even with the mass of information being shared already about their users, Facebook want to leak out just that little bit more. Instead of letting the user update their information as they wish, other users now have the ability to ask the user directly.

The Facebook ‘poke’, a similar feature to ‘ask’, quickly became old news and is only really used now by random users who you have never spoken to before, or a new user who has no idea how to use the social media site. With this in mind, will the ‘ask’ feature really be useful?

What's the purpose of 'Ask'?

The feature is an approach from Facebook to gain more information without the user actually knowing. The theory is, is that the consumer is more likely to share the information online when they are asked by a friend rather than prompted by the site. Although people started to speculate about steps into an online-dating feature, it would seem very unlikely as this online sector is already over-crowded. Eliminating this as a possibility, it is clear that the reasoning behind this new feature is purely data collection. ‘Ask’ will allow marketers to target specific audiences online with the right products or services. The more information a marketer can learn about their customer, the more insight they have into individual customer personas.

The ability to build these personas puts marketers in a stronger position when it comes to encouraging them to purchase, as this insight will allow them to begin to work out the way they like to make purchasing decisions. For example, if someone shares with Facebook that they have recently become engaged, it gives marketers the nod that they may benefit from targeting this person with wedding and engagement products and honeymoon ideas. It also informs them that this person may be less likely to be considering large purchases such as a car or a new kitchen. In other words, the more you know about your buyer, the easier is it to target them, and this ‘ask’ button is one step closer to facilitating that exact proposal.