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What is the new Facebook ‘Ask’ button actually for?

Last week, Facebook unveiled its new ‘Ask’ button, a feature that allows people to ask Facebook friends about their current relationship status.

Many users are confused by what Facebook’s aims are with this new feature. Are they starting a dating site? Is it a way of getting people to keep their profiles up to date? And what does it mean for us marketers?

The obvious answer is more data for advertising. Facebook is increasingly reliant on providing accurate, hyper-targeting for its advertising model to work and attract new clients. Facebook still offers the most detailed targeting of any online platform for advertisers and it needs to ensure its data is kept fresh as possible.

And what better way to do this but by giving the job to its own network? So rather than Facebook prompting you to give more personal information, its using our friends to do it, knowing that most people are far more likely to respond to someone we know (even if we only vaguely know them). So are Facebook also planning some kind of dating service? It seems unlikely given the maturity of the online dating market. No, this data is essentially for advertisers, not Facebook-loving singletons.