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Illustration: Love is all you need Credit: Cécile Graat

Tell me if you’ve experienced this: you know a guy who can only be reached on Facebook through his wife or girlfriend’s Facebook account.  I know many people like this, and my mind wandered to these folks when trying to make sense of the new Facebook couples pages.  I started to wonder if this is a way for Facebook to leverage proxies to get more data on more sporadic users.

Or in other words, is Facebook trying to get wives and girlfriends to fill in the blanks for their less-social partners?

What are Facebook couples pages?

For the uninitiated, whether you want it or not you now have a page (facebook.com/us) that shows all of the publicly-shared Facebook information between you and your significant other.  I don’t have any substantiation of this, but I suspect that this page is present even your relationship is characterized as “complicated.”

It turns out that many people don’t really like it.  But of course, whether you like it or don’t is largely irrelevant; what’s important is how it serves Facebook’s interest.

Why do Facebook couples pages exist?

It’s probably worth noting that since their IPO, Facebook has been fairly myopic in trying to improve their advertising product.  In many cases this comes at the expense of user experience (the one exception to that might be their recent mobile overhaul).  It probably is a fair assumption that this addition adds some value to their advertising, but how?

Is it meant as a user enhancement?  The page in and of itself is meaningless.  I imagine that the vast majority of Facebook users will either be blissfully unaware of it or ignore it altogether.  In fact, these type of pages have been accessible for all Facebook friends since 2010, though not as easy to find as the /us pages.  (you can do this between friends by adding “?and={friend user name}” from your Facebook page; for example facebook.com/jimdougherty?and=yournamehere). Verdict: Facebook couples pages probably aren’t a benevolent enhancement.

Is it meant to get more advertising in front of people?  Referred advertising doesn’t seem to be the rationale for the /us page either, since there is no advertising in the timeline and the sponsored stories have been pushed further down the page to accommodate a tool for examining ties between friends.  Verdict: Facebook couples pages probably aren’t meant to show people more advertising.

Is it the precursor to a cool CMS?  The tool to show you relationships between all of your friends (one at a time) raises the possibility that this is a way to isolate conversations with friends and to better keep in touch.  But it’s a pretty inefficient way to keep in touch with a lot of friends, and I suspect that if there were any market for a CMS (customer management system) on Facebook, they would already be charging for it.  Verdict: Facebook couples pages probably aren’t to help you be better connected with anyone.

Facebook wants you to tag more.

My hypothesis that the intention behind Facebook couple pages is to encourage tagging.  That may sound kind of pedestrian, but let me explain.

Earlier this year Pingdom released a study showing a nearly 60/40 split of female to male users of Facebook.  There are other studies showing that the majority of power users on Facebook are female, and that the majority of social media users are female as well.  Facebook’s Open Graph creates a profile of every user based upon their actions on Facebook and within the Facebook ecosystem, getting a ton of data on its female users and much less from its male users.

Meanwhile, Facebook has myriad organic ad products and a forthcoming ad network (similar to Google’s AdSense) that needs a lot of input in order to provide good targeting options for advertisers.

Maybe my wife and I go out to eat at Sebastian’s here in Cincinnati (home of the best Greek food in Cincinnati if you ever visit).  If my wife checks in on Facebook and tags me, then Facebook’s Open Graph gets an input about my proclivities without me doing anything in the network.  I suspect that’s the intention of Facebook couples pages.

What do you think?  Will partners curate these pages and inadvertently help Facebook with their targeting?  Can you think of any other reason that Facebook would roll these out?  Do you like Facebook couples pages?

Postscript: I meant to mention that gender is the most obvious disparate category on FB, but in the case of men who are more dynamic on Facebook than their partners or same-sex relationships the same dynamic would apply…. one of the partners is spending more time online than the other.  I should also mention that a great way to reach me is through my wife’s Facebook account.  :)

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Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at leaderswest.com
I aspire to give people something to think about rather than tell them what to do. My favorite Google Alert is "social media research," I am increasingly compelled by Gen Z, and I appreciate good writers agnostic of where they write. At one time I was Kred's 12th most influential social media blogger and Klout's most influential person on the topic of David Hasselhoff. Transplant from Seattle living in Cincinnati. Haven't entirely adopted the local sports teams yet.
Jim Dougherty
Jim Dougherty
Jim Dougherty

They have a standard view relationship with a person on facebook. It looks like this facebook.com/us is just a redirect to that for whoever you are listed as in a relationship with.

November 20, 2012, 12:21 PM

Agree, that’s where you end up to when you click the relationship status on your profile. However you can also click the relationship status of other people’s profile and see the combined profile with someone else they are with. Not sure how privacy policies apply in these combined profiles though.

November 21, 2012, 12:35 AM
jimdougherty

Thanks both for reading and commenting. According to Facebook only public posts between the two parties are published. Cheers!

November 21, 2012, 11:05 AM

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