Facebook Adds New Relationship Status Types, but Not to the Ad Tool

Facebook is rolling out the option for users to set their relationship status to “In a civil union” and “In a domestic partnership”. These types will allow gay couples to more accurately describe their relationship. However, advertisers don’t have the option to target users based on these types, or any other types than “Single”, “In a relationship”, “Engaged”, or “Married”.

Users can change the setting by going Edit Profile, then Featured People, and using the Relationship Status drop-down menu. Not all users have the new options yet, though.

Facebook has been slowly increasing the number of relationship status types. “Widowed” became an option in September 2009, and Facebook has since added “Divorced” and “Separated”, though none of these are targetable through the ad tool. The site recently released statistics that showed that users who are “In a relationship”, “Married”, or “Engaged” are much happier according to the Gross National Happiness index than users with the status “In an open relationship”, “It’s complicated”, or “Widowed”.

The added status types show Facebook’s continued support for the gay community. It released an “It Gets Better” video featuring employees encouraging gay adolescents not to harm themselves, worked with Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to remove hateful content from a Page commemorating victims of anti-gay bullying, and reimburses taxes for gay employees who cover their spouses’ health care costs since the federal government doesn’t recognize their relationships.

Several Facebook Pages and groups had previously been created calling for civil unions and domestic partnerships to be added as relationship status options. By recognizing these types and allowing users to more accurately express themselves, users will feel that their Facebook profile is a natural expression of their identity.

As Facebook adds more relationship status options that aren’t in the ad tool, users will switch to them, decreasing the number of people in the targetable options. This can help advertisers because they won’t be accidentally showing ads to those who aren’t actually in the demographic they’re trying to reach. The new types will hurt advertisers, though, since less users will list targetable options like “Married” or “In a relationship” that may have been close enough to show them relevant ads.

Facebook should consider adding all the available relationship status types as targeting parameters to offer advertisers as much targeting granularity as possible, even if it might slightly complicate the ad tool. This would allow the site to continue providing more accurate options to users without impairing advertisers