Facebook Test Lets Users Tag Family Members by Typing How They’re Related

Facebook users can now tag a family member in a post by typing in how they are related, rather than their name. For example, typing in “Cousin” will open the typeahead and display any friend the user has confirmed as their cousin through the Family & Friends tab in the profile editor.

The new way to initiate a tag should lead to more tagging of family members, and be especially useful to those looking to quickly call attention of family members to a particular post, such as an announcement that they’re coming to visit. Facebook is testing the new tagging functionality with some portion of the user base, though it could be fully rolled out in the future.

Facebook has let users to tag friends in posts since September 2009. Recently, it has made several changes to tagging, allowing users to tag connections such as friends within comments, and shorten the displayed tags of friends to just their first or last name, It also removed the ability for Pages to tag users in posts, likely to prevent spam.

Tagging friends is a useful way to draw attention to a post. It delivers a notification to anyone tagged, basically assuring that they’ll see it. It also increases the news feed visibility, or EdgeRank, of the post to the friends of those tagged. Typically, only 15% of a user’s friend base sees each of their posts according to a comScore white paper, but tagging several friends in a post can generate more impressions for it.

Users can pull up the tagging typeahead by typing with a capital letter either the official family relation type, such as “Sister”, “Uncle” or “Father; or the slang term for the relation type such as “Dad” or “Mom”.

When users select the family member from the typeahead, it replaces the official or slang relation name. This can sometime require users to go back and edit their text, as the word “my” frequently precedes family relation names (“my cousin”), but is not grammatically correct when used before a name.

The addition of the tagging feature may seem insignificant, but it is representative of Facebook’s product update culture. By making many small changes to the interface over time, Facebook can test to see what features gain traction, implement those that work, and scrap those that don’t. It occasionally launches big new products and redesigns, but more subtle updates like this are a big reason why Facebook has stayed relevant, intuitive to use, and growing for seven years.