On Facebook, people trust the marrieds, not the complicateds

Research suggests that those who are married or single (and men) exert far more purchasing influence than those who are "in a relationship" or who chose the "it's complicated" option.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Facebook would like to become the world's most lucrative, surreptitious social supermarket.

Yet, as it pushes sponsored stories (here's news: the Supreme Court says you can opt out of them), everyone wants to know who are the big influencers on the site.

Fortunately, along has come Dylan Walker and friends of his from NYU's Stern School of Business to shed a little academic light upon this troubling quandary.

I am grateful to Bloomberg for locating this research -- published in Science -- and expressing some of its finer points.

It seems, for example, that people are very clear about whom they will listen to on Facebook and whom they will mistrust.

Men are, apparently, more malleable than women. As if this was somehow a novel discovery. Indeed, women's recommendations sway more men than women.

However, I was most moved by the detail of how one's relationship status can make one influential or not.

I know that politicians always like to parade themselves around with their spouses in order to appear more trustworthy (yes, even Hillary Clinton).

I did not know, though, that this extended to Facebook. This study insists that if your relationship status is "married," your friends find you twice as influential as people who declare they are "in a relationship" or that, perish the concept, "it's complicated."

This seems painfully absurd. Many of the married people I know tend toward being miserable and tasteless.

Perhaps that drives them to spend more time online shopping, but it doesn't make me find them more influential than, say, my friend George who lunches with one girl and has dinner with another. You see, George is complicated, but he's an engineer. He knows about a lot of things, especially bicycles and cooking implements.

This research does suggest that publicly asserting your singledom also brings you more ears of reverence than if you are merely living in iniquity.

Naturally, this all sounds like body wash even a hog would reject. Surely people are a little more subtle in the way they view the opinions of others, often using the "is he/she a total halfwit?" scale of judgment.

But this study maintains that people are more likely to be moved by men than women, and by those over 31, rather than those under 18.

This information will lead many to conclude that the kernel of successful marketing on Facebook is revealed within this data: get older men to say your product is great.

But as soon as you see sponsored stories in which 43-year-old men tell you how marvelous a certain hosiery brand or a face cream is, then you'll know that the left-brains have taken things a little too far.