The social wars began in earnest among search's heavy hitters last year when Bing launched the first real time search platform, which aggregated tweets and Facebook status updates into a singular searchable interface. Google struck back swiftly, announcing a similar tool that went even further by actually integrating these social elements into the normal search results for queries that were relevant to recent events. While a significant development in the search world, this change had little material impact on the life of the searcher. Social media is an impactful research tool because it offers a personal connection with the people behind the information. When you take away this personal connection, as Google and Bing did in the early iterations of social search, the value of the information declines precipitously. With the announcement of their recent agreement, Facebook and Bing have taken a large step toward solving this problem.
In mid'?October, Bing and Facebook announced an alliance in which Facebook will feed Bing their user data so that it can be integrated into the search results page. In addition to the traditional algorithm'?based results, Bing will now serve up 'Liked' results. These are pages that people within your social graph have 'Liked' in Facebook. While Facebook has indicated that they plan to open this information up to all companies (i.e. Google), there is no set timeframe for making this happen. Therefore, Bing will be given a significant head start to make real developments in the world of social search.
Below are some thoughts to consider as companies digest this alliance:
- Make it easy to be 'Liked' (literally): The value of Like's is a hot topic, but this alliance certainly ups the ante. Therefore, don't make it hard for your audience to 'Like' your content. Put the Facebook 'Like' button front and center across your website and any other place possible where your content is displayed. Even if you already have a social sharing widget (i.e. ShareThis or AddThis) that includes Facebook, put the 'Like' button on as well.
- Make it easy to be 'Liked' (figuratively): Now more than ever, it is critical that brands remain relevant to their customer base. People are short on time and patience and will not waste either consuming information that does not apply. If the content you produce passes the relevance test it is likely that your audience will reward you with Like's and viral distribution.
- Drop the 'E' in 'SEO': This alliance does not mark the end of SEO, as some pundits would have you believe. Now more than ever, search is the primary way that people find information on the Internet. The difference is that those searches are happening in far more places than Google, Yahoo and Bing. Let's not forget that more searches happen on YouTube than on both Yahoo and Bing. To be successful, companies need to ensure that the fundamental principles of findability are woven into every piece of content they produce. This will broaden visibility in the universal search results as well as other social channels.
People have always relied most heavily on the opinions of friends, family and other like'?mined individuals and social networking sites provide easy access to that sounding board. There is no question that the future of search will be more social and success in search and social will come to companies that truly understand and deliver a relevant experience to their consumers across all channels.