Social Search Is Here


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Monday, Bing announced a major change to the way people will search online.  This video explains it well.  The long and the short of it is this: You now have the option to make your searches more personalized and relevant to what matters to you.  How does it work?  Here’s more.

Back in February, I wrote an article titled “The Future of Search is Social”, trying to convince business owners to skate to where the puck will be by embracing social media because “soon your presence in search results will depend on it.”  Today, that is what happened. 

Personalized, Relevant Serch Results

What Bing unveiled is what they call “a new way to experience search,” that gives searchers personalized search results influenced by input from their friends’ Likes and opinions.  The social platform that  enables these personalized results is Facebook, and Bing has also made it easy to opt in or out of both sharing and receiving information in this new structure. 

According to Bing, the research inspiring these changes told them that 90% of people look for advice from friends and family when they make decisions, and that searchers will delay making a decision on the information they found until they consult someone they trust.  Bing hopes that their new social tools will eliminate or shorten that decision delay.

How It Works

What you will see if you choose to make your searches personalized are two main additions.  The first are “Likes” from your own friends below the listing for a particular result.  These are designed to show you what is popular among the people you know.  There are some searches where there will not be any social input for the listed results.  For example, let’s say that you are the first person you know to shop for a Hang Glider.  In these situations Bing will let you tap what they call the “collective IQ of the Web” by displaying how many people like a result universally. 

Bing is also introducing a new tool, the Bing Bar, to enable anybody to like a particular product or website.  This allows anybody, even those who do not use Facebook, to add their input to the value of something. 

The last major change Bing’s announcement brings to search is a conversational functionality.  You can now use Facebook’s communication abilities within your search, allowing you to have a conversation with an individual friend who’s opinion you value, or to post a question to your wall and crowdsource your decision.

What Does This Mean For Companies?

While I have outlined what this will mean for searchers trying to find information, what does this announcement mean for businesses, organizations, or people trying to be found?  Overall, this has the potential to be good news.  Traditional search has relied on facts and data that are sometimes very disconnected from the things that make results relevant or valuable to an individual searcher.  These have included keywords, outside links to the site, and recently, location.  While these are all important and will still be used in Bing, people can now harness these tools to find business based on how good their product or service is via the happiness of their customers. 

What this means for most businesses is that a whole new door is open to you, which will give you a greater opportunity to appear as one of the important top 10 search results.  In the past, it took serious time and money to appear on the first page of many keyword searches.  These were resources and techniques that most small businesses simply did not have.  Now, a major factor in search results is how you treat, engage, and connect with your customers, which is where many of those same small businesses stand out from the crowd. 

As this technology matures and comes to dominate much of the online search world, we will see more changes, and better understand their implications.  For now though, one thing is relatively certain:  If you’re not engaging your customers socially now, you are missing out on a major opportunity to build your visibility and your business.

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