In the ongoing saga for social search supremacy, Bing recently updated their Bing Search + Social product to better integrate social features into the user experience. To fully understand what this is all about, we sat down with Lauren Hufnal, Senior Bing Evangelist, and picked her brain with some good old-fashioned Q&A.
Can you walk me through Bing’s social sidebar?
Within Bing’s social sidebar there are two main sections:
From Friends. Bing will display Facebook friends who “like” or have shared public information such as photos, hometown, employer, etc. related to a query.
From Social Networks. Bing will display snippets from experts and enthusiasts who have blogged or tweeted about topics related to a query. These experts can fall outside a searcher’s social network.
Additionally, consumers can always post questions and comments via the Facebook post icon, displayed at the top of the social sidebar.
How is Bing’s social integration different from Google’s G+?
Bing’s social experience differs from Google’s in two main aspects:
1. Amount of signals. Bing features social signals from a variety of sources including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, Four Square, Bloggers, Klout, and even G+. Bing’s experience takes an open approach to social integration. In contrast, Google is a closed social network featuring G+ signals only.
Additionally, Bing highlights the collective IQ of the Web, incorporating reviews from Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Open Table within our SERP.
2. Displaying of signals. G+ is intertwined with organic search results. If you are logged-in to G+, posts from people you follow accompany organic listings. Bing’s layout showcases all social data within the right sidebar. This separation enables consumers to easily distinguish social results from organic results. Bing also offers consumers the flexibility to hide the social sidebar from their view (and/or log-out) if they choose not to engage with social.
How can advertisers take advantage of Bing’s social integration?
At this time, there are no ad opportunities, but that doesn’t mean brands can’t get involved with Bing Social. Advertisers should always consider how social fits into the overall search/SEO strategy.
It is important that advertisers give consumers the ability to “like” their brand. Not only is this a great way to start a dialogue with hand-raisers; but also, the more “likes” a brand has, the more likely a searcher will see a friend’s endorsement within Bing’s sidebar.
Brands should also encourage Facebook fans to become brand advocates, since their photos, information, and posts also appear in the Bing sidebar. I recommend that advertisers help their fans, by giving them something that is share-worthy. Also, advertisers should keep their brand’s twitter page updated, so loyal followers stay current.
Lastly, since Bing displays tips from industry enthusiasts, it is becoming increasingly valuable for advertisers to encourage influentials to post information pertaining to their brand. When enthusiasts blog, post, check-in, take pictures, etc. of their brand, it increases that brand’s exposure within the Bing SERP, casting a wider net to a potentially untapped audience.
Are there places outside the Bing SERP where you are integrating social?
Yes. One of my favorite recent releases is Bing.com/friendsphoto. Here, consumers can view friends’ photos, fan page photos, and even their own photos – all searchable by topic.
A couple other offerings include:
- Bing.com/social: Displays the latest trending topics from Twitter and Facebook in real-time.
- Bing.com/maps: Features a Twitter Map App, which enables consumers to search tweets by topic in real-time across a specific geographical area.
- Bing.com/tags: Allows consumers to link pages about themselves to their own search result, for enhanced customization.
How will Bing Social evolve?
We know a large percentage of consumers leverage their social network for help in decision making. Our goal is to connect our users to the most socially relevant content to aid them in completing their tasks more quickly. To improve the experience, we are continuously looking to make enhancements to results and how we display those results.
First, we are including Social signals from new providers. Klout is our most recent addition. Klout scores provide additional credibility to the industry experts that we pull into the sidebar.
Next, Bing is displaying more data from current Social sources. For example, we are testing including Facebook posts within the Social sidebar pertaining to a query.
Lastly, I expect we will continue to tweak the layout and design for an optimal visual experience.
How does Bing Social impact SEO?
We aren’t sharing specific insights into how social signals influence organic rankings; however, if you are an avid Bing Webmaster Tools reader, you know there are synergies between search and social.
Per our guidelines, on Bing.com/toolbox/webmaster, social media does play a role in ranking within Bing search results. If a brand is socially influential, it most likely has followers sharing vast amounts of information. Bing will pick up on these signals, which can positively impact how a brand ranks organically.
For more insights, we are offering a series of Webmaster Tools Education Webinars, including “The Overlap of Social and Search” on Feb 7th. These free webinars will be hosted by Duane Forrester at Bing, aiming to provide addition context and best practices.
Aside from Bing Social, what else is Microsoft doing in the social space?
Microsoft is involved in several social endeavors.
Last summer, Microsoft acquired Yammer, a provider of enterprise social networks. Yammer enables employees to join a secure social network, while aiding corporations in converting local activities into company-wide initiatives. Microsoft plans to complement Yammer with offerings such as SharePoint, Office 365, Dynamics and Skype. Speaking of Skype, this is another example of how Microsoft is enhancing its portfolio of communications products, with real-time video and voice communications. With Skype, consumers can easily connect with friends, family and even remote co-workers.
Another interesting Social venture is Microsoft FUSE Labs. FUSE Labs provides consumers with unique ways to create and collaborate with the people and information. Current offerings include:
- Docs.com: A Web service where consumers can create and share MSFT Office documents with Facebook friends.
- Socl: An experimental social search site, combining social networking with web browsing and search for the purpose of learning.
- Montage: A Web service where consumers can create and share visual albums by topics of interest, leveraging RSS feeds, Twitter, Bing News, and YouTube.
- Company Crowd: A resource that collects media and content to create a living newspaper about specific companies of interest.
- Spindex: A site that combines a user’s entire social world in one page, connecting to Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Bing, etc.
For more information – or to give these products a try, check out http://fuse.microsoft.com/
Lauren Hufnal is a Senior Bing Evangelist at Microsoft, based in New York City. She is responsible for communicating the value and effectiveness of Bing through engagement with advertisers, field partners and industry influentials. Previous to her 7 years at Microsoft, Lauren worked at agencies including Digitas and Razorfish. Outside of work, she is an avid tennis fan and enjoys running in Central Park.
Follow her @laurenhufnal