Microsoft announced yesterday that it has inked deals with both Facebook and Twitter that will effectively assimilate status updates from the popular social platforms into Bing search results. The move confirms Microsoft’s commitment to moving the needle on its real-time search capabilities, and will present both challenges and opportunities for marketers across the search and social landscape.
Tweets, as well as Facebook and Twitter pages already pop up in search results across Google, Yahoo! and Bing – but Microsoft says it is taking this to the “next level” by indexing the entire public Twitter stream and making it available via a Bing/Twitter search interface available at: http://www.bing.com/twitter. More details on the Facebook integration are forthcoming. Here’s an overview of how Twitter search on Bing works:
- Tweets updated in real-time: View all tweets “roll in” in real-time by watching the “tweet SERP” update. To view more Tweets than what’s displayed on the first page of search results, click “See more Tweets about…”
- Results ranked by tweeter’s influence and uniqueness of the tweet: According to Microsoft, “If someone has a lot of followers, his/her Tweet may get ranked higher. If a tweet is exactly the same as other Tweets, it will get ranked lower.”
- Private tweets remain private: Tweets by users who have private or protected Twitter pages will not be indexed.
- Real-time only lasts so long: Tweets will only be indexed in Bing for 7 days, further indication that Bing intends to use the Twitter integration as a way to capitalize on real-time events and searcher interests. There’s no indication that Bing intends to index and provide a historical record of Tweets.
Why It’s Important
Though the effects of the deal are not immediate, the inclusion of Twitter and Facebook updates in the engine has the potential to alter the search landscape for a number of brands. A recent Penn State University study found that nearly 20 percent of conversations on Twitter mentioned a brand – and Facebook likely houses an equally significant amount of chatter. As Kara Swisher points out, “Facebook raises the stakes considerably, because it has the largest pool of status updates.” Facebook alone averages more than 40 million updates per day.
It will be interesting to see how the magnitude of this Facebook Effect unfolds. At present, many users prefer to keep updates somewhat private, choosing to broadcast them among friends or networks but not the larger social web. If this trend continues, the incorporation of Facebook updates into Bing might not be that big of a deal. That aside, Swisher reports that Facebook will introduce “new tools” to make sharing status updates easier, which could increase the number of users opting to “go public.”
What It Means for Marketers
1) Saddle-up for Real-time Search: The value of integrating real-time social data within the search experience is huge. Real-time functionality can only be as good as its data sources, and Twitter and Facebook are the only two juggernauts that have the scale and data volume to be relevant in search.
Take for example a searcher seeking information about how bad the traffic is heading home, how long the wait is for concert tickets down the street, or why ten news helicopters are hovering two blocks away. Google, Bing and Yahoo! today are not yet able to deliver timely answers as events unfold. Conversely, user-generated content from Twitter and Facebook can better paint the story in real time – timestamped no less – via iPhones, smartphones and other mobile devices.
As consumer search habits change, marketers will need to make adjustments to keep up. Status updates from Facebook and Twitter will be searchable within Bing but only for a seven-day window so far. Regardless, brands will have seemingly endless opportunities to get into conversations (where relevant) around super-current events or breaking news stories. Marketers will need to assess these opportunities as they come, making sure to vet each in relation to their brand’s strategic lens.
2) Look, Listen and Learn: The deal provides tremendous opportunity for brands to listen to their audiences on Facebook. Up until now, Twitter has proved itself as the more convenient listening channel for marketers – but conversations across Facebook might be monitored just as easily when status updates are integrated into the Bing search engine. Now, marketers will be able to more easily see when and how people are talking about their products.
3) Upping the Importance of Social: The deal should not drastically influence how marketers currently utilize Twitter and Facebook, but it will heighten the importance of these platforms.
By putting these updates front and center on a consumer facing platform, Bing will allow a standard user to come into contact with conversations about a brand in real time, negative or positive. Microsoft’s engine will thereby amplify conversations consumers are having on these platforms, so marketers should monitor this chatter and to make sure negative conversations are addressed ASAP.
4) SEO-a-Go-Go: It’s perhaps too soon to tell how social conversations will be indexed and what relevance they will have on branded search queries, but brands that refrain from participating in social media do risk losing out a valuable opportunity with consumers frequenting this area of the SERPs.
But wait, there’s more…
Not to be outdone, Google also announced yesterday that they have reached an agreement with Twitter! With plans to showcase something in the coming months, they are not tipping their hat on many details. How the #1 search engine decides to integrate and or display real-time Twitter relevance against a query will be a major milestone. Big questions arise. Will Google’s display of “real-time” results be seen on a streaming side panel? Will they be blended as a new Universal search type, or will they be segmented in a separate vertical channel? These decisions will ultimately shape the impact of how real-time results alter a marketer’s search strategy.
These deals increase the impact of social channels on SEO. Web analytics and real-time adjustment against social or web content strategies will lean on technological advancements. Marketers will likely need next generation dashboards, API’s, or data feeds to monitor and analyze the influx of data. For example, understanding “real-time” search keywords will become an ever important task since buzz-driven terms maintain a time sensitive “shelf life” and limited window of opportunity for marketers who wish to capitalize on them.
These new streams will supply another layer of data relevance for the Bing and Google algorithm’s to crunch. For example, how frequently a brand’s name and/URL(s) are shared across these social sites or what commentary and “keywords” are adjacent to them (positive or negative) are just a few of the KCI’s (Key Conversation Indicators) that the major search engines can take advantage of, perhaps altering the types of information displayed to the searcher. How exactly this unfolds and is integrated within the mainstream searching experience has yet to be seen.
What is clear is the impact social media is having on the search landscape – we expect new developments in this arena will continue to unfold.