Social Search: What is It?

You may have seen the announcement recently that Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, made some major updates. I’ve had a bit of time with it, and I want to show you what it can do and why it’s an important improvement.

Disclosure: Bing has sponsored Geek Beat. Keep in mind, we don’t take sponsorships from companies or products we don’t believe in. Okay, now that we’re past that…

Let me ask you a question. How often do you ask your friends for advice? Advice on the camera you’re thinking about purchasing. Or for a suggestion on a place to stay in Hawaii. Their opinion on the movie you’re going to see this weekend. We do it constantly! Because we value them and trust them.

But we also use the Internet. It knows everything, right? Okay, don’t yell at me for that comment – it’s said in jest, but it IS powerful and gives us knowledge we never could have had before!

Now, let’s combine those two concepts. 1) Asking your friends for advice. 2) Getting help from the Internet. Social Search… and the new Bing… does exactly that.

When you search for something, the page is broken up into three columns.

  • Normal search results
  • Additional information (like Maps or Open Table reservations) based on your search
  • Social Sidebar

The Social Sidebar

The Social Sidebar is where it gets really interesting. You see your Facebook friends right up top (you login first to grant access). It gives you information from your Facebook friends that relates to your search. For example, if you’ve searched for a particular camera, like the Canon 5D Mark III, it’ll show you people who have experience with it. Maybe they’ve posted a photo about it. Maybe they’re a fan of the Canon 5D page. All this information is meant to give you insight into the product and your friend’s opinions of it.

You can post to your wall and ask questions about your search directly from the Bing interface. You can comment on other people’s posts. Add links to your searches, etc, and it’ll show up on yours and their Facebook pages. Essentially, you can have entire conversations and get better results without jumping around from site to site.

If you want to broaden your search past your own Facebook friends, you’ll also see Twitter and Google+ experts (yep, even G+!), to give you an idea of who’s out there that might have valuable information on your search, like Dan Webb. Follow them and learn from them. This allows you to expand your circle of knowledge and friends.

And you can see who else is posting from Bing (if they’ve given permission) so you can chat and help others like they’re helping you.

If you haven’t realized it yet, the reason I like the new Bing is that it’s combing two powerful sources of information to make your research more efficient and just plain better!

I look forward to seeing if they’ll give me the ability to customize it a bit more in the future – for example, if I’m more into Twitter or Google+. But it’s a great beginning and a cool, useful way to search!

What do you think? Try it out and let me know!