Social search is fast becoming the future of online marketing, as search engines and social networks rush to integrate their technologies into a profitable advertising model. Search engine market research has long made glaringly apparent the power of the "like" button as a tool for both gathering user data and a more targeted marketing strategy, as web users are evidently many times more likely to read about a product or service online if it's already been recommended by their friends.
Once Facebook overtook Google as the most visited site on the web, the writing was on the wall for traditional search marketing. But rather than partnering with the world's largest search engine, Facebook has chosen to join forces with Microsoft's upstart Bing search engine to develop interactive tools for users to share their browsing experience with their Facebook contacts and in turn receive suggestions for products and services "liked" by their Facebook friends while browsing.
As this long running partnership begins to unfold, Bing users will start seeing, in an upper right corner, a small pop-up that asks if they are interested in linking their Bing account to their FaceBook account. Users can choose to decline this offer; however Microsoft will make this offer five times to the Bing account holder. For those who choose to do this, Bing searchers will have the ability to see when their friends "like" web pages. For example, someone searching for information on a product, could then see lists of other search results from the additional module "liked by your Facebook friends". This module will also feature links to the pages and profile photos of one's friends who have also chosen to share this information with Bing.
While some industry observers speculate the new Facebook-Microsoft alliance is just the beginning of a joint effort to take down Google, others say the new tools are neat, but don't provide enough incentive for users to stop using the internet giant as their go-to engine for search. Additionally, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he has not ruled out making the technology eventually available to other search engines. In the meantime, this will only escalate the growing tension between Facebook and Google already in play as the latter continues to hemorrhage advertising dollars to the former.