Bing Deal Could Extend Reach for Businesses on Facebook

When Facebook named Bing as its fifth Instant Personalization partner today, the social media site appeared to significantly raise the worth of “likes” and check-ins that originate on its platform. And the companies’ expanded search partnership gives big brands and local businesses all the more reason to invest in increasing their Facebook presence.

Beginning today, said Yusuf Mehdi, SVP of online audience business at Microsoft, Bing.com will start displaying pictures and names of a searcher’s Facebook friends who have either “liked” a business or checked in at one via Facebook Places. In short, it’s bringing a similar Facebook imprint in terms of look and feel to Bing that has for months been seen on other Instant Personalization partner sites – Yelp, Microsoft’s Docs.com, Pandora, and Rotten Tomatoes.

“We are not just about blue links anymore,” Mehdi said.

Search links for businesses with “likers” and check-ins will appear in Facebook’s “Web Results” section below links for People, Pages, and Groups. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on hand for the announcement at Microsoft’s Redmond, WA-based headquarters, talked about how people react socially online similarly to offline. “Seeing friends’ faces and names, we are hard-wired to have that influence us,” he said.

The CEO is awarding Facebook.com advertisers who have been spending money with the primary purpose of increasing their “likers” base. To be clear, the more “likers” accrued by companies, the more Bing searches for their brand will appear with Facebook-driven social context. According to comScore’s most recent statistics, Bing currently accounts for 11.2 percent of the marketplace. It trails Google (66.1 percent) and Yahoo (16.7).

Further, Mehdi explained that if a Bing.com user searched for a restaurant and is served a link with relevant Facebook friends’ check-in data next to it, the user will be able to ping them without changing websites to ask if they enjoyed eating there. Therefore, interestingly, Bing.com appearances should theoretically positively and negatively affect some search advertisers from now on.

At any rate, the deal – the terms of which were not disclosed – could be seen as a shot across the bow to Foursquare and local businesses that have been staying loyal to it and other geo-social platforms instead of migrating efforts to Facebook Places. Now, getting people to check in on Places will extend the reach of such an action beyond Facebook.com and to Bing’s search share.

Meanwhile, attempting to address privacy concerns, Mehdi said that Bing.com visitors will be greeted with a “No Thanks” option the initial five times that they next visit the site. After that, they will be able to turn the application on or off within their Facebook privacy controls in the same way as the other Instant Personalization sites.

Facebook and Microsoft first partnered on search back in March, when the social site unveiled the “Web Results” feature. Zuckerberg said that expanding Facebook’s search relationship with Microsoft and Bing makes a lot of sense. And the world’s most prominent young CEO may have taken at least a slight jab at looming Internet advertising competitor and search giant Google.

“I couldn’t think of anyone better to work with to build the next generation of search,” Zuckerberg said.

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