May 17, 2011, 2:12 PM

Bing gets personal using Facebook data

The search engine’s results are tailored to consumers based on their social connections.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine has announced that it will tailor a consumer’s search results based on his Facebook friends, as well as data from the collective Facebook network.

When a consumer conducts a search, Bing will show his friends Likes within the results. That means that if a consumer searches for “Napa wineries” and his friend Fred Smith Likes Beaulieu Vineyard on Facebook, the Like icon will appear noting that Fred Smith Likes the winery under the BVWines.com result. Moreover, Bing promotes the results that are Liked by a consumer’s friends on the front page of search results.

Bing is also drawing on the collective power of the Facebook network to return items that many people outside a consumer’s network Like. For instance, if a consumer searches for “Star Magazine,” under the link to StarMagazine.com the Like icon will appear, noting that 19 people on Facebook, who aren’t necessarily in the consumer’s network, Liked the article “Real Housewives’ Tamra Barney Reveals Diet Secret!”

Bing’s new Facebook integration is intricately tied to shopping, says Yusuf Mehdi, Bing senior vice president. That’s because roughly 90% of consumers seek advice from family and friends before making a purchasing decision, according to a recent survey conducted by Bing and Impulse Research. And 80% say they will delay making a decision until they get a friend’s approval of that choice.

When a consumer uses Bing’s shopping search and adds an item to her Shopping List, she can click a tab “Help Me Decide,” which features the Facebook logo. A window then appears that allows her to publish the list on Facebook.

“Let’s say you’re in the market for a new LCD TV but you’re not even sure which sites to consult,” writes Mehdi on the Bing blog. “Now with Bing you’ll not only see the individual pages or stories your friends like, but the overall sites they like related to the topic you’re searching for. With help from your friends and Bing, you now know that a good site to check out info on LCD TVs is Overstock.com.”

To foster even more Likes, particularly for items or articles that appear on pages without a Facebook Like button on them, the Bing Bar, a downloadable tool featuring Bing-related shortcuts, now features a universal Facebook Like button that enables a consumer to note that he Likes something regardless of whether a Like button is on the page.

“The best decisions are not just fueled by facts, they require the opinions and emotions of your friends,” he says. "Search is now more than a fact finder—we’re marrying fact-based search results with your friends' street smarts to combine the best data on the web with the opinions of the people you trust the most and the collective IQ of the web."

The announcements build on Bing’s October launch of Facebook-related features. That announcement allowed consumers signed into Facebook to see as part of the search results what products and services have earned the Like recommendation from Facebook friends.

Bing’s announcement comes a little more than a month after Google Inc. launched +1, a social recommendation tool that enables web users to indicate they like a particular Google search result. The move was one of the first signs that Google, the search leader and increasingly a direct competitor to both Microsoft and Facebook, aims to incorporate social elements into search results.

David Fisch, director of business development at Facebook, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in a session entitled “What e-retailers need to know about Facebook."

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