Facebook and Twitter on Bing: Will ad revenue follow?

Posted on October 21, 2009


CNET’s Caroline McCarthy is reporting that Microsoft’s Bing search engine has struck a deal to display Twitter posts and Facebook status updates in its search results. This is obviously a big boost to the social networks and a good show of one-upmanship for Microsoft over search rival Google (who were also reportedly in talks to display Facebook and Twitter search results).

The benefit for Facebook and Twitter is that both companies raise their already prominent profiles and spread their massive amounts of user-generated content even further into the mainstream. Facebook also gains a way to search through its News Feed, something it has been lacking.

Bing, besides beating Google to the punch and generating press for itself, gets to further enhance its image as a reliable, comprehensive search engine that deserves to be compared to market-dominating Google.

Twitter already has a powerful search engine built into its web site. Anyone can easily search through Twitter’s timeline to find what they’re looking for. A quick tutorial and even a novice can learn how to refine their searches.

Facebook lacks a search feature for their News Feed but there really isn’t a clamoring for one to be implemented either. Unlike Twitter, Facebook is seen more as a way to communicate with people you already know in your offline life and keeping in touch as opposed to a rich source of information.

What Bing is providing is  a service that is lacking on Facebook but isn’t really being demanded (and may even face a backlash from Facebook’s vocal users who prize their privacy. See: Beacon) and a more mainstream solution for those who want to search Twitter.

What will be important and key to the success of this venture is how those search results crop up. Will they be a side bar to Bing’s web search results? A separate link or tab? Will they update in real time? Or will they be mixed in with the web results?

I doubt that Bing will go with the latter route mainly because it would be the surest path to a backlash. It’s hard to imagine many people searching for “car prices” being happy with Twitter and Facebook posts complaining about their car payments dominating the results.

My inclination is to categorize this latest development as inconsequential to the average consumer but extremely important for Facebook and Twitter. The main reason being it further helps their chances at generating ad revenue. By tying their services into the lucrative business of search advertising both social networks can take another step in silencing those who continue to view them as a fad or companies incapable of monetizing their services.

If Bing can drive more traffic to its site from all the press this will generate and retain at least some of the curious who check it out then it also stands to make a significant amount of money from this venture. Having tried Bing myself I can say that while I am not ready to leave Google yet I can see enormous potential for Bing to become a serious competitor and introduce some new standards for search.

This is definitely a development to watch as we could either be seeing the rise of social networks as major revenue generators on par with other Silicon Valley players or the final proof that search advertising is simply not a viable model for them. Either way the next few months will mark a milestone for social networking and its fight for corporate America’s ad dollars.

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