Social signals and search: Bing and Microsoft Advertising at London Social Media Week

The Bing and Microsoft Advertising UK teams were excited to host the Social Media Showcase: The Future of Social Search, part of London’s Social Media Week, at Microsoft’s head offices in Victoria yesterday. The turnout was fantastic – so thanks to everyone who came along or streamed the event live. We’d also like to thank digital marketing agency I Spy for their contribution, in particular MC Nick Jones, and to all the speakers for bringing bags of insight and professional experience to the event.

 

First up was Orla Malone, Sales Associate UK & Ireland for Facebook. Incredibly, Facebook is already seven years old, and Orla’s central tenets – that consumers already expect brands to engage with them using social media, and that the web has become a key platform for users to express their personal identity – were echoed later by Bing’s Dave Coplin.

 

I Spy’s CEO Jim Brigden put his 11 years’ search industry experience behind the conviction that even while the UK paid search advertising industry is reaching maturity, it will be “reinvigorated” by the Facebook and Bing alliance, with Bing “leading the market” in social search. Jim evangelised the importance of tracking, analytics and aligning messaging in social media campaigns, bringing the measurement techniques of traditional search marketing into the social sphere.

 

Rounding off the event were Colm Bracken, Group Search Manager at Microsoft Advertising, and Dave Coplin, Director of Search at Bing, who provided a position on how social is transforming the relevance of search, enabling greater consumer and advertiser rewards.

 

Dave explored how search is evolving. Acknowledging that while search is a revenue stream for businesses it is also a user experience, where people retrieve information but also engage with digital society, he focused on three important points concerning how we should be viewing search:

 

1.     Social search is about signal, not archives or people: Many people think of social search as looking through past conversations or simply finding people.  True, that’s part of it, but the real magic of social search happens when you start bringing in the social “signal” into search results.
 

2.     Social search is about trust, not relevancy: The search industry has traditionally focused on the relevancy of search results created by complex mechanical algorithms, whilst effective they lack a human element which often leads to a lack of trust.  By blending the signals created by our social engagement, we can transform the relevancy of results because the social element brings with it “trust” – trust in the source of the result means more effective decisions can be made as a result.

3.    Human decisions need human input: Most of the decisions people make have human intent. You can only go so far with an algorithm; human decisions, both in the real world and online, rely on human input as well as empirical information. Traditional search engines can give you pages and pages of information, but when what you really care about is what your mate Pete thinks, search engines need to start incorporating a social element into their results.

 

Colm followed Dave by exploring the different options available to brands wanting to engage with audiences using a combination of social and search. He explained that social sites are becoming more widely searchable and are ranking more highly in search results, and that one of the best ways to drive traffic to a social media microsite is still PPC. He emphasised the importance of integrating social and search properties into online campaigns to maximise effectiveness; this means ensuring that your Facebook page is properly searchable, for example, and ensuring that properties match the target demographic. For example, Xbox Live is a hugely social environment and the biggest social network on your TV. There are more and more opportunities for people to connect online than ever before – social media is not one size fits all, he explained.

 

The event was rounded off with a lively Q&A debate, which sparked these final thoughts from Dave Coplin:

 

“This is about everybody engaging with technology. Remember, it’s not just about “the kids” – just look at how many people watch BBC’s Question Time whilst following the same conversation on Twitter using the Question Time hashtag each week. This (Social media) is pervading all aspects our lives.”

 

“Companies should be bringing every single employee into the knowledge economy of their organisation. Social media is a great example of where people’s use of technology in their personal lives is often superior to their use at work – this needs to change.”

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