Does Social Search Work?

Social search is a type of web search that takes into account the social information of the person initiating the search query.

Google and Bing  have been using social search nowadays. Social search allows users to know whether the link that they are finding was liked or recommended by their Facebook’s friends.


Microsoft had made a $240 million investment in Facebook that valued the social network at $15 million in 2007, and Bing launched Facebook’s Instant Personalization last October. Also, Bing has released some new features that begin to really tap into the huge amount of social data extracted from their partnerships with Facebook yesterday.

Previously, Bing’s integration with Facebook was quite superficial. If you searched for something related to what your friend had “liked” on Facebook, a special module embedded in the search result will appear  on top of the search results page.But  today onwards,  search results in Bing will be ordered according to friend’s Likes, instead of  just being relegated to a standalone widget.

In addition, Bing will also show a link to your facebook friend’s profile if your query matches the information of your friend’s profile. Number of Facebook users’  “likes” will also be shown sometimes.

However, does this social search thingy work?

For me, I don’t think so. Here are the problems:

a) The majority of “Likes” are concentrated around a few key areas that include movies, TV shows, breaking news, and humor. If I want to find a famous video that i heard about, the links with my friend’s likes will appear first, instead of the one that I really want.

b)Now when you like somethings, it will not only be published in the facebook’s news feed only anymore. More people will know about it as it is now included in the search result.  As a result, you might be hesitant to start liking things that are more mundane, even if you found it useful next time.

c)Do you actually care what your friends think? Facebook has actually found that people are not really motivated to click links just due to similar tastes with their friends. It is more likely that they click on the link because they care about that particular friend.

However, the director of Bing, Stefan Weitz is very optimistic about this. “The ‘new web’ is inherently social, and that for the first time in human history we can tap into the data that was previously stored in people’s heads. But that’s long term”, said Stefan Weitz.

So, what do you think about the Social Search? Will it work in the future?

*For those who are still new to this term, Social Search, you can watch this video for a quick understanding:

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