Bing Testing Social Sidebar With New Look, More Answers

It’s been about six months since Bing unveiled its Social Sidebar, and the search engine is now testing a new format that drops the gray background and which shows more matching content from friends and social networks.

Before & After

Here’s an example of how the Social Sidebar still looks for most people:

Here’s the “after” view, or how it appears to the tiny number of people seeing the new look:

The Visual Changes

In terms of visual changes, the new format:

  • Replaces the gray background to keep the sidebar with the same white background as the rest of the search page
  • Replaces the Facebook share box with a “Post” to Facebook button
  • Adds a new “Social Results” header and count for matching social results
  • Changes “Friends Who Might Know” and “People Who Know” sub-headings to ”From Friends” and “From Social Networks”
  • Drops “Activity” stream of general questions friends have posted on Facebook

Here’s a side-by-side of the main changes, the current format on the left, the new format being tested on the right:

No Need To Hover

One of the changes is that the “hover” display that would appear for the “People Who Know” section is gone. Instead, Bing is showing more expanded information in the newly-renamed “From Social Networks” section.

For example, the side-by-side below shows how the old-style gray column listing someone suggested to me as knowing about beer. If I hover my mouse, an expanded card appears to the left of the column:

In the new style display, the hover has been removed. Instead, more information is shown by default. Here’s a side-by-side of old versus new:

Facebook Sharing From Bing Still Possible

As mentioned, the Facebook sharing box at the top of the current Social Sidebar is replaced by a new “Post” button, but both work in a similar fashion:

More Social Activity

While the visual changes are easily spotted, the big change is behind-the-scenes, Bing tells me, is a shift to show more coverage of social content that might be deemed relevant to a search. For example, here’s a side-by-side for me for a search on “paddleboarding” on Bing:

On the left is how Bing currently operates. While there’s “Activity” shown, none of this is relevant to the search. These are just general questions people I know on Facebook have been posting, not questions (or answers) specific to my search. This activity doesn’t add much value to my search experience.

In the new format, that general Activity stream goes away. In addition, Bing is digging deeper through all the shares, likes, photos, comments and status updates that it sees on Facebook from those connected to you, in order to better surface content. That’s why in the new format, suddenly three posts from people I know (one of them myself) appears.

To date, I’ve found the Social Sidebar fairly hit-and-miss. I could do searches and not get anything from friends at all, so improved coverage might be helpful.

From a search marketing standpoint, there’s little that marketers can do to improve their visibility in the “From Friends” section other than to have a presence on Facebook and hope that people do count you among their friends. And as best I can tell (I’ll follow up more on this), friends really means being friends, not liking a particular page.

Postscript: Bing tells me that “From Friends” will not include any company pages you may have friended, only personal accounts. However, if someone you know likes a company page, that information may be shown to you or influence Bing’s social results.

However, the “From Social Networks” section can trigger if companies are deemed matches from their content on a wide-range of social networks, from Facebook to even Google+. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that it seems to be pulling in more from Quora, a source Bing added in August. If you’ve been answering questions there, that may help you show up more for related searches in Bing’s Social Sidebar.

If you don’t see the new Social Sidebar, hang in there. Bing tells me only a tiny number of people are currently getting the test. If it’s deemed to go well, then more should get it and perhaps it will become the new standard in the coming weeks.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Microsoft: Bing Social Search | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://ultimate747.blogspot.com/ Kurt

    been seeing this off and on for a few days now. I really dont like the new look. Without the grey background the main results, ads, and social stuff all blend together into a confusing mess.

  • http://vkelman-blog.blogspot.com/ vkelman

    I’m not on Bing, but from illustration on this page it looks very good. I think a separate column on the right is clear enough separation from main search content.
    Google search shows G+ results in the same column, right? I probably like this Bing format better.

    It’s a shame Facebook plays selective isolationist games and only allows Bing to query its data.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FON3E6ETYC6HLHZQIIMON5QFYY Ralph

    If you think Marcus`s story is really great,, 3 weaks-ago mother in-law basically got paid $7658 sitting there twelve hour's a week from their apartment and the're buddy's mother-in-law`s neighbour was doing this for 6 months and worked and got paid more than $7658 in their spare time from their laptop. use the guide at this address... A­sk25.­­com

  • fjpoblam

    We use Bing and wish the litter wouldn’t come about. Especially inasmuch as I never logon to Bing and do not have a Facebook account: the litter would seem to be very wasteful bloat.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NE3HQCNRI2Q3YGJS4UU7TEIUMA Renee

    til I saw the bank draft that said $9887, I be certain ...that...my father in law had been truly taking home money in there spare time from their laptop.. there aunts neighbour had bean doing this for only about 23 months and as of now took care of the mortgage on there home and bought Lotus Esprit. this is where I went, A­sk25.­­com

  • http://www.socialbakers.com/ Peter Kelly

    Well, it doesn’t seem much fair that Facebook plays such a protectionist game, but in the end, it only makes sense. After all, Bing is owned by Microsoft and Microsoft has invested in Facebook several hundreds of millions dollars, becoming their primary advertising partner. If you out one and one together, this partnership makes sense.

  • http://www.searchresultsmedia.com/ Search Results Media

    I use google mostly. But this feature is interesting. Keeping the social shares separate from the web one. This is very nice from user friendly perspective

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh

    I actually some-what, kind of, deep down in my weird Microsoft Fanboy heart really like this.

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