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Real-Time Search: Twitter, Facebook and Beta-Bing

In partnership agreements that were announced at this week's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Microsoft has inked two non-exclusive search deals with Facebook and Twitter in which it will integrate real-time status updates and tweets into Bing's search results.

A beta Bing with Twitter data is now live, and a Facebook integration - with presumably the real time functionality it acquired from FriendFeed - is expected later.

For Bing the move is one step in many that Microsoft will take toward understanding user intent with Bing, Yusuf Mehdi, SVP of the Microsoft's online audience business, told Information Week.

For users, the integration means real-time search results about what people are tweeting – an area that even Google has yet to fully master.

Intriguing Possibilities

For marketers, Bing's integration with Twitter and Facebook is a clear indication that real-time search is becoming a reality. Last month, Google unveiled a project it dubbed "Caffeine" - a faster search engine meant to improve results for web developers and power searchers. It focuses on next-generation infrastructure and seeks to improve performance in a host of areas including size, indexing speed, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Real-time search of online conversation also poses intriguing possibilities for marketers. Real-time ads could contextually be paired with real-time news, writes Steve Outing at Editor & Publisher, who added that it would be a way to monetize breaking news traffic surges.

Other possibilities include harnessing the data to predict which seasonal items will be top sellers at any given period - and being able to divert ad spend, not to mention inventory levels, appropriately. That is the premise, in fact, of one recently launched product called Adlucent Real-Time SEM Analytics.

Execution Details

Before any major strides can be made in this area, however, the art and science of real time search has to be perfected. At first glance, Bing with Twitter only provides users a few ways to keep track of the tweets.

"If you want to keep an eye on this topic, you can just watch the Tweets roll in. Or, click on 'See more Tweets about…' to go to a page full of tweets," noted Paul Yiu (via the Bing blog). On that page, users can change the ordering to 'Best Match' where tweets are arranged differently. For example, if someone has a lot of followers, those tweets may get ranked higher. Tweets don’t last more than 7 days in the index, which could be another limitation but there are privacy implications to consider, Mehdi said.

Ranking by time order might not deliver the best results as it allows too much spam to show up, writes Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land. "However, Microsoft said in its presentation at the Web 2.0 conference that the results will feature quality, popularity and usefulness as part of the ranking process. So, we’ll see," he added.

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