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Published by Kevin O'Keefe, CEO & Founder of LexBlog

Facebook dumps Bing. Are we looking at the next Google?

Facebook law blog publishing
December 14, 2014

As reported over the weekend by Reuters’ Alexei Oreskovic (@lexnfx), Facebook has stopped including results from Microsoft’s Bing search engine on its social networking site.

The move comes as Facebook introduces Monday a search tool allowing users to search across comments and other information posted by their friends on Facebook.

As Oreskovic explains, Facebook search has long been geared toward helping users connect with friends and to find other information that exists within the walls of 1.35 billion user social networking service. But for years, Facebook’s search results also included links to the outside web that were provided by Bing.

No real surprise in eliminating Bing. Search is a key initiative for Facebook. With more than 1 billion search queries occurring on Facebook every day, the company believes the vast amount of information that users share within Facebook could eventually replace the need to search the Web for answers.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, told analysts this summer there are more than a trillion posts on Facebook, which his search engineers tell him is bigger than any Web search corpus out there. This would presumably include Google.

What’s this mean for you as a legal professional? That over time Facebook search could become more relevant than Google search to you and your audience of clients, prospective clients, and referral sources. It may not, but it could.

A big advantage Facebook has is the element of social search. Who would you trust more when asking for information – people you have come to know and trust or a machine? How about the friends of the people you have come to know and trust? You’d probably trust them over a machine too.

Google’s search results are built on complex algorithms that have served us well the last 14 or 15 years. Good content, well indexed by the publisher, and linked to by influential sites and authorities gets people what they are looking for – especially when you factor in the search history and location of the searcher.

Facebook ratchets things up to a whole new level. Rather than machines and algorithms alone, we’ll add into the search equation who is sharing what, who is liking it, and who is re-sharing it, and who is commenting on it.

Facebook’s search algorithms will have all of that plus knowledge of our personal and business interests as well as the interests of our Facebook friends and their friends. Add to that the browsing and transactional history for all of us who use Facebook to login in to third party sites.

Facebook’s search, or perhaps Facebook even telling us what we’d like to know without keying in a search (discovery), could get awfully good. Good enough to attract people to use Facebook search over Google.

Rather than a switch from Google for search, it may even mean just keeping people on Facebook for search.

After all, Facebook says the average American already spends 40 minutes a day checking their Facebook News Feed. Almost 75% of Americans already use Facebook, with over 30% using Facebook for news and information (Pew Research Journalism Project).

Lawyers who do not build a personal presence on Facebook through social interaction could come up short in two respects. One, the results they’ll receive on search will not be near as good as the results generated by people who have built their own network over time. A network relating to personal and professional matters.

Two, without a social network of personal and professional acquaintances, how will you and what you have written and shared be seen on search? How will your insight, passion, and care be seen? How will you be seen as a person of influence in your field?

If you are like most lawyers, you are already using Facebook, the key in the days ahead is to grow your network of Facebook friends, socially and professionally, and to start to using Facebook for personal and professional socializing.

By doing so, Facebook search will be more effective for you and for the people you would like to know something about you.

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