Rewarding New Facebook Fans: Good Business Or "Black Hat" SEO Tactic?

Rewarding people for "liking" a brand on Facebook has created some eye-popping headlines.  Bing offered FarmVille players three units of "Farm Cash" for friending the search engine on Facebook, and the outcome was 400,000 new fans in a day.  Einstein Bagels offered a free bagel to new fans and increased its fan count from 4,700 to near 350,000 in three days.  It's hard to argue with success, but could tactics like these come back to haunt brands as the next generation of search evolves in the coming years?  

Bing recently launched a new social feature on its search engine.  If you're logged into Facebook when you conduct a search on Bing, you will see specially highlighted search results of links or brands that your Facebook friends have liked.  The "Liked Results" feature makes sense--it's as if your friends are beside you as you search and chiming in with their personal recommendations.

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Bing's New Social Search A First Tiny Step Toward A Giant Future

Today’s Bing news is very interesting, not because the new functionality that Microsoft and Facebook announced is terribly powerful, but because it demonstrates how the next great evolution of search will occur.  In brief, Bing announced two new ways it is introducing social data into its search results:

  • Enhancing results with Facebook Likes:  If you search on Bing and your Facebook friends have "liked" something related to your search term, you will see those "likes" highlighted within your search results.  The idea behind this functionality is that something your friend "likes" will be more interesting to you than other search results.
     
  • Facebook profile search:  Bing reports that more than 4% of searches are for people. Of course, trying to find a particular Bob Smith can be a challenge, which is why Bing will utilize your Facebook network to help you find the Bob Smith that is most likely the one you seek. 
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