Facebook and Microsoft Unveil Additional Ways to Reach Consumers

When Facebook first announced plans for an initial public offering in February, CEO Mark Zuckerberg cautioned investors that when he created the social network, he did not imagine it as a business entity—he saw and continues to see Facebook as a way to connect people and create meaningful relationships. In other words, while a lot of attention is rightfully being given to the new benchmarks its upcoming IPO will likely set within the technology sector, Facebook’s focus has been and always will be on its product. 

That statement hasn’t rung more true than on May 9 and 10, when two new services were unveiled that expanded and supported Zuckerberg’s stated mission of connecting people and creating meaningful relationships.

First is the Facebook App Center. An all-new central hub for Facebook apps in the vein of the Apple App Store and Google Play (formerly the Android Market), the App Center will be available in the coming weeks via the Web, as well as through the iOS and Android Facebook apps.

The company is also unveiling a new app ratings metric in Facebook Insights to report how users are rating the app. "Well-designed apps that people enjoy will be prominently displayed," said Aaron Brady, a software engineer at Facebook, on a blog post announcing the offering. "Apps that receive poor user ratings or don't meet the quality guidelines won't be listed," said Brady. Facebook will use "a variety of signals," such as user ratings and engagement, to determine if an app will be listed, he said.

Another interesting Facebook-related offering comes courtesy of its integration with the new version of Microsoft's Bing search engine. On May 10, Microsoft unveiled a new design and user interface for Bing, which now splits up searches into three columns on the page. The first column is populated with regular search results from the Web. The second column, dubbed Snapshot, provides relevant information on specific search topics as well as actions that can be taken with that topic (e.g., restaurants and making a reservation).

The third column, which appears as a sidebar on the far right, is where Facebook comes in. The sidebar allows users to post questions about their search query directly to Facebook, suggests friends on Facebook who might know about that topic (based on what they have "liked" in the past, their profile information and photos they have shared), surfaces relevant Web experts who have insight on that topic (based on what they have publicly shared on blogs and social networks) and features an activity feed comprised of Facebook posts and queries users have elected to share.

Both the App Center and Bing integration provide additional ways users can interact with each other on Facebook, even when they are away from the Web site. For brands that have taken advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph API and built apps, the App Center will be enable them to extend their reach to new audiences—not just by being featured in the hub, but also by reaching users who access Facebook apps via mobile devices. And with Microsoft deciding to feature Facebook so prominently on Bing, there will be opportunities for brands to quickly reach consumers through the power of social search.

Follow Sahil Patel: @sizpatel

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