Deals between Microsoft's Bing and social-networking giants Twitter and Facebook are the type of non-traditional approach Microsoft needs as it seeks to chip away at Google's big lead in the search market, according to an analyst. "They've been at this for four or five years, and it's good to see them accelerating and adding things that Google doesn't have," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

Integrating Social Networking

The deals will add Twitter tweets and Facebook updates into Bing's search results. A Bing blog posting verified the arrangement with Twitter but didn't provide details.

The posting said Microsoft is offering a U.S. beta of Bing Twitter search. The beta allows users to search Twitter feeds on any topic and provides choices to display the results.

Tweets can be viewed as they are posted, full pages of tweets can be displayed, or tweets can be ranked by the number of followers the author has. Entries identical to earlier tweets are ranked lower, according to the blog.

The Facebook deal was announced at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. A company statement said, "Today we announced that we are working with Microsoft to make status updates that Facebook users choose to make public to 'everyone' on Facebook also available in real time through Bing search. With this partnership between Facebook and Bing, search becomes more relevant and social than ever, giving people the ability to discover what's happening in the world right now. This new functionality will be available early next year."

Real-Time Reaction

Rosoff said the concept of integrating social networking into search will help Bing provide more timely information. "Twitter feeds in particular offer a different type of information than is usually available through search engines," he said. "It provides up-to-the-minute sentiment on and information about particular topics. News can be searched on Google and Bing, but it is not as timely. Someone has to write and file the news stories."

Though these are essentially consumer-facing moves, Rosoff said, companies can learn a lot from the results. "Already PR and marketing firms monitor Facebook and Twitter very closely to follow the sentiments on their products," he said. He noted that there already are tools to gauge online reactions.

Rosoff said the moves are of medium importance. He said that in the bigger picture, it's good that Microsoft keeps innovating, both for its own sake and as a way to goad its competitors.

"It's important that Microsoft keep doing little things," he said. "Things like visual search, which they introduced a few months ago. They are trying to innovate quickly in search, and in the end Google is forced to respond. I think it's a good thing overall."