New Social Sidebar Coming to Bing
Bing unveiled its Social Sidebar about six months ago, allowing users to see how the recent activity of their social media friends relates to their current searches. While the feature lets you know which of your friends might be able to help with whatever you're searching for based on their social media activity, it can be a little startling visually, and lacks features that could make it a truly useful device.
As reported by Search Engine Land, it looks like Microsoft is currently in the process of addressing these issues and making several major renovations to their Social Sidebar.
A New Streamlined Look
Perhaps the first change you'll notice to the Bing Social Sidebar is that the stark gray background has been replaced by a white one, matching the rest of the page and visually integrating it into the rest of Bing's interface. The Activity Stream of general questions from your Facebook friends is also gone, and various subheadings have been reworked or renamed in order to better reflect their purposes.
In general, the new Social Sidebar offers a better representation of the actual social media it's drawing from; instead of just telling you that your friend posted a picture, for example, the Social Sidebar will now actually show you the picture. In the old system, you'd need to hover your mouse pointer over each bit of information in order to see a more detailed view. Now, the detailed view is offered by default.
More Relevant Content, Less Filler
In the old Social Sidebar, the Activity Stream basically just served as filler; even if Bing couldn't find any social media activity relevant to your specific query, it would load the Activity Stream with general questions asked by your social media friends. It's something, sure, but it doesn't really help with your current search.
Now that the Activity Stream is gone, there's more room for Bing to present relevant content in the "From Friends" and "From Social Networks" columns. It's a good thing there's room, too, because Bing is now capable of digging more thoroughly through social media activity to find results that are actually relevant to your search.
What Should Internet Marketers Do?
If you're a site owner, internet advertiser or social media marketer, you're probably wondering how to best make the new Bing Social Sidebar work for you. Since the "From Friends" column relies on you to actually be friends with people on social networks (and not just have them "like" your page), there's not much you can do in this area other than to increase your friend count.
However, you can improve your presence in the "From Social Networks" column simply by having great content relevant to your niche present on your social media sites, ranging from Facebook to Google+. Much of the content appearing in the new Social Sidebar seems to be from Quora, so if you don't have a presence on that site, now might be a good time to start one.