Search Engines Could Earn Trust Through Social Status Messages

Status message question asking (SMQA): That's how some researchers at Microsoft describe the ability to post a question in a social status feed and get answers from friends or followers. It explains why Bing integrated the Facebook social sidebar into its search engine.

So how does a status message in a social network influence conversions? Microsoft researchers wanted to know, so they recruited 82 participants for a lab study. It turns out that when given the option of using a search engine and/or a social network to find information, participants leveraged status messages 20% of the time. The research analyzes the motives behind the choices, and shows how specific information and audiences in a given network play important roles.

In fact, the research demonstrates how it's all related to the participants' satisfaction, information value and trust of responses and query results. The findings suggest that search engines may be able to better address up to 20% of information needs by integrating SMQA capabilities into their systems. The researchers came to this conclusion by focusing on three contributions that help explain SMQA in the context of online information seeking strategies. The three questions asked were "What goes where?" -- which is relevant to routing decisions -- "Why (and why not)?," which looks at motivation, and "What was successful?," which examines the outcomes.

They also suggest that when given the option of expressing a need for specific information to a search engine or a social network, people prefer search engines, although they use SMQA for 20% informational needs. The overall preference for search engines still exists for more prevalent information, but it is weaker. The results also show that when status message questions are asked, it is more often as a complement to issuing a query to a search engine, rather than as a replacement.

Trust in the information served up online plays a major role in the types of engines and social sites people use. Trust in friends and opinions. Trust in a specific subject. Trust in the source.

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