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Bing announced this morning that now any search results retrieved by logged-in Facebook users will show which links your friends have “Liked” or shared. This goes a step beyond their previous announcement with Facebook – which we discussed here previously – that brought “Likes” into some limited results.

We’re excited that social search continues to gain ground. It will mean more meaningful results for consumers and a present a real opportunity for sales professionals to leverage their social networks.

However, what remains unclear in this announcement from Bing is whether social relevance – number of your friends who have “Liked” a certain link – will affect the order of results returned. If Bing is convinced, as we at are, that search results carrying personal recommendations from people we know are better, more trustworthy results then we would encourage them to elevate those results in their search algorithm.

When we search for sushi restaurants or microbreweries, it’d be great to see the places our friends have visited and liked at the top of the results, but more importantly when we search for realtors or mortgage bankers we want to see the people our friends trust on top.

Last week Michael McClure at Professional One Franchising wrote about the “Likeification of a Nation,” and on top of a clever headline he provided a prescient post. In it he wrote:

I know that “Agent Ratings” is a hot topic in real estate these days (and rightfully so), but “Facebook Liking” is more basic, more fundamental and just flat out EASIER than filling out an online form to rate someone. And if you’re into Facebook (500M and growing, hello!), the act of “Liking” becomes second nature very quickly, doesn’t it?

Yet while we can see why a lighter touch solution is sensible from the reviewer perspective, McClure elucidates the value to the consumer looking for a trusted resource:

So, if we fast forward a little bit, how many of us are going to just go look for the “most-Liked” restaurant, the “most-Liked movie, the “most-Liked” house…and the “most-Liked” Realtor?

In our minds, this is the real value of the Facebook “Like” as a rating mechanism.  Combining implicit relationships (via the Facebook social graph) with explicit recommendations (“I recommend Andrew Agent as a trusted service provider”) provides consumers all the information and social proof they’ll ever need to make a decision.

Few people care if I thought the duck confit was over-tenderized for the price point or that the couple at the table next to me was wearing sweatpants – more people want to know if I would recommend the restaurant to my friends.  Most 2,500 word reviews on Yelp! can be summed up in one click of the “Like” or “Recommend” button.

We can (will) highlight the technical upside to a Facebook “like” vs. a homegrown rating system, but will save the details for another post.  The key takeaway is that Facebook has provided consumers with a lightweight, socially connected tool for making important purchasing decisions.  It is time the professional class took advantage of this unique platform to build their reputations and grow their referral business on Facebook. is here to help.

Reputation has always been important for sales professionals. Consumers need to believe in the salesman to believe in the product.

The difference today is it’s much easier for that reputation to spread far and wide thanks to the review websites and social media. This scares some sales people because a bad review can stick with you. More information is generally thought to favor the consumer, but there’s also a huge upside for sales people not to be ignored.

There’s an article in the Memphis Daily News today about social media’s impact on real estate in which Joe Spake, a real estate broker with Revid Realty in Memphis, talks about how social media is helping him makes sales. He says:

All of my new business that hasn’t been referred in the last two years has come straight from social media – from being out there, from blogging, from being on Facebook or Twitter – people that I don’t even know in real life call me up to help them find a house. There’s a big credibility factor there.

Spake is exactly right about the credibility factor, but I would take issue with calling this business that “hasn’t been referred.” He’s talking about business that doesn’t come from offline referrals, but those finding him on Facebook or Twitter are just replicating that offline experience.

It’s just that now consumers are reaching out to social media contacts for advice on which realtor or mortgage banker to use. Instead of reaching out to four or five friends on the phone, smart consumers are consulting their social networks where friends number in the hundreds if not thousands.

That’s why we’ve built to make that experience easier for consumers and sales professionals. We agree with people like Dave Fleet, vice-president of digital at Edleman, who writes in his “20 Social Media Trends for Business in 2011” that social impact will drive reputation. Sites like Service Alley are giving consumers the option to browse reviews from their Facebook friends for home service providers from carpenters to electricians to painters.

The sales professionals in any industry that recognize this and seize the opportunity have a lot more to gain than fear from the social media impact.

No one should be shocked to hear that Americans are putting little trust in banks these days, as Scott Malone of Reuters reported on Tuesday. “Just 25 percent of Americans and 16 percent of Britons said they trusted banks to do the right thing,” he writes based on the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer.

The institutions that Americans closely associate with the financial crisis still have not regained the public’s confidence, and may not for quite some time. But building that confidence in the institution may not be essential to building back the business.

What’s more important is building trust between consumers and the sales professionals they interact with on a day-to-day business. In other words, consumers don’t necessarily need to believe in Citibank, but they need to trust Tom the mortgage banker who is making the loan. In turn, the confidence he instills in consumers can inspire greater trust in the company he represents.

At we think that familiarity is a prerequisite for trust. So we help link up consumers with mortgage bankers, realtors, financial advisors etc., whom they share social connections with on Facebook. If Tom is not only a mortgage banker at Citibank, but also our high school buddy’s college classmate, there is a level of trust developing and easily deepened with referrals and recommendations.

We’re certainly not the only ones who think this way. Business News Daily’s Brian Anthony Hernandez writes in his 2011 social media predictions that: “Now more than ever, customers and clients expect businesses to interact with them, and businesses’ reputations can hinge on how they respond to comments criticizing their products or services on social media.”

Banks, like all consumer-driven businesses after a public relations disaster, will seek to restore their public image, but they’d be smart to invest more time in building consumer trust in their front-line sales staff.