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The size of the "strategic investment" was not disclosed, but Klout CEO Joe Fernandez wrote in a blog post that it was accompanied by "a multi-year agreement where Bing will become one of Klout's most significant partners."
Klout is a social media reputation service that integrates with multiple social networks, allows users to rate each other, and assigns individuals an overall score for their social media influence. Those scores will now be included in the social sidebar that the Bing search engine displays, provided that the user has enabled a connection to Facebook.
For example, when I tried one of the searches recommended on the Bing Search Blog, one for movies, I got back a listing of Facebook friends who have liked or commented on movies, followed by a "People Who Know" with profiles of movie experts including Chicago Sun-Times reviewer Roger Ebert. Clicking on his name brought up a capsule profile with his Klout score (92) and some recent tweets.
Microsoft said another significance of the integration partnership is that Bing search data will also become an input to the Klout algorithm for determining influence. In other words, the frequency with which people click through to Roger Ebert's blog will be another indicator of how influential he is for determining his Klout score.
"Search data has long been one of the missing signals in our effort to fully recognize a person's influence," Fernandez wrote. "Just as Wikipedia articles can reflect a person's real world influence, search results for a person signal accomplishments achieved beyond social networks and serve to influence others."
Microsoft has a history of investing in social networking services and recognizing the importance of social influence in search results. Microsoft made $240 million investment in Facebook back in 2007 and began integrating Facebook friend data in search results in October 2010. Bing's social search continues to be enhanced in competition with the social results Google now derives from its own social network, Google+.
Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)