As the battle over Internet searches rages on, social media continues to be the weapon of choice.  Now that consumers spend the majority of their time on social channels like Facebook and Twitter, search engines are working to improve search results by adding more social network integration.  The outcome has been a drastic increase in the impact of social influence beyond social networks, making influencer marketing critical for today’s brands.

Microsoft planned it early when it purchased a 1.6% stake for $240M (valuing Facebook at $15B).  This allowed for search engine Bing, formerly Live Search, Windows Live Search, and MSN Search (I wonder who is losing the fight…) to integrate Facebook likes with search results.  This social search combination has allowed Bing to show results that are more relevant to users based on the interests of their Facebook friends, and has likely helped Bing earn a higher effectiveness measure than Google.

So how does social integration with search relate to influencer marketing?  It signifies an expansion of social influence off of the pages of social media channels and into other areas of the internet. Posts from social influencers about your brand will now appear in search engine results.  As a brand, this means marketing to influential users is becoming more important than ever.

Here’s how it plays out:

Meet Johnny Appleseed, a Facebook user who tends to drive high engagement (in the form of likes and comments) on his Facebook posts. As a result of his influence with friends, Johnny’s posts show up more often in his friends’ Newsfeeds, giving him higher social influence.

Say Johnny uses a product or service, and creates a Facebook post about his experience.  Due to his high social influence, the experience shared in the post gets a higher level of engagement, and gets exposed to many users, even those he rarely talks to.  The post affects other users’ opinion of the product or service, possibly sparking posts of their own.  The more users that see it, the more engagements are driven, yielding more influence and so on…

This viral effect used to only take place inside social networks, but now that posts are impacting search engine results, the effect is spiderwebbing and affecting multiple industries.  This can boost sales if users with high social influence post something positive, or alternatively, it can send customers to a competitor if they post something negative.

Either way you look at it, search engine integration is making social influence increasingly powerful. To learn more about influencer marketing, check out our Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing Ebook.