Internet marketing services providers should be aware of a change in behaviour that is seeing more people turn to social networking sites for answers before search engines.

This is according to Jordan Kasteler, writing for Search Engine Land, who highlighted a study from Microsoft and MIT that revealed 29 per cent of individuals used social networks to get recommendations and advice on areas ranging from entertainment to shopping.

He explained many users valued the personal interaction sites such as Facebook and Twitter could provide and trusted the opinions of others more than results provided by search engines.

One possible outcome of this, the expert suggested, is a move towards more social search, a strategy Bing is exploring with its partnership with Facebook, which was announced in October.

Mr Kasteler observed that "the power of opinion" is a major factor in many decisions made online and companies need to offer a personalised service in order to exploit this.

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