Meet the Facebook Marketing Team at Microsoft You Haven’t Heard Of

While it’s widely known that Facebook and Microsoft are collaborating on implementing Live Search in Facebook sometime “by the end of the year,” there is another Facebook group at Microsoft that you may not have heard of.

Sebastian Gard, Viral Marketing Manager in the Digital Experiences team at Live Search Consumer Marketing, is heading up an experimental effort at Microsoft to drive use of Live Search through the viral spread of – you guessed it – Facebook applications.

The first of Microsoft’s applications, Knocked Up, went live last night. It makes use of Live Search’s image search capabilities, along with advanced photo morphing software from Microsoft Research, to let Facebook users see what it might look like if their friends mated with popular celebrities. The often hilarious results can then be tagged with friends’ names and placed in their Facebook photo albums.

Inside Facebook spoke with Gard about his team’s efforts to use the Facebook Platform as a marketing channel for Live Search, and how his efforts related to Microsoft’s collaboration with Facebook overall.

Sebastian, what is Microsoft doing building Facebook apps like “Knocked Up”?

We’re really just trying to drive use of the Live Search platform. We’re taking this powerful platform and building a few narrow, entertaining applications on top of it. This is the first of those.

We really went into this with a sense of fun. At the same time, we’re Microsoft, and we have access to Microsoft research that makes our apps a little bit more solid and mature than what else you might see out there. We have access to some great code.

How is this achieving your goals at Live Search Consumer Marketing?

Search is very broadly horizontal.  As we compete with Google, if we can come in with a very narrowly focused message, Facebook applications offer us the opportunitity (though a somewhat limited one) to get our message across. We can build on top of Live Search capabilities like image search and pulling in celebrity photos based on search popularity. We could see this applying to QnA and Maps as well.

How does Knocked Up take advantage of the Facebook Platform?

Well, we’re dealing with very photographic content, which seems to do well on Facebook. We also create an album for you and automatically save all the pictures you create there. If you tag friends in the photo, that’s a huge attractor. You can use Knocked Up as a “weapon” with your friends, and get huge threads going.

We’re trusting word of mouth to spread the app, as there’s no way currently to click through to the application from a photo album. We’re going very light on the use of Facebook invitations and requests.

How does your group interact with those integrating Live Search with Facebook?

Live Search is being integrated into the Facebook platform, which is very exciting, through we’re not specifically a part of that effort. Facebook is taking a very thorough approach to how they’re putting Live Search in, however – they’re not just plugging web search in like we’ve seen other social networks do.

Thanks Sebastian. Any final thoughts?

The challenge for us is really how can we keep up a steady stream of ideas like Knocked Up? Can we get the community involved? It will be really interesting to see.