So.Cl (pronounced ‘Social’) is Microsoft’s addition to the Social Media Market, and resonates those early days of Facebook (that we look back on so fondly) as a simple way for students to connect with one another. Although predominantly aimed at Students as their target market, it won’t be long until So.Cl becomes exactly that, and becomes a platform for all, and anyone can sign up, should they so wish.
Microsoft have based their network as an ‘addition’ to the more long standing sites, openly encouraging users to use both Facebook and So.cl. However, if looked a little closer, Facebook are of course, not the intended competition.
Similar in platform, Microsoft appear to be leaning more towards Google and Google+, which is also designed with social and search in mind. The key function of the new network is an aggregation feature, which is designed to pull in content from other existing websites and share it across their pages, similar in working to Pinterest, with a key focus on commentary.
On sign up, So.cl are allowing users to sign up using their Facebook credentials and a easy route to gain a significant following in a simple manner. This of course, or their current Windows Live ID.
The profile page is fairly standard and a nod towards other social sites, you are provided with a cover banner and profile image, and users can post and share content much like any other network available at present. Your main landing page (called “Explore”) is populated with your interests and likes that you have chosen to follow.
Navigation is straightforward, with links to Feed, Post, Profile, Video Parties (we will cover this later) with the option of subfolders for each main navigation link. You can also use these to control what kind of content you are going to share in a post, and who in turn gets to see it (think of it like the ‘circles’ approach for Google+)
Posting and Searching.
It seems a simple concept if you are used to the worlds of Twitter and Facebook, however So.cl have gone for a different take on the matter.
To post any external content to So.cl, you must go through Bing (Microsoft’s resident search engine first). The first way of posting, would be to search topics such as “web design” or “social media” and search via the Bing-bar at the top of the page. Using the navigation links you can drill down what it is you want to be seeing (images/videos etc) and add the specific link to your post.
Unlike other Social Networks, you cannot now just grab a URL from an article you want to share, then paste and post, you need the secondary step of ‘adding the link’ and searching via Bing, and posting that exact article, but via Bing.
Your interests is the hub of populating your new page and profile, and the side bar lists each Interest you chose to follow. Each Interest in turn has its own page that lets you see posts from other users based on the same subject matter. This provides the vast quantity of update matter for the network, and encourages those with similar interests to interact accordingly.
A great little tool Microsoft have included is the use of real time video sharing, or “Video Parties” as they have so aptly named them. Users can watch YouTube together in real time, which is centered around a particular singer/artist/interest. Comments and discussions are then left/written in real time too, making video interaction a key feature to the page.
For business, it is hard to say whether So.cl will break the mold of social networking. Despite its ‘target market’ it is difficult to predict whether they will open it up for the wider audience. Encouraging (dare we say, forcing?) users to constantly revert to Bing will perhaps cause a rift, especially in countries that predominantly rely and trust Google as their primary search function. Although Google+ has its flaws, it is more flexible and is certainly integrated so much more smoothly into our existing search and social lives that little needs to change at all.
As for So.cl? Watch this space.