Microsoft Launches Socl Social Network: A Look Inside

Congrats, Mark Zuckerberg. You went public on Friday, got married on Saturday and now as a special present from part-owner and best partner Microsoft have a new social network to contend with: Microsoft’s So.cl. But don’t worry too much.

I just spotted the news of So.cl going live on Techmeme. This being a Sunday, I wasn’t planning to work. However, I couldn’t help but go in and play around. So here’s a quick rundown on the social network with a triple-handicap: why use it instead of Facebook, instead of Google+ or instead of the new Bing that just added social features.

Share Searches, Discover Interests & Video Hangouts

The home screen promises the ability to share searches, discover new interests and have a video party:

Right there, two out of three of the call-to-actions to use the network seem weak. Share Your Search? Bing itself just pitched that big as a reason to use the relaunched service (see Bing Relaunches, Features New Social Sidebar).

Start A Video Party? You mean like a Google Hangout, which Google has been desperately pitching as a reason to use Google+ over Facebook? Despite that feature, Google still hasn’t been winning marketshare from Facebook.

Discover New Interests? Sounds interesting, perhaps, but will that be enough to make people want to use this in place of or in addition to the many other social networking options out there?

Signing-Up

You can sign-up in one of two ways, via Facebook or with your Windows Live account. I choose the Windows Live option, and perhaps that was a mistake. Going that route mean So.cl has no idea who my Facebook friends are (I think), so I didn’t get any suggestions of people I know to follow or invite.

Of course, more of this is probably down to the fact that even if I do have Facebook friends, they aren’t on So.cl yet, so there’s nothing to suggest.

After signing up, I was given the option to follow topics, along with a few people:

The problem was, pushing Follow did nothing. I never could get this page to actually follow the things selected.

After getting past this, you can hit the profile area to do things like adjust privacy settings or set a custom nickname, as shown below:

Selecting that name gives a short URL to your profile that contains the name, like this for me:

http://www.so.cl/#/@Danny-Sullivan

Those going to the page from outside Socl only see your picture, no activity you’ve been doing, an option that Facebook, Google and Twitter all allow.

Another option is to set your search provider to Socl:

This makes absolutely no sense to me. Microsoft just did a huge emphasis on how Bing allows social searching two weeks ago. It’s a major feature of the Bing relaunch. Why bring out Socl with a confusing message of sharing searches?

Using Socl

When you go to your feed page, you’re invited to type what you’re interested in:

With the solar eclipse happening today, I entered that to see what would happen:

I took me some time to figure it out, but you click on any of the images or articles that show up in the search that you did on Socl, then you add those to your post. You can do additional searches to effectively have a “Pinterest For Search” as Greg Finn found when he wrote about the Socl preview that went live in December:

Sharing a link was incredibly confusing. It took me five attempts until I got it to work right:

Entering a URL doesn’t automatically add that URL to your post. No, you have to then go and click on elements that are brought up after entering it, such as the story link or images from the story. Actually, it’s kind of cool that you can have Pinterest-style posts like this, after you figure it out. But it’s so different than from sharing on the other services.

Want to share pictures? You can’t. You’re supposed to, I gather, as I learned after posting on Socl about this being missing. But I gather that’s being looked at and perhaps linked to sharing out of a SkyDrive account.

Microsoft Says: Keep Using Bing

That’s going to be it, for now. As I said, I find it confusing about why anyone wants to use this given how many other social networks are out there, much less Microsoft already having baked social sharing into Bing. But one of the creators of Socl Lili Cheng said this when I asked about why I’d use Socl:

You should use Bing ;-) ! We are working closely with the bing folks- we are using socl to experiment with the search + social networking experience from Microsoft Research. You will see other experiments in Socl over time– would love your feedback and thanks for checking out socl.

I guess that So.cl will flow ideas into Bing. But then again, perhaps it could develop into something further. We’ll see. Meanwhile, explore the service now, if you like.

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Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Microsoft: So.cl | Top News

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • Durant Imboden

    Having a name that people aren’t sure how to pronounce isn’t a great idea, either. (“Social”? “Sosel?” “Sokel”? “So Cal”?)

  • http://TheOnlyCog.com/ The Only Cog

    hate these short URLs (so.cl, yeah that rolls of the tongue!)

  • http://twitter.com/SocialJulio Julio Fernandez

    Hi Danny, it also took me several times to figure out how to add a link to a post, but I like that you can go back and edit a post, like on G+. By creating my Socl account with my Facebook credentials, it gave me a list of FB friends on Socl. I dont think FB has to worry about Socl, but G+ and Google should. I like how it encourages you to search for a topic before you post about it to add to the conversation. I did a test with some photos from Stonehenge, actually an album sitting on Google+ and after a minute, I already had a comments/question, not spam on my post. The embed code of each post is also useful.  http://www.so.cl/#/@Julio-Fernandez 

  • http://twitter.com/eserrano_com Enrique Serrano

    If you click on something for sharing purposes, the natural way to go wouldn’t require other extra clicks. We’re already seeing some gotchas with people posting blank links. My guess is that such feature will be streamlined in the future (including the shared link by default, etc.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/umreviews Umreviews Umar

    Amazing Post, Interesting information. Thank you.

    Regards,

    Umar
    http://umreviews.com

  • http://www.robblewis.com robblewis

    Essentially So.cl lacks innovative / new features compared to facebook, g+ and is early beta buggy.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Drew-Olanoff/501203508 Drew Olanoff

    Video parties are like Chill’s product, nothing like Hangouts :)

  • http://www.shaneatkins.co.uk/ Shane Atkins

    So.cl looks like just like a bad version of Google+. Google+ has 170 million users and Facebook 901 million users there just isn’t a space for Microsoft any-more.

  • Robert Johnson

    The “about” page makes it pretty clear that So.cl is a research project. That means it’s not intended to be taken seriously as a new social network. So why review it like it’s intended to compete with FB and G+?

  • sallyrothwell

    This launch wouldnt have made any attention even if they spent billions advertising its debut.

    They are about 13 years too late, and now noone uses these networks as they are only in place to reap and use its userbase for even penny they can. A company only working for profit and not innovation heard how much a single user is worth to investors a plan to create infinite number of fake users to pump their stock price. As they realize the waste of operating costs, they will ditch this project like every other.

    This project was released last year, and now re-released it again to see if it will gain any hype. Not. It was dumped last time and will get dumped again. Another terrible loss to MSFT investors. Why can they just create something useful. Creating useless products on hype has been their motife for the last ten years. And once the hype has left they ditch the product with serious losses. Its due to the fact noone likes the company.

    Such a wasteful company representing the end of the internet. Its a shame they sill think they are relavant. With the failure of Winblows phone and now another push of Windows *8, they have over extended their reach online, pushing their own products farther than possible. What makes this worse is that so many companies depend on their products, that whenever they do bad, the little companies usually pay more for their failures.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Because it does compete, regardless of what Microsoft says on the About page, which you have to dig to find, as opposed to the big splash screen highlighting features. The About page also doesn’t appear to have been updated yet from when this was an experimental service that was closed to most, open only to a few, to the fully-open service now.

  • The Shambolic Skeptic

    Jeez… just what the world needs. Another place to share animated gif’s.

  • http://twitter.com/seowestcp Christopher West

    IIRC I joined SOCL a few months ago (or maybe I only signed up for an invite :)).. still Danny is right, it is intended to be a competitor to Google+ (probably not as much for Facebook coz you can sign in with Facebook)…

  • Robert Johnson

    PLEASE TELL ME YOU ARE NOT SERIOUS!?? I respect you as a serious journalist. It does not compete?? The logo itself is a clue (it has MS research in it). That is an indication that this is just an experiment that will eventually be used to help BING data. FUSE projects have never been taken seriously as real launches? Remember the FUSE project that allowed FB users to use online Office within Facebook? These are RESEARCH projects. Please stop the negative publicity against Microsoft. This project will leave just as quietly as it launched. Do you REALLY think MS will launch a major social network this quietly??? NO. This is not the same MS you are accustomed to covering. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/renegatdula Rene Gatdula

    US only..? I’m in the waiting list…

  • http://propertyagents.co/real-estate-lead-generation-course Muhammad Ayaz

    using the name like so.cl isn’t a great idea how people will pronounce it and I think you should use the proper word i.e. like facebook or social that would be easy to pronounce.

  • http://twitter.com/WebSavvyMrkting Web Savvy Marketing

    Tried it Sunday and again this morning.  I was able to change my profile image and add an introduction, but everything else failed due to errors or simply returns a blank screen.  

    At this rate, I’m thinking Microsoft needs a super cool version of Twitter’s fail whale.

  • http://www.kevinmullett.com Kevin Mullett

    Not sure anyone else noticed this message later in the afternoon. “Thanks for all the love and feedback on So.cl! We’re going to get to work fixing some issues you found, and open back up shortly!” (screen shot 
    http://twitpic.com/9ngp7y) That seem like the kind of thing you would do in a closed beta phase, which I signed up for a while back. Either way, someone over at MS should certainly understand this will be reviewed regardless of how it is named. So far I am less than impressed.

  • http://www.dewaldthuysamen.com/ Dewaldt Huysamen

    The problem is for our clients in South Africa only 3% of searches happen on bing.com, so we do not focus on bing at all.

    Only if it is a client that needs international rankings and that is targeting international consumers.

  • http://www.shoutmeloud.com/ Harsh Agrawal

    One thing I’m not sure…Why do I need to use So.cl?

  • tonio09

    many users have multiple accounts…

  • tonio09

    signing in with facebook makes it easier for people to migrate…

  • http://www.shaneatkins.co.uk/ Shane Atkins

    I’am from the United Kingdom and I can use it fine.

  • http://twitter.com/petersodja Peter Sodja

    I think this could be really big. I mean really really really big. Its very dynamic and fun. 

  • kumar kunal

    It is pronounced as “Social”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deepak-Sasidharan-S/100002471665402 Deepak Sasidharan S

    some people nervous about life and job some people nervous about family but i am nervous about ourself

  • http://www.facebook.com/pooin.nt Pooin Nt

    thinks

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