Microsoft Launches So.cl

Microsoft quietly launched so.cl (Pronounced “Social”) yesterday. Developed by Microsoft’s FUSE labs, it is focused on exploring the possibilities of social search.

So.cl is a combination of social networking & search. At it’s heart is social connectivity with like minded people that is topically driven. It combines elements of Google+, Facebook & Pinterest with the underlying goal to further integrate social with search.

With So.cl you can share your searches & help others discover what they might be looking for by aggregating content into topical categories. Many social elements are taken from existing networks. Video Parties are similar to Google+ hangouts. The all too familiar activity stream drives relevant content directly to the user. So.cl also features visually driven topics similar to Pinterest, but the core differentiator is that the content is primarily driven off of a users search results.

So.cl claims that it is an experiment in open search, meaning your searches on So.cl are viewable by other So.cl users and also available to third parties, assuming for relevance & targeted topical advertising. There is the possibility though that this experiment becomes the basis of Microsoft & Facebook’s social search strategy.

Google+ took the first major step in driving connectivity via social search, with the search giant owning 83% of organic search traffic, launching a socially enabled network that also extends via search via the “+1” as well as Google+ direct connect shows how the future of social will become synonymous with search.

You cannot talk about social without referencing Facebook. Facebook’s platform is like a walled garden when it comes to relevant/topical searching outside of Facebook. The “Like” button has become ubiquitous throughout the web, but when it comes to amplifying and connecting via traditional search Facebook is lagging behind Google.

With their recent partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and so.cl built on Bing API’s, so.cl focuses heavily on discoverability associated with “open search”, this may be the next step in amplifying Facebook topical activity.

So.cl features social sign on with both Facebook & Windows Live ID, which sets the stage for deeper integration into the social graph. One interesting observation when you authenticate via Facebook is that of the 180 data points that can be mined, so.cl only wants your basic info, e-mail & group data. The groups option really peaked my interest as to how they are going to use this data.

One of the interesting options buried in the settings is the ability to set your primary search provider to So.cl to publicly share your posts. So.cl is powered by Bing’s API’s but is branded So.cl.

Similar to Pinterest’s Pin it option, So.cl also deploys a bookmarklet option, essentially providing a quick and easy option to share any web item directly into your so.cl stream.

One key difference from Pinterest is that So.cl allows users to create “Rich Posts” where users can combine interesting images and links on the web and assemble them automatically into a compelling visual montage.

What does So.cl mean for brands? At this point So.cl is still a “research project” and is not designed to take the place of full-featured search & social networking tools, but this project could lead to the future of social + search integration as it pertains to Bing & Facebook. This also provides insight into the coming convergence of search + social.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

5 Types of Socially Enabled E-mail

So much time is spent defining intricate social strategies across owned social channels. But there are certain branded elements that receive minimal attention that can significantly amplify these efforts.

One such item is how organizations incorporate social elements into their e-mail marketing campaigns. This is relevant as organizations that leverage both e-mail marketing & social channels tend to receive better results for their campaigns according to a report from Vertical Response. This strong correlation can be further amplified by fine tuning the social enablement of the actual messaging.

If you review branded e-mail marketing campaigns you will see inconsistency in how social sharing is enabled. The goal should not be to drive awareness that the channel exists, but to create frictionless sharability of the content and in some cases to also provide relevantly targeted messaging based on the users social graph data.

There are multiple buckets that brands across multiple verticals fall into when representing social connectivity via e-mail.

1) The Social Chicklet – Many brands follow the rule of just adding a socially enabled chicklets to the top or bottom navigation of communication. While paying homage to the brands owned channels, the actual engagement on this style of placement is lower than other methods.

Playstation as well as a majority of brands that reference social channels in this manner go with the approach of simply providing visibility into the fact that their channels exist. There is however a missed opportunity to share the message itself or specific content segments that are worthy of sharing.

2) The Social Call Out – The second level of integration takes the social chicklet & applies a direct call to action that is specific to the desired channel. This at the very least calls out to the user that a certain action needs to be taken that may drive additional value to the user.

In the example below, Fandango provides specific calls to action on what they would like for the user to do with the referenced social channels. FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook

Here are other examples from Eddie Bauer which leverages the facebook share call to action, Macys & Red Envelope.

 

3) Socially Enabled Content – Xbox deploys a strategy that not only calls attention to their specific channels but also the ability to directly share the content of the e-mail, they also take special care to socially enable each individual content block for maximum sharability.

4) Socially Centric Communication – Some brands have invested efforts to provide communication that directly highlights their social channels and how users can benefit from engaging directly with their channels. The benefit to this approach is that individuals consume different types of information across different channels. By highlighting the benefits that their social channels provide, they are potentially driving the user to action to associate with the brands owned social channels. It is also possible to track the organic growth associated with the call to action to test the impact of the campaign as some brands e-mail databases triple their current fans/followers, etc…

Below is an example from CORT that highlights an individual receiving value and drives a targeted message about a potential value exchange from engaging via their social channel.

Pizza Hut dedicated an e-mail message touting the value of becoming a member by leveraging their current network size, teasing with potential exclusives.

5) Socially Relevant – One of the bigger opportunities for brands is associated with the adoption of social sign on & leveraging open graph data to drive highly targeted recommendations and communication. In my recent post I wrote about the benefits of social sign on and open graph.

From an e-mail standpoint, the ability to pull in relevant open graph elements to further drive socially enabled gifting, such as birthday reminders and socially optimized wish lists come to forefront. These principles can then be applied to driving socially relevant and targeted messaging to drive a user to take action on behalf of either themselves or their closest friends.

Example of how Old Navy could further socially enable a post purchase e-mail

By taking the time to consider how to truly socially optimize e-mail marketing, a brand can truly capitalize on the permissive nature of their users to share their content vs. vaguely eluding to the fact that the brand has social channels.

On a final note, socially enabled sharing when it comes to retail shopping experiences are key across the prime millennial & gen x targets when it comes to point #3 below.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360