For a few weeks now Microsoft and other related companies have been discussing Social Networking for business. Statistics fly around, claims are made and I can't help but wonder if by pushing services like Sharepoint and Yammer, MS isn't missing its hidden gem in this space. As for Sharepoint, other than Microsoft, I have yet to be somewhere, where it is used to its full potential. To most it is just another intranet portal providing minor services and little in the way of mutual engagement. Yammer might have been a good buy at one point, but I can setup most of that functionality for free to little initial cost. But I'm generally a DIY type when it comes to computers. Don't get me wrong, Yammer has been well developed, has many integrations and will most likely be around quite a while. But it is more of a traditional SocNet, providing yet another intranet portal.
I spent the last 5 days on Microsoft Fuse Lab's www.So.cl site. Though I have read some less than stellar reviews on it since launch, I honestly think this IS the next big SocNet for both business and personal use. It will require some more organization, some Office like features, but it has the basis of something special and different while providing amazing story telling functionality.
It's greatest differentiator and detractor is its collage posting method. This becomes apparent when you first go to the site. It is very easy to miss something, due to the layout combined with the collage posting method in use. This combination can make it difficult if you are scanning through posts. The collage posting method can be easily abused generating a sometimes pointless mess of images drowning out captions and comments. Let's call it visual cloudiness. This is fine for some instances of use. To make it a more broadly used service will require some teaching as well as ability to remain creatively free.
At the same time, the collage posting method is an amazing way of tying together pieces of information for display and discussion. Think about this in a collaborative research setting, or on a collaborative project at work. Arranging the collage of reference and information to tell the story and begin discussion. Collaboration is further facilitated by commenting, smiling(the equivalent of a "Like") and riffing. Riffing comes in as an interesting concept from a collaborative business perspective. The idea of Riffing, is to recognize what inspired you to post something related. In a business environment this could be used for spinoff meetings, teams, projects or general idea mapping. Further, your posting and liked posts can be collected in, what, Collections, they keep it simple. These from a business perspective could be collections of certain data from within the company. "To You" collections to see what projects might require your input and all kinds of additional organization or "tagging" applications. Just thinking about recruiting I can see quite a few potential applications.
Providing optional posting templates may be a good way to initially bring businesses into using the system internally. If companies can create standardized formats for use and re-use they can maintain their uniform internal branding as well. Similar to how Office allows you to store templates. Of course, users can always opt for the free form collage layout as well.
What seems to be the intent of So.cl is to see how people tie together information. How media ties together in our online world of social. This of course can further lead to understanding just how people relate to data or media. There has been research showing just based on Likes and comments, your personality profile can be assembled. Why not add an additional set of differentiation, emotional choice variables if you will. Expand the "Smile" button to some other emotions. Perhaps, something doesn't make me "Smile" maybe it makes me "Frown". Maybe it makes me "Scared". These reactions to a posting's content are just as relevant as a "Like". In a business application this could be a more appropriate set of indicators, defined by the business.
There is another main feature that would need to be addressed with So.cl to make it business usable. They would need to apply private accounts and private collaborative spaces. See, currently, everything you post on So.cl is public. There are no personal circles or Friends or even degrees of relation. There are Followers. See, I didn't sight that one for Twitter, because they use Followers too. But you can follow a person, a subject or a Collection. It wouldn't be that far a stretch to then apply a… section or area, maybe a Private Group of Followers to the system to make it usable for internal business communications as well as being able to reach out to other platforms from a singular SocNet platform solution.
I really think Fuse Labs has a possible major hit here. It would require some feature development, but as a business collaboration platform it could be amazing. Have you checked out www.so.cl? What do you think?