What’s Going on with So.Cl?

In May, Microsoft launched So.Cl, a social media platform focused on helping users collect and share images and discover web content with people that have similar interests. According to the site’s ‘About’ section, “So.cl (pronounced social) is an experimental research project, developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs, that lets you use search to express and share ideas through beautiful story collages.” The platform is geared toward students, but it is open to everyone and is not meant to be a competitor to the large social networks out there, like Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Unfortunately, So.Cl seems to have fallen off the map since its initial launch.

When So.Cl was first launched, I wrote a blog about my thoughts and collected some other reactions from the social media marketing world. I have not been able to find any news or articles written recently about So.Cl; the majority of the items were dated in May and I cannot find any information about how many active users are on So.Cl at this point. When I set my feed to “everyone”, it still averages less than one post a minute. This is an incredibly low number for a social network.

So.Cl is supposed to be tailored to students doing research, so perhaps usage will pick up once the school year starts. Additionally, Microsoft has not been actively promoting the platform. However, the content being shared on So.Cl does not appear much different from what can easily be shared through Pinterest. I do not think So.Cl differs enough from any other social media platform enough to make an impact.

What are your thoughts on So.Cl? Do you think it has sticking power?

Bear Love and Cancer: What The Oatmeal can Teach us About Social Media

What do Bear Love and Cancer have in common? $169,000. Matthew Inman, creator of the controversial info-graphic website The Oatmeal, has made internet headlines in recent news, following a lawsuit of slander against the website comic’s creator. Inman, since the lawsuit, has seen more media attention than ever and is currently petitioning a restoration of the late Nikola Tesla’s abandoned laboratory in Shoreham, Long Island. Inman’s restoration goal is a whopping $850,000. In only a few days, The Oatmeal had earned $350,000.

A response of this measure speaks volumes when it comes to social media. Inman was able to produce within a month, over a quarter of a million dollars by simply tweeting and posting to his audience. The artist known passionately to his followers as The Oatmeal has proven that social media tools and reaching out to your audience with personality and clever pictures is all it takes to make an impact within the realm of social networks.

So what have we learned from this? The internet is a POWERFUL weapon. The Oatmeal has exhibited the incredible execution of internet warfare that every online marketing company in the world would kill for. With that said, here are three things to take from The Oatmeal’s campaign:

  1. Engage your audience with something they (and you!) care about: The Oatmeal cares about science and things that define us as nerds and geeks (which is awesome by the way!). By being himself, Inman was able to relate a cause important to him, to his audience and more.
  2. Post cool images: A picture says a thousand words and in the case of The Oatmeal, $169,000. While most of us won’t make that kind of money so easily, we can take The Oatmeal as an example of just how impacting an info-graphic can be.
  3. Maintain an active role in social media: Being active on Twitter or Facebook and promoting ood quality content goes a long way. Without such platforms, I doubt that The Oatmeal would have been as successful as he has been recently. I am from Long Island and I am a nerd so needless to say, I look forward to the Nikola Tesla Museum.

3D Fetal Photography Printer: How Certain Brands Can be Difficult to Market with Social Media

Today I am going to the photographer at Target to get baby photos of my daughter Harlie. Plenty of people have told me that she is the most adorable baby on the face of the planet and I truly believe it. The child has been photogenic before her birth, from ultrasounds to sonograms; she is quite the baby super model. However, while reading Mashable I came across a tech-gimmick for 3d sculpture prints of an unborn fetus—What?!

A new service from Fasotec created what they call “Tensi no Katachi,” or “Shape of an Angel” which is now available in Tokyo. This 3D sculpture would make an interesting stocking stuffer for the expectant grandparents:

The service costs 100,000 yen, or about $1,300. A dual-resin extruder makes the baby part and the hardened amniotic part at the same time.

Clients can choose to have a 3D image captured of the baby’s entire body, or just focus on a single body part. So if you’re not ready to start the baby buzz around the office with your new full-body fetal paperweight, you can just opt for a foot or an ear.

I am supportive of new and innovative technology but I am not too sure of how I feel about this one. I remember there being a service to mold a life like mask of your own face, which is a bit strange for my taste.

How do you market a product like this? In what way can this company promote itself with such social media marketing platforms like Facebook? When millions of people spend their time on Facebook or Twitter, buying tech products or baby furniture, it is hard to sell an unborn fetal paper weight in my opinion.

Using a social media platform to sell a product is nothing new but a product like this, although interesting, seems that it might be too hard to sell.

Facebook Acquires Instagram: What’s Changed Four Months Later?

On April 9th, 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion. Some heralded it as a bold move, while others called it a dumb decision (how is Instagram possibly worth $1 billion, they questioned). Many of Instagram’s users threatened to quit once Facebook had acquired it, but Instagram’s user base has been growing. What has Facebook done with Instagram in the four months since they have purchased it?

Instagram itself is continuing to grow, and the London Olympics have seen many popular athletes, including McKayla Maroney, using the photo app to post photographs of their journey on social media networks.  More brands are also joining Instagram, but again, in my opinion this would have happened regardless of Facebook’s acquisition. However, Instagram is still on its own island, separate from Facebook.

Facebook will most likely never make back the $1 billion it spent to purchase Instagram from a revenue perspective, but it should at least be taking advantage of the Instagram platform and integrate it deeper with Facebook.  Instagram is doing well and so if Facebook, but what are they doing together? Not much, from what I can tell.

The Social Music Revolution: Music’s Social Influence

Mashable recently posted an infographic that broke down how people now listen to music. The infographic provided a lot of insight into the current state of affairs in the music industry and maybe provided a glimpse of how music will continue to evolve into the future. All of the information for the infographic was generated from a survey that was delivered by Market Research.

People are still listening to a lot of music. 45% of respondents said they listen to over ten hours of music a week. This makes sense as people are often listening to music in their car, at work, and when they are doing various tasks around their home. I personally have my iPod hooked up through an auxiliary input in my Mazda (affectionately known as the Maasda) and I listen to a few of the over 3,000 songs on my iPod each time I drive.

60% of the people surveyed said they download music for free. In today’s climate this actually seems low to me. I know from personal experience that a lot of people I talk to say they strictly download music for free and they haven’t paid for music in years. This may be a case of people answering the survey being nervous to admit to downloading music for free.

The biggest takeaway I got from the survey came from the fact that 94% of people listened to a song because they saw that a friend was listening to it. This shows how social media has really had an effect on the music industry. A song can quickly spread and gain popularity because everyone is able to see what is being listened to. Music was always a social experience, but now there are fewer boundaries than ever before. People who listen to metal also listen to pop because they are exposed to popular songs on all of their social media networks.

The social music revolution has arrived. Strap in, listen, and enjoy.

US Courts Determine that Embedding Video is not Copyright Infringement

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this last week that embedding videos, or watching embedded videos, on a website or blog does not count as copyright infringement. The ruling came from the case Flava Works, Inc. v. Gunter, in which Flava Works, an adult video production company, sued video bookmarking website myVidster for copyright infringement. myVidster had been allowing its users to bypass a pay wall and view Flava Works videos under a myVidster web frame.

The decision means that only the original uploader of the video is breaking copyright law. This makes sense and at first glance seems to be the “fair” decision. After all, how odd would it be if a digital marketing agency were sued for copyright infringement for embedding a video on their website that contained copyrighted music? However, there are many loopholes that can be taken advantage of if this line of thought is followed.

Many video sites thrive on the ability to “aggregate” videos taken from other locations. Footytube is an example of a completely legitimate website that embeds soccer replays from other websites. Although the videos are not the only part of the site, it contributes to a large percentage of the traffic that visits the site. The website is supported by ads and its disclaimer, located at the bottom of every embedded video, reads “This video is provided and hosted from a 3rd party server. Our search functionality is helping you discover publicly available websites & their content. Footytube as a search engine does not host or upload this material and is not responsible for the content.

Call it taking advantage of the system, or call it a smart business opportunity, the fact of the matter is that Footytube is not breaking any laws, even though many of the videos it is embedding are infringing on someone’s copyrights. There are websites out there that offer a similar service, but with movies and TV shows. And remember – the people who run the site are making money off of embedding copyrighted videos. I do not think that embedding videos should count as copyright infringement, but there are a couple of bad apples out there that could still potentially ruin it for the rest of us.

DayZ Surpasses 1 Million Unique Players with No Marketing Budget

We can’t get enough of zombies. From video games, to movies, to TV shows and books, zombies are everywhere in popular culture. In just four months, DayZ has surpassed over 1 million users. Available for PC gamers and built from a MOD of the three year-old PC military shooter game ArmA II, DayZ drops players into an open-world environment filled with zombies and other live players. Players start with no equipment, but can trek through fields, forests, small towns and large cities to scavenge to supplies, like water, food, guns and ammunition.

DayZ is a great example of how a game can thrive on the power of social media and viral attention. With no marketing budget, it has eclipsed 1 million unique players. Although the game is glitchy and built off of old technology, many players find it a refreshing change from other video games. There are no objectives, and you are free to wander around the environment as you choose. Players usually try to stay alive for as long as they can, but eventually everyone is killed by zombies, other players, or health ailments. It is totally up to a player’s choice to cooperate or kill other human players running around on the map, which leads to a lot of tension.

The next step for the creators is to develop a new version that is standalone and does not require another game (in this case, Arma II) to run it. The developers plan on emulating the Minecraft model, which gave users access to an alpha/beta version of the game for a greatly reduced price and built a large community even before it was officially released.

Is the Absence of a Facebook Account Indicative of a Mass Murderer?

If you happen to make friends with a stranger, be sure to find out if they have a Facebook account.  If they don’t, then you better start running for the hills. That person might be a mass murder!  At least that’s what employers and psychologists believe.

According to a Daily Mail article, employers and psychologists believe that people who are not on social networking sites are abnormal and “suspicious.”  This generalization stems from the notion that social media has become an integral part of societal norms, and engaging in online social interaction means having healthy social lives in reality.  Unless people are friending people they do not know, social media interaction is a spillover from real life, a way to continue communication with friends and family.  Social networking has become so normal and so expected that anyone who does not have at least one account is viewed as strange.

I can see how not having a Facebook account could raise some red flags.  Since social media has become so incredibly dominant, especially for the younger generations who are growing up in a time where they don’t know what life was like before virtual interactions and advanced technologies, it could be questionable as to why someone does not want to partake in the social revolution.  If people don’t have Facebook accounts, are they hiding something?

According to the article, the answer is yes.  Apparently “not having a Facebook account could be the first sign that you are a mass murderer.”  Now, I know plenty of people who keep their Facebook as clean and basic as possible with barely any personal information listed.  I also know plenty of people who refrain from using any type of social media and I’m pretty sure they are not “mass murderers.”  Some people simply prefer privacy.

Interestingly, the article mentions the fact that two mass murderers, Anders Behring Breivik and the recent Aurora theatre shooter James Holmes, did not have Facebook accounts nor did they have many friends in real life.  But does that mean that other people who do not use Facebook are amongst the ranks of these two?  Is this a rational generalization or just a frightening coincidence?

Need a Seat in Chemistry? There is No Longer an App for that. How the University of Central Florida Squelched an Entrepreneur

Recently on Mashable, the University of Central Florida punished one of their students for creating an app that allows UCF students to know when a seat has opened up in a full attendance class. Tim Arnold’s app, U Could Finish, links to the schools online portal, checking every 60 seconds for updates on available seats. U Could Finish, priced at $0.99, lassoed up 500 users in the first 6 days from its Facebook launch on June 2nd of this year.

The University’s Office of Student Conduct put out a notice stating that Arnold was charged with “misuse of computing and telecommunications resources.” They stated that the app “disrupted normal use of technology, and violated a policy that barred students from gaining knowledge using university tools.” Arnold has since put out a statement replying, “I just feel that the actions they did were very extreme, considering my intent was to help students and not to intentionally subvert the rules.” In addition, he has circled a petition that demands the school unblock the app that makes online enrolment for students easier.

Arnold is facing 3 whole semesters of academic probation and a mandatory research paper on why maintaining a system such as myUCF (the schools internal portal) if difficult and a 1 hour coaching session on how to make good decisions.

As a former college student, this is a brilliant display of proactive entrepreneurship by a talented student. There isn’t an online marketing company that would not want to hire this kid. Although charging students for this program before asking the school for permission to use the server might not have been the smartest move, punishing the kid for creating something helpful and useful could seem a tad bit harsh to most people. Blocking the app and punishing the student the way the university did, could have been avoided. Maybe Arnold could’ve checked with the school first and made it an app that didn’t update so frequently? Either way, the app serves as a powerful tool. If bought by the right University, this app could make this young entrepreneur the popular kid on campus for sure.

Say Cheese! Would a Facebook Photo Printing Service Fix the Social Media Giant?

There is something about a Facebook photo album that isn’t exactly like a real photo album. I went to Florida to the all classic wonderful world of Disney.  My father, just for this trip, purchased one of the new-fangled huge cameras to capture absolutely everything we did. Whether it was walking from my bed to the dresser or from monorail to theme park, you can pretty much guarantee photos were being snapped.

Personally, I like tangible items and when it comes to photos I want to be able to show people the real thing instead of a computer monitor. Anyway, we get home and I want to see all these thousands of photos my father took. What did mom do with them?

She put them on Facebook.

I asked my mom if she had plans to print them at all and replied, “Nope! Too many and many of them are terrible!” Well then I thought to myself, crap, if you can sit there and upload millions (not really, but bare with me) of photos, you can certainly sit there and pick the best ones out and have printed.

Then a light bulb went off. Facebook, as far as I know, is still scrambling for a little bit of cash, right? What if they were to implement a service in which you can pick and print photos right off Facebook? With the purchase of Instagram and the incredible power of a sharing network, Facebook has tremendous potential to reach outside of the social media box and change the consumer market for online photo downloads forever.

Zuckerberg hosts plenty of hacker events that permit improved programs that could potentially be attributed to the growth of Facebook. Not only would it increase revenue, but also it would probably make users a bit happier too. I would probably be snatching up photos left and right! If Facebook created a program that was similar to PhotoBucket the download program could be easily transferred to a flash drive and printed at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

I don’t even think it would be that hard for Facebook to do. Facebook alone as more photos on it than any other photo site, I don’t know why they haven’t thought of this yet! What are your thoughts?