afaqs!

Microsoft eyes share in social networking space in India

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | July 30, 2009
The company's recently launched social networking website, windowsLivePlanet.com, uses innovative contests such as 'Born to Shine' to gain members

Microsoft Corporation is eyeing a share in the social networking space in India, which is already crowded by players such as Orkut.com, Facebook.com, BigAdda.com and MySpace.com.

A few weeks ago, the company soft-launched a portal called WindowsLivePlanet.com (WLP), which enables users to create profiles, search and network with friends. The portal was launched in the Indian market only.

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Other than creation of a network, Microsoft has also integrated its web-based MSN Messenger, Hotmail and syndicated some of the content from MSN.co.in into WLP.

To differentiate and earn a user base share, the company is mainly targeting Internet users who are in the age group of 18-25 years and has positioned its social network on the proposition that it helps users to find new friends based on similarities in interests and attitudes.

Speaking to afaqs!, Guneet Singh, lead - integrated marketing and communication, consumer and online, Microsoft, says, "We have noticed that a lot of young Internet users in the age group of 18-25 years go online to find new friends, who may be strangers and not necessarily directly related to them. In order to help users discover new friends, we have created a facility called Match Meter, which actually suggests friends."

Singh adds that the friend suggestion on WindowsLivePlanet (WLP) is different from Facebook.com, in which the suggested friends are somehow related, usually as a friend of a friend. However, in the case of WLP, the Match Meter actually scans the database of profiles of members, matches their interests and attitude (specified by users while creating their profile) and makes friends suggestions based on the level of similarities between members.

It will be interesting to watch how WLP gains share in the youth space, especially in a scenario where both the leading social networks, Orkut.com and Facebook.com, are strong in the 15-24 years age category.

According to Vizisense.com, Orkut receives 60 per cent, while Facebook.com gets 42 per cent of its traffic from users in the age group of 15-24 years.

Singh is not ready to disclose the number of users who have already signed up for the service. However, he claims that WLP has received a good response even from towns such as Tiruchirapalli and Ludhiana, apart from the top eight metros.

To build visibility and attract more users, the company plans to use search and social media marketing, sponsor youth related college events and launch affiliate marketing programmes in association with youth brands. It also plans to use contests to build its member base.

Towards this end, Microsoft has started an innovative member programme through a contest called Born to Shine, under which the first 100 members who add and create their network of 500 people will be offered to get a real 'star' in the sky named after them.

The programme is powered by Starnamer.com, which will register a 'star' in the name of the winning participant in the Universal Star Catalog's database that features hundreds of thousands of stars in the sky, numerically designated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Institute.

Apart from the registration, the winners will receive a star name certificate, a star chart which depicts the location of the star and a software CD to find the star on a computer. Star name recipients can identify the star and locate it in the sky using a telescope.