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Four under-recognized but entirely useful social networks

New social networks used to be greeted with enthusiasm – Friendster, Friendfeed, MySpace.  Each one got a little better, gained users, then fell off the radar.  Today the big three – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – dominate with eyes on Google+ to see if it’s going to make it.

Even so, there are a number of smaller networks that follow a path of launch, traction, an explosion in media coverage, and then they settle into something of a slower growth pattern.

There was a time, for example, a while back when you couldn’t flip open your RSS reader without seeing Quora in the headlines.  Long before its Android application or Facebook’s acquisition, Instagram too had this trajectory where hobbyist techies propelled the network, or app, or whatever we’re calling it these days, into the mainstream.  Pinterest is enjoying this lift right now.

Sometimes a network makes it and some settle comfortably into their niche.  Quora is one I think fits this category.  When I first logged in, I was addicted, quite literally losing sleep in fascination.  Quora in my view has settled a bit, but it’s still interesting and useful.

I think Instagram would have followed a similar path if it hadn’t been acquired.  There’s enough photographers and wannabe photographers that enjoyed the tool.

Despite the buzz it’s getting now, I don’t think Pinterest is going to make it

There’s only so much time in the day and people have to choose which networks their going to make habitual.  While I’ve listed the mainstream sites, there’s a wealth of networks that meet precise segments.  My friend and general manager for Lewis PR in DC, Ian Lipner pointed out GovLoop for the feds, Path for the cool kids, and CellarTracker for wine connoisseurs.

There’s virtually a social network for every type of activity.  Yammer for example, will allow you to create your own – almost like a little Facebook for your business, or church group, or organization.  It can be dizzying, but in the spirit of exploration, here’s four – some you may have heard of – and some you might not, that I find useful on a weekly, if not daily basis.

  1. Delicious.  It’s not a new network – born, bought, sold, resold and reloaded – but I find it incredibly useful and log in almost daily.  I’ve found that unlike other social bookmarking sites, people bookmark to Delicious aren’t trying to drive traffic, they are saving something. Usually that’s something worth saving.  By scoping out the people I follow in Delicious, I find great content.  I also save a lot of stuff – my own stuff and reads I find interesting – and by sorting by tag, I have an easy reference to go back to the things I’ve saved.  It’s a critical tool for building the “Smart things” posts I try to do weekly.  In addition, the widgets make it incredibly easy to integrate links on your blog, or for some PR pros, perhaps a newsroom.
  2. BizSugar.  BizSugar is an amazing site that part bookmarking part discussion board. It’s entirely focused on small business with backing from Anita Hill of Small Business Trends.  It’s a pain in the butt to bookmark articles on the site, which has forms can captchas galore, but an important thing about that is, people tend only bookmark things that are relevant and worth sharing.  And there are content curation editors to ensure the site stays that way.  Moreover, when a link is hot on BizSugar, it drives a ton of traffic, but be sure to go back and check the comments on the site and respond accordingly.
  3. MyFitnessPal.  This is a site for counting calories and monitoring your fitness goals.  Many food items and workouts are already listed so it makes it real easy.  About this time last year, I had put on a ton of weight which was especially weird because while I have a sweet tooth, throughout my life, I’ve always been pretty fit with good exercise habits.   While deployed last year, I linked up with a pretty hard core fitness program and I’ve maintained since I’ve been back.  There’s about 30 lbs less of me a year later. For all the fitness programs and diets, I’ve found only one thing works:  calories in and calories burned.  MyFitnessPal makes it real easy – and you can link up with your friends, using the social tools, and mobile phone apps, to keep yourself honest. A little competition can go a long way to boosting motivation.  However, I tend to keep my profile locked down tight – don’t want to get grief for sneaking a cookie – seeing the calorie count daily generally keeps me honest, if not transparent.
  4. MeetUp.  MeetUp is a fantastic social site for organizing in-person events.  It has similar social sharing aspects that you expect from Facebook and LinkedIn, like adding friends and sharing photos.  Nearly anyone, of any age, in any all kinds of locations, both in the US and outside, can find some group of interest.  There are political events, business networking, dinner groups, running clubs, adventure seekers and good old parties – and it’s the site that’s got me initially hooked on the skydiving bug I’ve developed.

That’s what I’ve got for under-recognized but entirely useful social networking sites.  How about you?  Any good sites out there you find useful and visit regularly?

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