Beyond Facebook: The Wide World of Social Networks
For many people, the phrase “social network” may be synonymous with Facebook, not just because of the movie with the same name, but also because it’s by far the most popular social site on the Web right now.
Roughly 150 million people in the U.S. alone are now members of Facebook, or nearly half the total U.S. population. By comparison, just 16.4 million Americans use Twitter, one of Facebook’s main competitors. Perhaps most astounding of all is that 70% of Americans on Facebook actually log on to the site every single day, helping Facebook to pass Google as the website that users spend the most time on.
But the overwhelming popularity of Facebook among people of all ages, regions, and walks of life, could end up being a double-edged sword for the company. As anyone who has seen The Social Network knows, the initial formula for Facebook was exclusivity, the idea that only a select group of people (in this case, college students) could join the site.
Today, however, everyone and their mother can and most likely has signed up for Facebook, and they have probably tried to “friend” you too. Not only is this social network bigger and perhaps more chaotic than it once was, but just as importantly, being a member of Facebook ultimately says very little about you as an individual.
To help you express that individuality, MainStreet rounded up a few of the best social networks that cater to people of all different interests, from photographers to pet owners.
Photo Credit: Adriano Gasparri
Let’s be honest, 90% of what people share these days on social networks is pet-related anyway, so if you’re someone who loves animals, why not just go all out and join a social network devoted to pet owners? On Cuteness.com, users create profiles for their pets, including photos and videos, all of which can be shared with friends and family. Perhaps the most addictive feature on the site is the cutewars, where pets can go up against each other and ask for votes to determine which is the cutest.
Cuteness.com even goes so far as to let the pets post status updates. For example, Patchez, a 6-year-old cat, recently posted, “I am so ready for Spring.” Me too Patchez, me too.
Sure, it might sound a bit preposterous to have a bunch of owners masquerading as their pets commenting and following one another, but more than 11,000 “pets” have signed up for the site, and have posted nearly 400,000 comments in total.
Photo Credit: Cuteness.com
If you’re someone who loves to snap pictures with your phone, then Instagram may be the network for you. Instagram, a popular iPhone app, lets users stylize their pictures using a set of filters, and offers the option to attach a short caption to the photo. Users can share their pictures with friends who follow them on Instagram or even post the pictures directly to other social networks like Twitter and Facebook. In this way, users get to show off their photography skills to one another and also provide updates of their day-to-day life to friends through these snapshots.
Unlike Facebook, Instagram is an app-only network, meaning you’ll only be able to take advantage of it if you have a smartphone. At the moment, Instagram is only available on the iPhone, but an Android app is said to be in the works.
Photo Credit: Apple.com
Bakespace is proof that the old adage about having too many cooks in the kitchen doesn’t hold true if you’re talking about a virtual kitchen. This site serves as a community for bakers and chefs to get advice from friends and mentors and perhaps more fundamentally, to find out what others are having for dinner. Users can swap recipes, upload videos of dishes they’ve prepared or offer lessons on how to make a certain dish.
Photo Credit: Bakespace.com
If you feel like reading is on the decline in this country, one look at Goodreads will quickly change your mind. The 4.4 million members of this social network have collectively read or are planning to read some 120 million books. The site itself is fairly straightforward and simple to use. All you have to do is sign up for a free account and you can start updating your virtual bookshelf with the titles you’ve read, the dates you read them and your reviews of those books, and connect with other users on the site to share your picks and find recommendations for what you should read next.
Photo Credit: Goodreads.com
IndabaMusic is a social network for professional and aspiring musicians looking to network, get gigs and promote themselves. Once users join the site, they can post songs, collaborate with other users on material and participate in discussions with other artists through message boards.
Photo Credit: IndabaMusic.com
For people who love listening to music but could care less about making it, there’s always SuperGlued, a social network for concertgoers. Music fans can create a free account on this site and then share the concerts they’re going to, as well as photos and updates from those concerts, for their friends to see. In this way, you get concert recommendations and can share feedback with other people at the concert when you’re there using the iPhone app.
If you’re more interested in just finding out what songs friends of yours are listening to, you can also join Last.fm, a popular Internet radio site that also lets users find out what songs are on their friends’ playlists at the moment.
Photo Credit: SuperGlued.com
Flixster is an online community of movie buffs looking for friends’ recommendations and reviews. Once users create a free account, they can start rating movies and read their friends’ reviews. The site also aggregates all the reviews to rate new releases so you can better decide whether it’s worth paying the money to see a new movie in theaters. Perhaps the coolest feature on the site is the compatibility test, which lets users rate a selection of movies and compare their rankings to friends’ rankings to determine how closely their tastes line up.
The concept of this site has caught on so much that its iPhone app is actually one of the most downloaded free apps of all time.
Photo Credit: Apple.com
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