While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn might be the first sites that come to mind when thinking of social networking, these popular websites do not represent the full scope of social networks that exist. Learn more about the different options available for people to interact and collaborate with each other online.
1. Social Connections
Keeping in touch with friends and family members is one of the greatest benefits of social networking. Here is a list of the most widely-used websites for building social connections online.
- Facebook: Arguably the most popular social media utility, Facebook provides a way for users to build connections and share information with people and organizations they choose to interact with online.
- Twitter: Share your thoughts and keep up with others via this real-time information network.
- Google +: This relatively new entrant to the social connection marketplace is designed to allow users to build circles of contacts that they are able to interact with and that is integrated with other Google products
- MySpace: Though it initially began as a general social media site, MySpace has evolved to focus on social entertainment, providing a venue for social connections related to movies, music games and more.
2. Multimedia Sharing
Social networking makes it easy to share video and photography content online. Here are some of the most popular sites for multimedia sharing.
- YouTube: Social media platform that allows users to share and view video content
- Flickr: This site provides a powerful option for managing digital photographs online, as well as for sharing them with others.
Professional social networks are designed to provide opportunities for career-related growth. Some of these types of networks provide a general forum for professionals to connect, while others are focused on specific occupations or interests. A few examples of professional social networks are listed below.
- LinkedIn: As of November of 2011, LinkedIn had more than 135 million members, making it the largest online professional network. Participants have an opportunity to build relationships by making connections and joining relevant groups.
- Classroom 2.0: Social network specifically designed to help teachers connect, share and help each other with profession-specific matters.
Informational communities are made up of people seeking answers to everyday problems. For example, when you are thinking about starting a home improvement project or want to learn how to go green at home, you may perform a web search and discover countless blogs, websites, and forums filled with people who are looking for the same kind of information. A few examples include:
- Super Green Me: Online community where individuals interested in adopting green living practices can interact
- Do-It-Yourself Community: Social media resource to allow do-it-yourself enthusiasts to interact with each other
Educational networks are where many students go in order to collaborate with other students on academic projects, to conduct research for school, or to interact with professors and teachers via blogs and classroom forums. Educational social networks are becoming extremely popular within the educational system today. Some examples of such educational social networks are listed below.
- The Student Room: UK-based student community featuring a moderated message board and useful resources related to school
- The Math Forum: A large educational network designed to connect students with an interest in math, this site provides interaction opportunities for students by age group.
- ePALS School Blog: This international social network for K-12 students is designed to build international connections to promote world peace.
One of the most popular reasons many people use the Internet is to conduct research on their favorite projects or topics of interest related to personal hobbies. When people find a website based on their favorite hobby, they discover a whole community of people from around the world who share the same passion for those interests. This is what lies at the heart of what makes social networks work, and this is why social networks that are focused on hobbies are some of the most popular. A few examples of hobby-focused social networking sites include:
- Oh My Bloom: Social media site specifically for gardening enthusiasts. It features groups, forums, blogs, video content and more.
- My Place at Scrapbook.com: Designed specifically for scrapbooking enthusiasts, users can create profiles, share information, post updates and more.
Academic researchers who want to share their research and review results achieved by colleagues may find academic-specific social networking to be quite valuable. A few of the most popular online communities for academics are:
- Academia.edu: Users of this academic social network can share their own research, as well as follow research submitted by others.
- Connotea Collaborative Research: Online resource for scientists, researchers and clinical practitioners to find, organize and share useful information.
Build Connections with Caution
These are just a few examples of the many opportunities to engage in dialog via social media websites. The fact that there are so many ways to connect with like-minded individuals online can be very exciting and beneficial, but it's essential to proceed with caution. Keep in mind that not everyone who shows up on a social media website is who he or she claims to be. Exercise caution and closely guard your personal information any time you engage in social networking activities regardless of what kind of social utility you are using.