Renee Prejean-Motanky

The 7 Best Tools Used by Top Social Networking Sites

In Business Development, Communications, Social Media on July 7, 2009 at 6:02 am
LOGO2.0 part I
Image by Stabilo Boss via Flickr

Following are some great features that the top Social Networking (SN) sites currently use to stay on top:

 

1.) Ajax based tag suggestions – Fluther.com


This is where when you start typing something into an input box, a little drop down window immediately appears which basically shows some suggested tags which it pulls from its database of existing tags as you type each letter. The more you type, the more accurate the suggested tags get.  

Fluther.com uses this feature. The reason the feature is so useful is that most SN sites use tagging but very few offer tag suggestions. example, if I’m posting an article about “Web design”, I might add the following tags: webdesign, Web design, website, websites, web-design, Web development….Anyway, you get the point!

Fluther suggestions help eliminate the guess work over whether you’re using the best tags, over-tagging or  under-tagging to ensure search engine optimization.

2.) Get users to promote for you – Stumbleupon.com
StumbleUpon is an Internet community that allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos, and videos. It is a personalized recommendation engine which uses peer and social-networking principles. Web pages are presented when the user clicks the “Stumble!” button on the browser toolbar.

 StumbleUpon chooses which Web page to display based on the user’s ratings of previous pages, ratings by his/her friends, and by the ratings of users with similar interests. Users can rate or choose not to rate any Web page with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and clicking the Stumble button resembles “channel-surfing” the Web.

Install the Stumbleupon toolbar and start stumbling!”

3.) Sell limited positions as category sponsors to marketers – Blogcatalog.com
This is a way that sites can monetize traffic. It’s a tactic that it provides a service to site users by providing ‘validated’ listings as well as makes the continuation of site services more viable.  

It is a derivative of the user-generated/rated content movement that’s relevant enough and provides enough of a service to keep it as a resource. Think of it in the same vein as Ebay’s sponsored listings or any other form of marketing – Successful Ebay vendoers (meaning those who are doing the right thing to remain successful) can afford to pay for advertising so, theoretically, this moderately ‘validates’ them.  It does, however, also provide an avenue for spammers.

4.) Force “legitimate” friendships – Stumbleupon.com
Let’s face it – none of us have 500+ real friends!  MySpace is notorious for “friend” abuse. My niece has a bazillion “friends” on MySpace!  In principle, I suppose one can understand the ideal, but the reality is that it waters down the value of the community  

Stumbleupon allows 200 friends, max. In order to become friends with someone, you first must find another user and add them as your friend.  But before you actually become their friend, you’re added as a “fan” of theirs….basically you become a groupie… until they confirm you as their friend. At that point you become “mutual friends.” Stumbleupon allows you to have unlimited fans but, as an individual, you cannot have more than a combined total of 200 “mutual friends” and you are a fan of. This forces you to be selective.  In the Stumbleupon community, it’s considered better to have more “mutual friends” than people you are a fan of.

LinkedIn guards against “friend” abusers to an even greater extent. Their friend system is very tight. You can’t send a message to someone or request they become friends with you unless you actually know them & have their e-mail address or someone can facilitate an introduction.  But it’s still up to the individual to respond and accept/deny the “friend” request.

5.) True integration with other web services – Facebook.com
Facebook’s new application platform has raised the bar – way up. Facebook’s popularity is growing at an increasingly greater rate than MySpace. 

There is a library of, literally, hundreds of unique applications available that integrate with Facebook.  My Facebook page is set up to automatically post my blogs and tweets to my profile.  They show up in my newsfeed as well as in all of my friend’s news feed pages. It’s quite effective.

6.) Allow filtering content through friends – Digg.com
Digg is, technically, a “Social News” site, there are, however, some features that are important. Digg actually has a reputation for being run by a handful of people who all dig each other’s stuff exclusively! This doesn’t mean that Digg’s ‘friend’ system isn’t useful. What seems to be the best approach on Digg in order to get fresh content that’s filtered more specifically for an individual’s interests is this:

  1. find an article that appeals to you;
  2. look at the profile of the person who submitted it
  3. then look at the articles they have submitted in the past.
  4. If they appeal to you, ‘friend’ them. 

What will happen next is that when you’re looged in and on any category page on Digg, you’ll see a link to view that “Friend’s activity in the last 48 hrs.”  If you’ve “friended” the right folks, you’ll discover a pretty specialized list of information and posts.

7.) Have a visually appealing website
I’m talking professional grade and geared for socializing. Pay attention to detail, but keep the design simple & fresh. Concentrate on usability if your goal is to out survive the competition.  

Allowing users control over their profile’s appearance is a great idea as long as it’s done properly. I’d advocate for less control than MySpace but more than Facebook. If you use embedded videos & music on your site, remember not to set the audio player default to auto play.

Have you discovered more tools that you like?  Please share by adding your comments.

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