5 Social Networks that Make the Little League

The time we spend on the internet has been gradually increasing every year, nowhere more than on social media. According to the Nielsen Social Media Report for the third quarter of 2011, 22.5% of U.S. internet activity is spent on social networks and blogs, more than any other category. In the Middle East and North Africa, there has been a great uptake of social media since the Arab Spring. According to the Arab Social Media Report, Facebook user penetration rates now reach up to 50% in the UAE, around 30-35% in Bahrain and Qatar, and hover at around 20-25% in Jordan and Lebanon. Twitter uptake remains lower, with the highest regional penetration rate reaching 7-8% in Qatar and Bahrain. Yet its use is on the rise. Yet, rather than limiting ourselves to the two giants, Facebook and Twitter, let’s take a look at the next most popular five networks and how they have influenced (or will influence) the social media market.

MySpace                                                                                    

The Entertainment Oriented Social Network

MySpace is one of the oldest and most popular social networks. It was started in 2003 by the employees of eUniverse, who saw potential in Friendster’s Social Network Model. MySpace became highly popular because it permitted users to customize their own profiles through basic HTML programming and allowed them to embed music and videos. MySpace’s advantage was that it was an open space to share without restrictions, a quality that allowed now-famous artists like Lily Allen and The Arctic Monkeys to gain buzz just from their profiles. From 2005 to 2008, MySpace was the most visited social network, before being surpassed by Facebook in visitor numbers. In July 2005, MySpace was so popular that Newscorp acquired it for $580 million. Since 2008, however, the site has seen a very strong decline as users have migrated to Facebook. This exodus led to its sale in June 2011 to Specific Media, a company backed by singer Justin Timberlake, for the underwhelming sum of $35 million. The new owners have yet to announce their new long-term strategy.  As of August 2011, MySpace still had 33.1 Million Unique Visitors.

Linked In                                                                          

The Social Network for Professionals

Linked In’s aim is to connect professionals around the world and expose them to new opportunities and contacts. It was launched in May 2003 and now has more than 120 million registered users and around 48 million users monthly, according to Quantcast. Users on the site fill out their information in a CV-style interface, listing their education, professional experience, interests and skills. Users can then connect with friends or acquaintances through a specific connection (same school, colleagues at work etc…), or by being introduced through a connection. Users can recommend each other, browse for job opportunities, and follow companies or industries to stay updated about developments. Recently, additions such as Wordpress compatibility and the ability to update your status have taken interactivity to the next level.

aSmallWorld                                           

The Most Exclusive Social Network

ASW is an invitation-only social network; it’s impossible to register normally. With only around 770,000 Members, it has been criticized for being elitist members can also be expelled from ASW if too many of their friends requests are denied or ignored.  Uniquely, ASW allows users to list multiple cities for their locations of residences, and offers city guides written by its members with recommendations for clubs, restaurants, and bars. It features a grab bag of useful items like travel deals, real estate postings, job opportunities and a marketplace, which boasts the advantage of being heavily patrolled for suspicious activity and having a reduced likelihood of fraudulent deals.

About.me                                                                                   

The Quick Summary Social Network

Halfway between a social network and a speed dating service, about.me is a simple website that allows you to put all your relevant information into one page. Once users sign up, they are required to write a biography about themselves that summarizes their interests; they can then also customize profile fonts and the background picture. Users can also display links to their other social media accounts, include a box for receiving email, and peek at their pageviews. The purpose of about.me is not just to broadcast yourself on the web, but also to connect with people with similar interests. Sometimes simplicity wins- stunningly, About.me sold to AOL for $1.3 Million in Dec 2010 only four days after its launch.

Google Plus:                                                              

Google’s Answer to Facebook

Google’s third foray into the social network market after Orkut and Wave, Google Plus was launched in late June 2011 amid much hype. With now more than 25 million users, Google aims to rival Facebook. What sets it apart are its unique features. “Circles” allow users to organize their friends into private groups and retain easy control of what information is shared with who. “Hangouts” facilitate group video chat, allowing up to 10 people to participate simultaneously. “Sparks” identify topics of interests and display them on your home page. Other features include a +1 button similar to Facebook’s “Like” button, and online games that include the popular Angry Birds. Google Plus will also win over those who are simply fed up with Facebook’s interface changes and bloat, as its simple, clean design is its calling card. Plus is Google’s last hope- whether it can establish a firm base in the social network market remains to be seen.

As our attention becomes more limited, it’s difficult to take full advantage of all of these networks. Facebook and Twitter have won out for now, but what do you think- will MySpace fail? Will Google Plus succeed? Is LinkedIn truly useful? What would building a better social network look like?

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