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Since the social networking boom in 2007, hundreds of new networks have sprung up. Some are general, like Facebook, while others focus on a specific community or interest. How do you know which one to choose? Here’s a rundown of the top three social networks and what they’re best for.

Facebook – The house party
Facebook is the world’s biggest and best-known social network, with 400 million subscribers and more joining every day. Due to its massive popularity and its relatively long existence (it’s been around since 2006), it has become an all-purpose platform. Its main use is personal communication and media sharing between friends. It is the most “social” of the three, like a big house party where you can invite friends and act casually. If you’re looking for a social network that lets you connect with long-lost friends, arrange events and parties, share photos and interact on every level, then Facebook is for you.

Twitter – The conference
While Facebook is all about conversations between many people, Twitter is more of an impersonal medium. It started off slowly in 2007 but has grown exponentially in recent times. Its sole function is to allow users to write 160-character snippets about anything they find interesting. Twitter is about listening and asking questions. Its great power is in connecting people with similar interests: you can follow anybody’s Twitter posts (called tweets), and anybody can follow you. Twitter is like going to a conference that has been custom-tailored to your needs and interests. If you like the idea of building up a stream of interesting news, comments from your favourite businesses and celebrities, insights on your hobbies and more, then give Twitter a try.

LinkedIn – The business lunch
While Facebook and Twitter can be fun, LinkedIn is all business. The network, launched in 2003, is all about connecting business professionals and creating valuable professional networks. Users can fill out a detailed personal CV, showcasing their achievements and interests, and then connect with colleagues, friends and others with whom they want to do business. LinkedIn also provides a sophisticated service for connecting job seekers and employers, and includes many professional networking groups that users can join. LinkedIn is like a business lunch between colleagues – it allows you to network, share business ideas and hire (or get hired). If you’re looking for a social network to highlight your business prowess and promote yourself, choose LinkedIn.

Of course, you don’t need to limit yourself to just one – pick as many as you will find useful. It’s good to belong to more than one network so that you can use each one for the appropriate content.

Which is your favourite social network? Send your comments below.

Contributed by:
Anna Malczyk

The UCT Internet Super-User course starts on 20 September 2010. For more information contact Karin on 021 685 4775 or Karin@getsmarter.co.za, or visit www.getsmarter.co.za

 

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