The Best Social Networks for Business and Meeting Friends

February 23, 2009

in Internet,social networking

by David Hakala

Social networks such as MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook are all the rage. There are a staggering number of social networks now, but you can’t join them all. Each social networking site requires some maintenance. Joining all of them would be like joining every bowling and billiards league in town. You would be spread too thin.

Which social networking site(s) you should join depends on what your objective is. For some, it’s making business contacts. For others, it’s hooking up with long-lost friends, classmates, etc. For still others, it’s about hanging out with strangers of a certain demographic profile, usually their own. The variety of motivations for joining a social network explains why so many different ones have popped up.

If you hope to rediscover long-lost friends, classmates, and/or lovers, the largest social network is your best bet, all else being equal. That would be Facebook.

According to market analyst ComScore, Facebook attracted 132.1 million unique visitors in June 2008, compared to second-place MySpace, which attracted 117.6 million. Part of the reason may be Facebook’s egalitarian, culturally neutral feel. By not trying to woo any particular group of people, it avoids alienating any other groups.

Facebook’s “we don’t want to offend anybody” posture is reflected in the standardization of its members’ personal pages. Here, you won’t find the garish themes that characterize MySpace pages. Facebook is not “personalizable,” which is really a good thing when you want everyone to get along without scaring each other. As Jack Rickard, editor of Boardwatch Magazine, said upon his first encounter with HTML, “The power to create is the power to make ugly.”

MySpace is for people who want to make a statement … or just a caterwaul. MySpace pages are almost infinitely customizable with outlandish premade themes, one’s own HTML, music from approved sources (to avoid copyright infringement), widgets and gadgets. Some feel MySpace tends to attract people who are experimenting with their identities and relationships – and that’s not limited to young people, although MySpace has a reputation as a “kiddie crowd.”

LinkedIn is all business, perhaps stuffily and stiffly so. If you talk to somebody without knowing him/her already, you may get slapped with the penalty of being forced to contact only people whose email addresses you can enter, or you may even be locked out of LinkedIn. On the other hand, LinkedIn makes it very easy to convert your email address books, whether desktop or Web based, into potential contacts you can invite to link up with you. It’s an efficient way to find out who your business contacts know and who you have in common.

Other social networks may be built around geographical or special interest themes. To find the right one(s) for you, try a few out and see if you really do connect with the people you are seeking.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at