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GeeksWhat started out as being “friends” has now turned into a series of “tweets,” “statuses,” “yelps,” and “check-ins.” If you’re feeling behind, fear not, even the most avid Facebook user may not have the slightest clue about Foursquare. Regardless, it’s clear that the once thought of “fad” of social networking has become a necessary evil, and keeping up with the trending sites may be more important than you think. 

In the business world, sites like Facebook are a must as the site has over 400 million users who constantly share information, and link more people to what they want. LinkedIn, with over 60 million users, has become just as important as a resume when seeking employment. Urbanspoon and Yelp have joined famous companies like Zagat, putting restaurant reviewing in the hands of the diner – who can now make or break a chef’s opening. 

And as the cell phone has nearly been replaced with the smart phone, social networking has taken on an entire new life, moving and growing as the hustle and bustle carries on. According to Facebook, over 100 million users access their friends and family through the Facebook application on their phones.
 
FACEBOOK
Emerging from the ruins of Friendster and MySpace, Facebook won the social networking wars in its early days. It has become the definitive example and also the most basic form of social networking to date. With recent developments, it has made privacy and security a must, and can even be used by those who still fear putting their info out on the net. Facebook is based on status updates, a brief message about your day that you wish to share with the world. 
In recent years, Facebook has grown to compile your family photos and videos and friend’s birthday reminders, event initiations, shared music, movies and news; and even games to play when you get bored with all that. What begins as a five-minute check can easily turn into countless hours of sharing.
 
TWITTER
This small little bird seems to have even taken over Congress in the last year, and the news outlets have been unable to run a single report without using the word “Tweet.” Twitter asks you the question, “what are you doing,” and gives you 140 characters to respond. But Twitter is not just for status updates; you get to follow a plethora of users who can fill you in on hundreds of diverse topics.
By following your favorite celeb, it becomes a gossip column; follow a favorite restaurant or shop and get special discounts and information. You can even follow   “@BreakingNews” and find out about important issues before your local news has a chance to tell you about it. Your personalized Twitter page will keep you constantly inundated with everything going on, and with only 140 characters, you can flick through the tweets without being overwhelmed. 
 
LINKEDIN AND YAMMER
As Facebook handles social networking, LinkedIn handles professional networking. Utilized by over 60 million users, LinkedIn is a professional resume and contact list that links people to their co-workers and lets you network with other professionals in the field. Building business partnerships and expanding your personal image are made easy by contact sharing and quick navigation. LinkedIn is the resume and expo/conference of the future.
As Twitter answers, “what are you doing” to friends, family and “followers,” Yammer reinvents office communication by creating a secure, individual feed for an individual workplace. Managers can keep track of employees, and co-workers can keep pace while converging on special projects – all within the security of the company network.
 
GROUPON
Overwhelmed by junk mail? Well, Groupon offers a coupon system like never before. Specific to your locale, Groupon posts a new coupon each day and can even send you a daily alert to the deal in your area. Different than coupons, groupons offer much larger discounts to save you money by utilizing social networking. 
Groupon has turned social networking into collective buying. Here’s how it works: if you like the deal of the day, you buy it with your credit card – but you are only charged for the deal if a certain number of people sign up with you. For example, your favorite restaurant is offering a $75 dollar meal for $15 – you buy the groupon and begin spreading the news on Facebook, Twitter, etc. If the group number is met, you get a steal on a feast, and the restaurant has a guaranteed number of diners for the evening. It is a win-win situation, perfect for the current economic situation.
 
LOOPT AND FOURSQUARE
What was for some a reason not to buy a cell phone is now being utilized by the masses. Loopt and Foursquare utilize the GPS tracking system in your phone to share your location with friends and family. Although this may not be information you wish to share, the sites allow you to “check-in” at current locations and “ping” your friends to find out more about the places they are at. 
By utilizing geosocial networking, these sites are able to show you better places to eat, stay, and relax and are also beginning to offer coupons and discounts for frequent visitors. Acting as a game, frequent visitors are offered badges and prizes for the person who visits the most. Your favorite coffee place could elect you “mayor” of their shop, and your favorite nightspot could even buy you the next round. 
 
YELP AND URBANSPOON
These two companies started out with a mission to replace the Zagat’s guide, and now they have become two of the most featured applications for mobile devices. Yelp and Urbanspoon not only allow diners to post their reviews and ratings, but the mobile applications allow the user to find nearby eateries based on location, and even offer slot-machine style searching for the indecisive. 
 
FLICKR
Most of the social networking sites offer the ability to upload photos and share them with friends, but for Flickr, that is the main attraction. Flickr is the new photo album, and all your friends can have an instant copy of vacations and nights-on-the-town. Just like Facebook and MySpace, Flickr allows you to tag your friends in photos – putting the image into their album as well. The best part, unlike your home computer, Flickr follows you everywhere and can even be accessed from mobile applications.
 
YOVIA
Yovia is a brand new creation that hopes to change the face of marketing. Online marketing has become more essential than billboards, but programs like Google Ads and Facebook Ads, along with standard marketing on websites can be overly expensive, and can even be a hassle to the people who are being marketed to. 
Yovia changes all of that by putting the marketing in the hands of the people. Any blogger with writing talent can apply to be a contributing blogger for Yovia; they then are sent products and companies to write about. The bloggers share their opinions and information, and as a result, get paid by the companies themselves. By utilizing social networking as well, other contributors and visitors to the blogs can discuss advertisements on the Yovia network, and the successful products gain a higher placement in search engines.
 
Of course, there are other social networking sites out there on the web, and there are even free applications like TweetDeck and Flock to bring all of your social networks to a single location for ease and functionality. But if you want to stay on top of the current trends, all of the sites mentioned above are the best places to share, gossip, meet, shop and dish about your favorite things! 
www.Dishmag.com / Issue 117 - September 6105
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