Beyond Facebook - Alternate 'Interest Based' Social Sites: Books, Music, Food, Fitness & more
What makes a social network?
There are literally millions of interest based websites on the internet, about thousands of different interests, hobbies and activities, but what makes a site a social network? There must be a strong element of sharing and interaction and ideally a way of friending people and tailoring the website experience to the individual.
General Interest Based Social Networks
Facebook is generally considered a 'social based' social networking site, because it is centered around people sharing and interacting mostly with their general friends, predominantly people who they are friends with in the real world. Although there are 'groups' and 'pages' based around specific interests, this takes very much a back seat. There are other newer social networking sites which are 'interest based' social networks, because they focus on people sharing and interacting with others who share similar interests or hobbies. Friends on 'interest based' social networks are likely to predominantly be online friends only.
Below there's a bit about several general interest based social networks which are worth exploring, before we get on to the more specific social sites and communities.
Google Plus - Over the last couple of years Google+ has firmly set itself up as Facebook's big rival in the general social networking arena. It may not have been Google's original intention to make it an 'interest based' network, rather this may have been borne partly of necessity, as people joined and found that not many of their real world friends were on there, and had to make new friends based around their interests. Google does have a couple of very useful attributes for interest based sharing - Circles and Communities.
Pinterest - With Pinterest, social interaction is limited, rather the site is all about social sharing. People can set up boards for multiple different interests, and can also follow other people's boards. What makes it so interest based is because it can be tailored completely based on your tastes, preferences and interests. Only interested in Landscape photography, or science fiction books? Just follow boards about those topics. What is really useful is you can follow a person (which means you follow all of their different topic boards), or just follow specific pinboards. Very visual, fun and easy to use.
Goodreads - A Social Network for Book Lovers
Goodreads does what it says on the tin - it is a website about sharing Good books with other like minded people. It has over 12 million, with thousands on the website at any one time. You can follow or befriend friends, be they real life friends or people with whom you share common reading preferences. There are tonnes of groups, forums, book clubs, quizzes, top book lists and lots, lots more. If you really enjoy reading, than you should love Goodreads.
Fitocracy - Lets Get Fit Together
Fitocracy is based on the principle that if you want to get fit, you are much more likely to achieve your goals if you have the support of lots of friends and other aspiring fitness enthusiasts. It is what many commentators have called the 'gamification of fitness'. The idea is that you log exercises such as running, weightlifting etc, based on distance run, how heavy the weights are you lifted etc. You can set yourself personal challenges, achieve milestones to 'level up' or do particular challenges to work towards achievement badges.
Fitocracy is really taking off. In January 2012 it had 230,000 users, but by March 2013 it had surpassed 1 million users, which for a niche site only started back in 2011 is rather good going.
Foodspotting is a new 'social network for food lovers'. This is perhaps at the moment a somewhat overblown claim, but it does allow you to follow people who you like, and visit the sort of restaurants you like in your area. You can comment and rate, and you even get points and a ranking.
Clearly it is early days for this site, but it is certainly an interesting one to watch.
Instagram is a social network for sharing and making great photographs. It helps users take photographs and then apply a wide range of filters for that arty type look. You can follow people, collect followers, set up a nice looking profile and more. It's also enormously popular, with over 100 million users.
MySpace - Music Social Network
MySpace? Wasn't that that the original social network which got firmly trounced by Facebook and disappeared into obsurity? Well yes, but it has undergone something of a reinvention recently, after being taken over by Justin Timberlake (amongst others). It's always had something of a musical focus, a good place for people to discover new indie music, and a great place for new bands and artists to try to build a following. Now 'New Myspace' has taken things a step further with a streaming music player where you can share songs, build playlists, even start a radio station. With lots of other more standard social networking features, MySpace is a particularly good option if you are keen on music.
Help Make This Page Even Better
The problem with trying to gather together information together on different interest based specialist social networks is that they aren't always easy to spot, often only known to people who are really into that particular hobby or interest. So if there's a specialist social network that you think I should add to this page, let me know in the comments.
myHeritage.com is a social network for people who are interested in their heritage, genealogy and building their family trees. It calls itself the world's largest family network with 1.3 billion profiles, which is probably more than Facebook. Of course, the vast majority of these people are long dead, most before Alan Turing even dreamed up his Difference Engine, never mind Tim Berners Lee's invention of the world wide web!
myHeritage actually has about 66 million real life members. There's lots of message boards, family tree builders, you can search census and other records, even see do a facial recognition search to see who you look like (for those that want to, there's 4000 celebrity photos on the site so you can see which famous face you look most like - who knows, maybe you are distant relatives!)
Wattpad - Social Reading & Writing
The idea of Wattpad is a simple one. People can either go on to read, write or both. Writers post stories, one part at a time, and if you are a reader you can be notified when new instalments are posted, and can comment and discuss each instalment with the writer and other readers. You can follow writers whom you like, and can share stories with people who are following you.
This is a great niche social network for writers and readers, and is an excellent incubation ground for new writing, particularly fiction. Well worth checking out!