9 Social Media Websites to Watch in 2011

On January 6, 2011, wrote:

Looking to get ahead of the social media marketing game?

Sure, Facebook and Twitter are still the king and queen of this kingdom – just as reported in a recent StrongMail survey of online marketing budgets in 2011 – but the New Year also heralds a number of new social media darlings that are certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Last year, it was Foursquare and Posterous leading the pack. This year is just as promising – if not more promising, thanks in large part to the continued expansion of social media and to the crazy range of new sites, apps, and startups out there.

Here are our picks for social media websites to watch in 2011.

Quora

Last March 2010, Quora reportedly received $86 million in funding from Benchmark Capital (also a Twitter investor). It didn’t make any million-dollar noise the rest of the year, but this 2011 just might be the year Quora really makes waves.

As a social knowledge market, with a “continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it,” Quora is about to take online Q&A to the next level. Many love the fact that every question asked, every answer given, and every revision made is tied up to real names – and not just goofballs with too much time on their hands. Founded by two former Facebook engineers Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, Quora is already getting more great reviews than Yahoo! Answers ever had.

As CrunchBase describes, “Eventually, when you see a link to a question page on Quora, your feeling should be: ‘Oh, great! That’s going to have all the information I want about (this topic).’”

Diaspora

Launched late last year, Diaspora is often marketed as the social networking alternative to Facebook. Even its founders describe the site as a privacy-aware personal network, offering “choice,” “ownership”, and “simplicity”. It’s not going to get to 500 million members anytime soon, but Diaspora is worth checking out because it has a unique decentralized architecture where users can set up their own server – or “seeds” – and have more control over what they share.

Reddit

What? Reddit? What’s it doing on this list? No, we haven’t made a mistake. Sure, the social news and bookmarking website has been around – it was launched in 2005 – but a 300 percent surge in traffic last year (at the expense of Digg) – with 829 million page views just last December – makes Reddit worth watching in 2011. This year, it should continue to be one of the most reliable – and most social – sources for what’s new and popular on the Web.

SCVNGR

Watch out, Foursquare. A new kid is in town, and it is as formidable a location-based social media service as it is a mobile gaming platform.

Google-backed SCVNGR, which offers mobile phone users (iPhone and Android) plenty of challenges, treks, rewards, has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and it hopes to push this momentum and become even bigger in 2011. The rules are simple: “Go places. Do challenges. Earn points and unlock rewards!” Like Foursquare, SCVNGR also offers new marketing possibilities for small businesses – with less emphasis on customer “check-ins” and more on “treks” and “challenges”.

Jumo

No, no, not the movie. We mean Jumo, a new social network that leverages online technology to change the world. Yes, it’s “social” in the most traditional, philanthropic sense of the word.

Jumo is actually founded by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who was also one of the social media rock stars behind Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. This new non-profit startup doesn’t work (yet) as an online donation or Internet fundraising platform, but it does enable users to find, follow, and support causes that they are interested in. A total of 3,500 tax-exempt non-profit organizations were already on board during Jumo’s launch, with more, hopefully, on the way.

Instagram

Instagram is one of the hottest iPhone apps right now – and that’s saying a lot, especially given the explosion of mobile apps lately. A free photo-sharing service that also features various photo filters and social networking integration, Instagram lets iPhone users share their faux-nostalgia pictures easily and instantly on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, and Tumblr.

Mashable reported last November that the app nabbed 100,000 users in one week. It now has more than a million registered users. What’s next in 2011? How about Instagram as a content distribution service? Check out – again at Mashable – what NPR has done with the app.

GrubHub

Search engines for restaurants are now serving the “Internets” – and among them, Chicago-based GrubHub is looking to make the loudest noise. Founded in 2004, GrubHub isn’t new, but it did receive a cash delivery last year in the form of $11 million in venture capital.

The site now has a network of more than 13,000 restaurants, making online food ordering and delivery so much easier to users in 13 (and growing) major US cities.

GetAround

From food delivery we move on to car sharing. Yes, even that has gone social, too, thanks to San Francisco-based GetAround, a peer-to-peer car rental marketplace that lets its online users rent their cars on an hourly or daily basis. The company screens drivers and vehicles to ensure they meet eligibility requirements, and every GetAround rental includes insurance.

Here are the two best parts. First, you can skip all the paperwork and use your iPhone (or the GetAround website). Second, each shared car takes 10 cars off the road and reduces personal carbon emissions by over 40 percent.

BizSugar

As more small businesses look to leverage social media this year, in comes a promising new resource. Like Reddit, BizSugar is a vibrant social news community that offers plenty of resources that users – mostly small business owners, entrepreneurs, and startups – can share and bookmark. There’s a voting system, too, so that the most valuable business news, tips, and articles get the most love – or, um, the most sugar.


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