10 Social Media Site Reviews
Why Some are Right On and Some are All Wrong
By: Sara P.
Many of us have been so involved with social media for the past few years that it seems as though these social sites have been around forever. Social media has been an entertaining companion for me when I needed it, has allowed me to connect more often with people I dearly love and, as the owner of a digital marketing company, has even paid my bills for the past 6 years.
As a person who’s worked on social media sites for hours-a-day and witnessed the evolution of the majority of the most popular social media sites from ‘infancy’ to what they are now, I wanted to share and rate some of my favorite tried and true sites, and warn you about other sites that are really missing the mark. Some of these sites are very popular and you’ve probably used a few of them, and maybe one or two fairly regularly. Some of them are specialty sites focusing on a certain niche. One site in particular I was quite impressed with and have even inspired people I know to join and give it a try. Before we get to the specialty sites, let’s start with the big daddys.
Facebook.com Rating - 4 Diamonds ♦♦♦♦
Facebook (www.facebook.com) is, by far, the most popular social media site, with close to 1.6 billion users as of January, 2016. I would have to give Facebook, on a scale of 1-5, as a user for both personal and business, a very solid 4 stars. Facebook allows us to connect on a level that couldn’t have been fathomed 10 years ago.
The fifth star is being left out for a couple of reasons. While Facebook is a terrific place to stay in touch with existing friends, acquaintances, and family, it doesn’t offer many opportunities to meet new people.
Also, there is no anonymity on Facebook. Everyone is all up in the business you choose to post, and depending on friend and family dynamics, this can leave some folks vulnerable and uncomfortable sharing certain sensitive topics. Whether it be a health issue, a death in the family, something about your job, someone in your family that you’re having a hard time with; these are the things you can’t share on Facebook openly.
Lastly, Facebook has gotten so large that monitoring it has become quite difficult. After all, in any society, whether it be ‘in person’ or ‘online’, overseeing your audience is an important aspect so that people can feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings. And sensitive topics like life events, milestones and even controversial opinions, which are shared very often on Facebook, often times get ‘out-of-hand’. Bullying and cruelty have abounded on Facebook in recent years. Perhaps part of this is because there has been a societal shift and as a reflection of that, social media is one of the more obvious places you can witness and feel it because, unlike when you’re conversing face to face, most people are far more brave behind a keyboard than they are in person and will, therefore, express themselves more freely and with less consideration for their actions.
The world has become volatile and there is something fundamentally ‘off’ with the balance of things. Fortunately, positive begets positive, however, negative also begets negative, and when you have more of one than the other, the balance is thrown off and it does something to us collectively. There are few places that this is more obvious than on the comment sections of Facebook accounts.
Twitter.com Rating - 3 Diamonds ♦♦♦
Another popular social media site is Twitter (www.twitter.com). It’s a nice place to find out about people and to research businesses. There is limited engagement, so no real depth to it, but it serves a purpose and does a great job as a quick point-of-reference tool.
Other than that, the general opinion of Twitter, for many people, is that it’s a super way for celebrities to either communicate with each other or bash each other. It’s like the TMZ of social media.
Twitter is surprisingly good for business, as it does serve as a great way to connect with businesses large and small by observing, monitoring and networking.
LinkedIn.com Rating - 3 Diamonds ♦♦♦
LinkedIn.com is a site used for business professionals. It serves as an online resume for individuals, a nice way to create some buzz about your business and, it’s got a nice feature that allows you to join groups of like-minded business folks so you can share your knowledge with other professionals and ask opinions, in return. It’s not so much ‘social’ as it is business casual.
Google+ Rating - 3 Diamonds ♦♦♦
Plus.Google.com is basically Facebook that recognizes and uses hashtags like Twitter. I will tell you that when Google+ first came on the scene, I thought it was going to be absolutely huge. I figured Facebook was done for, because it’s Google for crying out loud! Who can compete with Google? Well, I guess since it’s launch in the summer of 2011, the answer is ‘pretty much every other major social media site.’ Google+ is decent for business, but has never really taken off as a ‘social’ site. You don’t really hear many folks saying, “Did you see that article on Google+ this morning?!”, “I get most of my news from Google+.” or “Add me to your Google+ page!” It’s changed quite a bit over the years and who knows, maybe it will become something big in the future, but in 2016, it’s just plain old Google+.
Of course, there are other social media sites that are extremely popular. Instagram.com and Pinterest.com among them. They all have their place and are ‘fun’ to hang out on, but they're about as deep as a puddle.
Now, let’s focus on something fun… social media sites where specialized socialization is a key element in the mission of the site. Some of these sites have a genre or even an age group they’re trying to appeal to. One site, in particular, seems to cover the gamut by appealing to everyone and capturing the essence of social media to what, in my opinion, it is supposed to be.
RelateToThat.com Rating - Four Diamonds ♦♦♦♦
RelateToThat.com is a new, anonymous social site which seems to have it just right. It’s engaging and interesting, as it comes with a plethora of built-in content written for and by its members. There are groups you can join ranging from a focus on family to entertainment to health to the arts to philosophy. Are you a writer? You can share stories and get feedback on your material. Do you have a parent that’s struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s? You can speak to other people all over the world who are dealing with the same issues you are. Do you have something on your mind that you can’t really share with anyone, but just want to get it off of your chest? There is a Secrets section and a Venting group. Or, you can peruse the Q and A section where people offer questions and feedback on recent events, opinions on life experiences, dealing with difficult situations, sharing a funny event from your day, and pretty much anything else you can think of. It’s like having a bunch of really good pals you can talk to almost anything about. Anything goes, as long as it’s done respectfully and sensitively. And the best part is that it is completely anonymous. You can feel comfortable sharing your life’s experiences both tremendous and tragic without feeling uncomfortable or intimidated.
I witnessed several times where the relationships built on RelateToThat, for many members, hold a special place beyond current friends and family. If you’re having a rotten day, you can go in and discuss it with a friend. If you just want someone who you know is there and will miss you when you’re gone, it’s a great place to find good people who do just that. It’s mutual support at its best.
The site is very closely monitored to wean out bullying and negativity. That’s not to say you can’t express yourself on the site, but if you can’t communicate respectfully, you’re not welcome to use the site. It’s the first really SAFE social media site I’ve found. You will laugh and you may cry on this site. It’s humanity engaging with one another. It’s really something special.
To top it off, RelateToThat.com offers free advertising for all national non-profits, which is just amazing. Their goal is to bring non-profits to the site to advertise and to offer a section where people affiliated with the non-profit and their audiences can share the specific topic relating to the non-profit.
The only reason why I didn’t give RelateToThat 5 stars is simply because it is brand new and doesn’t have enough people on the site yet. I joined several months ago and a couple of my friends also joined, so we contribute (and look around) regularly. There’s always something fun to read about and there’s enough information on there to really spend some serious time on the site, but it’s just a little slow for new material right now. Once more folks join, I can see it picking up speed and really leaving a solid, positive mark on the world of social media.
ExperienceProject.com Rating - One Diamond ♦
Closing April 21, 2016
This massive, widespread territory of confusion is the closest thing I could find to RelateToThat.com. It’s borderline ridiculous, and is completely overwhelming from the get-go. Right away, I noticed quite a few inappropriate ads from around the world wide web that made me feel really uncomfortable, especially with my kid standing next to me. Lots of breasts and insinuated sexual content. Also, the ads are smack dab in the middle of the page…on every page! You have to scroll through ads about buff beasts taking legal steroids and Disney stars gone bad to even get to the majority of the content. The setup is really quite awful in that way. Within 30 seconds (no kidding) of joining the site, I had a dude ask me if I wanted to accept a message from him. His profile picture was an extremely creepy clown. They say it’s a safe site, but I felt terribly uncomfortable between the borderline porn and unwanted attention from Sir Clowns-A-Lot. I decided not to judge the book by it’s cover and delve deeper into this world. I felt dirty and confused and almost dizzy. It’s not relaxing and pleasant. It’s chaotic and in complete disarray.
AgingHipsters.com Rating - Two Diamonds ♦♦
Hey Daddy-o! If you’re a hep cat who digs a twitchin’ and bitchin’ time on the world wide web, this site is a gas. If you want to discuss 8-track players, Hall and Oates and retirement parties (literally), this social site is the cat’s pajamas. The aesthetics of the site alone take you back in time. This place looks like it jumped out of 1997 and desperately needs an updated design. I can see where the site could be interesting to some of the Baby Boomers that it’s trying to attract. The vast majority of the topics look like they could have been newspaper stories from 25+ years ago. I am all about nostalgia, but holy cow! Some variety on this site would be terrific. How about we not fit every Baby Boomer in the box of wanting to reminisce about ‘the good ole days’. Watching Paint Dry City. Also, there has been very limited activity in the past couple of years. While I can see where they were trying to go, and respect their vision, it’s just missing the mark. I burned rubber outta there.
DailyStrength.com Rating - Three Diamonds ♦♦♦
Started in 2007, Daily Strength is an impressive site aiming to support anyone having issues with health or wellness in almost any topic, literally from A to Z. There are hundreds of support group forums to go to on the site to express your concern and get feedback from others who have either been in your situation or who are experiencing it presently. I really like the vibe on this site. It’s low-key, which is important when you’re feeling vulnerable enough to seek refuge on the internet for an issue you or a loved one may be having. It’s easy to navigate around in and the people on the site seem to be friendly, gentle and compassionate. It’s organized nicely and doesn’t require vast internet navigation skills to use it and get the most out of it. However, if you’re looking for deeper online friendships, this may not be the place for that. The focus of the site is sort of like a tunnel. Once you’ve engaged in a forum, the conversation pretty much stays on that topic and rarely sways. If you want to have more ‘good days’, perhaps a rounded focus would be better than just that black hole many of us find ourselves in when facing and working through adversity.
There is one large problem with the site itself. I tried to sign up on the site two times so that I could share some of my own experiences and get a better feel for the site, and both times never received a confirmation email so that I could verify my account. I checked in all the usual places (junk, spam, etc.). Nothing. So, I couldn’t share anything myself, but still enjoyed using the site as a resource and can see how almost anyone could find something on the site that could help and support them in a time of need, confusion or just to not feel alone in their current situation.
There’s no telling what the future of social media will bring. There have been so many unimaginable advances in the way we communicate just in the past few years. How and why we use social media has changed exponentially, as well. It’s exciting to think about and one can’t help to imagine how communication advances can get even more exciting, open and engaging.
Here’s to the future of social media and continuing to find new, responsible, remarkable ways to connect with one another.
An interesting development has come to my attention which directly impacts my blog.
While reviewing the content for the blog one last time, I came across this notice from 'Experience Project' which can also be found here on their website:
Until We Meet Again...
Nearly a decade ago, we started Experience Project with a mission of harnessing social media to bring empathy and understanding to all, through the power of anonymously shared human experience. Since then, tens of millions of experiences have been shared by hundreds of millions of people. Users have gotten married, saved each other's lives, and entertained and comforted each other late into the night. Every single day, we've been privileged to see community members find connection to ideas, feelings, and people that changed their lives.
However, many important things have changed since 2006 that risk both our ideals and our ability to deliver on them.So, it is with heavy hearts that we have decided to pause this chapter in Experience Project history and regroup for the future , rather than risk our beliefs, and more importantly, our users' trust. We've struggled mightily with this decision for a long time, and pursued every reasonable alternative, but we are confident that it is the right thing to do at this time. For details on what this means for your account, please see Next Steps below. To read more about the factors leading up to this difficult decision, please continue reading below.
We created EP to provide a safe, private place online to share the experiences that mattered most, and to deliver it fairly and reliably to every user, however and wherever they were comfortable. Doing good for the world was not a side effect, it was the goal.
Over the last decade, while social media has evolved from Blogger to Snapchat, and become increasingly focused on pictures, short text, and individual popularity, EP remained focused on anonymous, long-form text stories from everyday people who were recognized for their experiences above all else. From day one, privacy of our users has been paramount , and we have never allowed names, phone numbers, or addresses. This approach bucked every trend, and challenged our ability to build an advertising-based business, but we passionately believe it provided the foundation for some of the most meaningful relationships imaginable. And you are proof that we were right! But there is no denying that the way people expect to use social media today is markedly different than it once was, and as the primary use has moved from web to mobile, our hallmark attributes like long-form stories are not aligned.
But, there are deeper, and more troubling trends than formats. Online anonymity, a core part of EP, is being challenged like never before. Governments and their agencies are aggressively attacking the foundations of internet privacy with a deluge of information requests, subpoenas, and warrants. We, of course, always support proper law enforcement efforts, but the well-documented potential for even abuse, even if unintentional, is enormous, and growing.
At the same time, scores of new laws require compliance with intricate, sometimes contradictory, data privacy regulations for each country, territory, and even state. For example, today there are nearly 30 different agencies that can decide whether sending data, for example, a private message from your inbox, between Europe and the US is "proper."
Finally, the sophistication of "bad apples," as few as they thankfully are, has increased dramatically. They are better able to cover their tracks and evade user bans by using mobile and encryption networks, and they use information to exploit the trust of others through social engineering. These advances, of course, relate to the first point about increasing government information gathering, in an ever escalating game of cat and mouse.
None of these are insurmountable problems, but they require immense resources to address reliably, effectively, and safely at scale. Those are outside the reach of all but a tiny handful of massive companies like Facebook and Google.
So it is with these themes in mind that we have come to the conclusion that it is better to freeze what we have today, instead of letting it erode, and affect our ability to deliver value, safety, and to respect our users' trust and expectations.
What does this all mean? In practical terms, this means that on April 21st at 4:00 pm PDT , we are going to be pressing "pause" on the site. At that time, we will not allow new registrations or the posting of new content, instead freezing the current library of experiences. We have built tools that will enable you to export your contributions , or delete your account , and will leave those tools up for the foreseeable future. As it should be, what you want to do with your content is up to you. Most stories on EP are timeless, and if you leave yours up, they will undoubtedly help countless others. Over time, we hope to determine how to better realize our mission in the future.
Experience Project is a very big idea that you have made a reality. The need for it -- for empathy, for comfort, for making sure no one ever feels alone -- is as critical as ever. Thank you for being part of this journey with us, and we hope that we can say "welcome home" again in the future.
With love and appreciation,
Your Experience Project Team
As a result of Experience Project closing, this blog has adopted a secondary benefit to its readers. This can now serve as a great point of reference for all those 'EP' users who are looking for a new place to set up social media shop. Enjoy perusing the reviews below and giving each site a shot till you find your new 'home'.