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Social networking has been around for as long as people have been interacting with one another. In its simplest form it is nothing more than sharing information about people with other people. The same basic definition is still the same when talking about the top social networking sites on the internet, but how it's done has changed.
Before the internet people could only reach one level of people at a time, and networking was relatively slow. You could only communicate with the people who were receiving your message, whether that was done in person or through some form of media. You would then have to hope that other people would expand your network by sharing your message with the people they knew.
Today, social networking has evolved into a powerful tool for sharing amongst individual, or as a form of marketing for business. Now, when somebody shares with the people they know, all of those people automatically are sharing with the people that they know. This alone makes it much better than old-fashioned networking, but modern networking can have a viral element as well.
"Going viral" means something is picked up and shared by the public at large. If you have been online for any amount of time, then chances are high that you have seen many things that have gone viral. It can be pretty exciting when this happens to an individual, and they may even pick up a bit of fame for a while. However, if you have a business, then going viral can generate a lot of instant interest in whatever you're offering.
The top social networking sites are Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Digg, LiveJournal, and Myspace. Each one of these sites has its own personality, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with any of them before you start to use them. You can sign up for an account and dive right in, but you will get more out of a site if you get a feel for it first.
You should also ask yourself how you plan on using each site, as that will determine what features you will make use of, and which ones don't require as much of your focus. While you will be using the social networking sites for certain reasons, you also need to think about how other people are using those sites. For example, if you are a business owner and want to market your business socially, that's okay, but remember that other people aren't using those sites so they can view endless advertisements.
If you're interested in social networking, then it makes sense to start with the top social networking sites. Once you are established on those you can branch out into some of the minor social sites, too. The other thing worth mentioning, whether using a top site or one of the lesser-known sites, is that they are free to join. So, now there is no excuse for you to not take advantage of all of the benefits of social networking.
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