First is Ping.fm, which can post to multiple social networks at once. You sign up, give them your login credentials at Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, Wordpress and many others. When you want to update your social networking universe, you send one message to your Ping.fm account via an email, a text message, or a Web form, and it goes out to everyone. This can be a big time-saver if you post across different networks and don't mind sending the same information to all these places. I haven't used it as much because I tend to post different things to LinkedIn vs. Facebook, as an example.
Friendfeed.com works in reverse. It consolidates your entire social network "feeds" together in one place, so that your network can follow your posts across your blogs, your social networks, and other sites. You set everything up using the various RSS feeds that these services create, which is pretty clever when you think about it. The downside to Friendfeed is that your adoring public has to sign up separately for this service, which means Yet Another Social Network Request to fulfill. Still, I have been surprised at how many people are following me in this fashion, and how many of them are the A-list blogger types that you want to engage and be at top of mind in any event. Clearly, this is one service to pay attention to if you are trying to get the word out about your products and services.
Twitter is certainly all the rage these days, and a number of services have taken some of the best notification-style pieces out of it in interesting ways. If you like the way Twitter works but don't want to share your updates with the public, such as just with your work colleagues or a special task force, then take a look at Presentlyapp.com. You can use the free Web service or pay to install it behind your own firewall for the ultimate private group. They even make use of the same kind of scrolling interface that Twitter has made popular.
Another take on private discussion forums is from Yammer.com. They cost $1 a person a month. Think of this as one of those old-school BBS's that has been updated for the Gen-T and Web 2.0. I think if you want something quick and dirty and need to have a group discussion to knit your project team together, this is worth a closer look.
Buzzable.com can be used to create groups of Twitter users if you want to send out notifications to all of your partners or customers at once. LinkedIn is finally implementing this feature on their groups, but that is probably too much work to get the initial group assembled, given their still draconian triple opt-in rules.
So these are just five services that I have found that have something going for them. Whether any of these companies will be around next year is hard to tell. And I can guarantee that none of them have received any TARP funds from the US Government. If you have other suggestions, email them or post a comment on my strominator.com blog.
David Strom is an expert on Internet and networking technologies who was the former editor-in-chief at Network Computing, Tom's Hardware.com, and DigitalLanding.com. He currently writes regularly for PC World, Baseline Magazine, and the New York Times and is also a professional speaker, podcaster and blogs at strominator.com and WebInformant.tv