WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, WeatherNiche networking

Niche networking

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(WMBF) - Who hasn't heard of Facebook or MySpace these days? 

They're extremely popular social networking sites, but they can be overwhelming if you're looking for a small group of online friends with specific interests.  Now, a slew of new networking sites that claim less is more are surfacing on the web, and subscribers appear to agree.

"There are large communities of people in our society that have a lot of different interests," said social networker Brendan Wovchko.  "It just makes sense to create these miniature networks that focus in on peoples' specific interests."

How popular are they?  There are literally thousands of membership sites covering virtually every niche. They run the gamut from Digg, a popular social news site, to Yub, a site for shopaholics, Flixter for movie buffs, or Teebeedee, aimed at users over the age of 40.

 In fact, there's a specific site for just about every age and life stage.

"If you're a new parent, you're getting married, or you're a career professional, there is going to be a social networking site that meets your needs," said social networking researcher Alice Marwick.

Some are even designed for your four legged friends.

"There are pet sites like Dogster and Catser that I find very entertaining," said Marwick.

Experts say the niche sites tap into a feeling of belonging without being lost in the crowd, and allow like-minded people to control who see posts and photos. 

"It's easier just to find people and things that you are interested in," said Wovchko.

If you aren't sure where your niche on the Internet is, start typing some key words into a search engine.

"It really allows people share things with each other that they might not on a large social networking site," said Marwick.

Social networking sites have morphed into the mainstream for people of all ages, but what's next? Experts say mobile social networking is already making waves.

There are already location-based mobile phones with GPS that will allow you to do things like walk into a room and see information about all the friends-of-friends at a party so you'll never forget a name again.

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