By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer
If you consider the Myspace, Facebook and YouTube cities, inhabited by millions of residents subdivided into boroughs and neighborhoods, think of Twitter Moms and Climate Culture as small suburban communities on the city’s periphery. We are in the midst of urban sprawl of online community sites, where users play games to learn how to reduce their carbon footprint or get tips on improving their golf swing via online video.
Virtual Villages are growing by leaps and bounds according to Google Trends. As Web 1.0 e-Commerce makes its steady roll downhill, Web 2.0 social networking has risen from nothing in 2004 to nearly stealing the spotlight from e-tailers.
We’ve created a list of the top five emerging virtual villages that you might not have heard of:
1. Climate Culture—This is an interactive game where users are given an island and avatar that best reflects their carbon footprint and appearance. Users then commit to easy ways to reduce their daily emissions to restore life on their island and in their everyday lives.
2. Twitter Moms—Guess what “Mommies wish list is.” No, not a free babysitter. “A free short stack at iHop,” actually. Twitter Moms delivers on its name—it’s a site for mothers seeking information and community with other mothers in an easy-to-use, friendly way.
3. CauseCast—Finding the right nonprofit to donate to can be difficult. That’s why CauseCast has a user-friendly interface for donors to easily find and donate to a charity they care about.
4. Ning—Sites with online communities do not belong to an exclusive club that can afford web-savvy developers. Ning takes niche social media to the next level by providing a simple social networking framework that is easily embedded into any site.
5. Link Lessons—No longer does it take hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to perfect your swing. Link Lessons is an online video site where amateur and professional golfers meet to side step the expensive lessons… at least in the beginning. Amateurs film their swing, post it to Link Lessons, and professionals give them pointers based on their uploaded video. For the professionals, it’s a great way to meet prospective clients and for amateur golfers, it’s an inexpensive alternative to on-course lessons.
We can learn a lesson from Ryan Howard Bailey, the project manager on a social network for Dunder Mifflin—the paper company from NBC’s hit show, The Office. Ryan’s big idea was to create an online community around paper. Now, can you imagine people gathering in an online neighborhood sharing stories about 50% recycled multipurpose inkjet printing paper? Will that work? That is the question you have to ask yourself before launching a social network. Though you might be enthusiastic about your product, will others?