June 22, 2007 12:51 PM PDT

Social networks geared for offline success?

NEW YORK--At an after-work event in a basement-level nightclub in Manhattan's West Village earlier this month, one partier didn't seem to approve of the fast-paced techno beats the DJ was spinning.

"This music is way too Meatpacking," he said, in reference to the Meatpacking District, a Manhattan neighborhood with a reputation for expensive drinks, inebriated tourists and paparazzi.

But that was to be expected. The critic in question was a "Yelper"--an avid member of the user-generated business reviews site Yelp, home to many a nitpicking hipster. And he likely wasn't the only one at the party willing to openly criticize the music selections, because this was an official Yelp party, and everyone in attendance was a Yelper.

Online social networking has become a mainstay of the Digital Age, and it's now evident that Internet fads can appear and disappear faster than you can say "Friendster." As a result, some sites are turning to a new strategy to keep their services "sticky" and their users satisfied: They're not just encouraging them to network online, but to attend offline events and parties in the real world as well. Yelp now regularly hosts parties in big cities around the country.

Now smaller start-ups are trying use the offline-online hybrid model to gain momentum against community heavyweights like Yelp and Meetup.

Recently relaunched Going, for example, is a "social-event calendar" that aggregates announcements, encourages members to network with each other online beforehand, and lets them maintain profiles with favorite events and photo galleries.

The invite-only I'm In Like With You, having forsaken the passive "friend request" in favor of bidding games that require one member to "win" another member's game before the two can contact each other, is a growing destination for finding dates and happy hour buddies. I'm In Like With You founder Charles Forman didn't plan to have offline gatherings--the users took that into their own hands.

"In San Francisco, I think there have been two I'm In Like With You meetups already," Forman said. "They didn't invite us, but they asked us for free T-shirts," he added jokingly. The site, which is only a few months old, hasn't had any official offline gatherings yet, but Forman said it's something he'd like to do.

The online-offline hybrid model arguably started with New York-based Meetup, founded in 2002, which rose to fame when the tech-savvy campaign team for Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean used it as a tool to mobilize groups of local supporters.

Being Web-savvy is no longer isolating. To Yelp's young-professional user base, the site is a potent social tool as well as a way to kvetch about annoying waiters and bad food.

"Most of the Yelpers I have met know when the best concerts are happening, know the best lounges--the ones that are really good, not just the trendy junk--ad infinitum," a Yelper named Adrian who attended the party said in an e-mail.

Even five years ago, it would be laughable to think of going online as a means to boost social knowledge and meet "in the know" people, unless the "know" in question involved fringe politics, Star Trek or one of the other geeky subcultures that proliferated with the Internet's rise.

Now, thanks to the mainstreaming of online dating and MySpace.com profiles, many people no longer consider it awkward or embarrassing to extend their social networking into the real world.

"Most of (my friends) are in the online world, like on MySpace, so they can understand," said a Yelper named Crystal when asked if her non-Yelper friends found the site's online-offline modus operandi to be odd at all. "I've invited a few of my non-Yelp friends to Yelp events, and they totally meshed with Yelpers."

But another Yelper named Jax said her friends still have yet to catch on. They "think it's weird; they don't understand why we can be so supportive of each other, like going to shows and having dinner together."

See more CNET content tagged:
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6 comments

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Real-world + Online-world: Makes a lot of sense
Here is one such success story for the parent comunity - www.schoolparent.net
Posted by anspn (25 comments )
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Online Blogs Become Offline Meet
While joining in the blog discussions at Jeremy's LSVP blog "We need a standard for social network advertising " with Michael Barrett, Shervin Pishevar joined in and stated inter alia "So on July 11th, Freewebs is hosting the first ever WidgetCon, a full-day conference tackling widget marketing?s issues head-on" and that he "would love for the two of you (Jeremy & Michael)to speak at Widgetcon"

see link <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://lsvp.wordpress.com/2007/04/25/we-need-a-standard-for-social-network-advertising/" target="_newWindow">http://lsvp.wordpress.com/2007/04/25/we-need-a-standard-for-social-network-advertising/</a>

In a separate reply on the same Blog,Shervin Pishevar also invited Greg (Tseng),who was also in the blog discussions, and "Lance (Tokuda), Jia (Shen) and Ro (Choy?) as well".

The Widgetcon 2007 is happening at NYC. See <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.widgetcon.com/," target="_newWindow">http://www.widgetcon.com/,</a> and some of these guys invited will be speakers at the confernce.
Posted by amisare waswere (2 comments )
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Cutting out the middle man in social networks
the social middle man is undobtably love.
love is narrow schisophrenic and of no use.
When you look at a successful couple it's the compassion that keeps them going.
There love is of near non exsistance but they can still be of a very sexual nature to each other with greate compassion.
Compassion allows the mind to see and feel with all understanding.
Love is fear ridden and usless and is the base of control.
Compassion is of workng with the natural makeup.
Love is hiding away from it.
love swings blocking out our mind.
compassion gives you understanding and reaches far beyond the social ignorance of gender.
Theres loads that social networks can do now to premote compassion whereas with love you'll end up all trying to get a peice of the pie.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
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It's about time
the natural progression of online social networking to offline social interaction has amazing networking potential and could lead to the discovery, exploration and potential tremendous growth of new ideas. fascinating!
Posted by victoriarobles (1 comment )
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Fast Pitch! Offers This For Business Professionals
Fast Pitch! (www.fastpitchnetworking.com) has been giving professionals the ability to connect online AND offline for some time. Professionals have the opportunity to attend not only Fast Pitch! sponsored events in 50 cities around the U.S. each month, but can also promote their own offline events through the website. Fast Pitch! is easily the most robust business networking website in the world. Check out this comparison chart:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://bp2.blogger.com/_ApAhsj6rJ14/RmoAcTcFVoI/AAAAAAAAAEc/SS9hItmWrVA/s1600-h/comparison.jpg" target="_newWindow">http://bp2.blogger.com/_ApAhsj6rJ14/RmoAcTcFVoI/AAAAAAAAAEc/SS9hItmWrVA/s1600-h/comparison.jpg</a>
Posted by rich.swier (2 comments )
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DirectMatches - The "Business Space"
An alternative for Businesses and/or dating and friendship is DirectMatches. Termed "The place for Business and Friendship", this online Business and Social Matchmaking Community let's you post a profile for Business, Dating, Outdoorsman and Community all in one place. After posting your profile(s), this community will match you up with other like-minded people you can communicate with. It also has a very lucrative, one-of-a-kind (MRM) pay system for those interested in working online. Post your FREE profile here: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://*******.com/mhpeb" target="_newWindow">http://*******.com/mhpeb</a>
Posted by Melange44 (1 comment )
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