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Much like front-runner political candidates, mainstream social media sites often get more attention than up-and-coming ones. There are, however, compelling reasons to look at newer beta and/or less well known sites. Some sites provide new services or features, or recombine old ones in unique ways. Others compliment or build on the functions of existing social media or other sites. The following four websites are ones that social media site users and bloggers alike should be aware of, and that already successful social sites should look to for new ideas.

(1) Romlet is a great way to build a reputation online as well as valuable PR and traffic via (free) backlinks. The Romlet widget combines and condenses some of the best aspects of a variety of useful and successful widgets. It also has the potential to develop into new kind of social network. The widget itself is part stats counter, part brag badge and part social bookmarking tool. Similar to the MyBlogLog recent visitors widget, the Romlet widget shows where visitors came from. These sources are displayed as favicon links to the referring source, which also work like AddThis bookmarks. Romlet users can also choose to display the number of visitors from each source, like a FeedBurner stats widget. Users can also visit their custom Romlet homepage to see more information and statistics about their own site or about other Romlet user sites and articles. Click here to see an example of Romlet in action.

Romlet

Romlet is still short on some potential community-building functions, a by-product of how new the site and widget are. Over time more functionality should certainly be added to encourage greater interaction between Romlet users. Social news and bookmarking options could potentially build on the already successful aspects of the widget. As with Peopleized, however, Romlet‘s creators continue to develop new functions based on user feedback.

(2) Peopleized is a relatively new social networking site where people interview one another in order to build up popularity and network with other people in an area of interest. Many of the site’s current users are bloggers, but not all. People can post or quote their interviews or others on their own website or social networking profile. These interviews serve multiple functions: building up PR on an established website, getting exposure to new audiences and developing press release information and skills for future use.

Peoplized

Probably the biggest limitation of Peopleized right now is that the functionality is not completely built out for hosting interviews and other information on remote sites. Most of the action takes place on the site itself, which is a good start (considering the site’s high levels of traffic) but could be expanded upon. Fortunately, the creators of Peopleized are already working on expanding its capabilities on major social networking sites such as Facebook.

(3) Plime is a social news site with a fairly complex and successful system for organizing and presenting content in various categories. First, there are more ‘offbeat’ categories than on most social news sites, including WTF and weird. Each story submitted can be easily tagged with an image, something Digg and Reddit would do well to take notice of. Plime voting also works in a fairly innovative way: votes are automatically given to new stories based on how many users have upmodded the user who submitted that story. Like StumbleUpon, users can also indicate categories of interest. In short, Plime integrates some of the best features from major social news sites.

Plime

The biggest downside right now is that, due to a lack of users, the site seems to recycle a lot of the material presented on said major social sites. The biggest upside for content creators is that the site doesn’t seem to put a lot of weight on where a story is submitted from – favoring content over existing URL popularity, making it a great place to submit stuff (yours or that of someone else) from lesser-known websites.

(4) Shoutwire is another social news site that has been around for some time but is relatively under-appreciated, particularly by people who want to get their content out into the world. The site works a lot like mainstream social media sites, but is perhaps less well organized. To compensate, however, it offers more options for user-submitted content – including forums for discussion and on-site editorials. Also, ShoutWire sends a significant amount of traffic to sites that successfully get voted to the front page. Admittedly, the traffic volume doesn’t compare to sites like Digg, but anywhere from a few thousand to over ten thousand hits from 20 votes is nothing to scoff at.

ShoutWire

Usability and ease of navigation seem to be the major drawbacks of ShoutWire. It is somewhat hard to find anything but the front page and almost-popular or newly-submitted upcoming articles. Something like Digg’s cloud view or more obvious category searches would greatly improve the existing site. That being said, for someone either casually looking for front-page news or hoping to get some traffic to a less-established site: ShoutWire is easy and user-friendly.

These are, of course, just a few examples. What underrepresented or under-appreciated social news, networking or bookmarking sites do you enjoy? Do you use some of these already? What is your take on them?

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WTF

From someone eating only cereal for 30 days to a site featuring tree porn, Romlet users span the spectrum of webmasters and bloggers. With over 1,000,000 Romlets served up on user sites, the time has come to announce the winners of the Romlet Awards! Prior to the Romlet beta release the widget only existed on a few select websites. Since then, Romlet ‘blog-boosting’ widgets have spread throughout the blogosphere like a virus. Bloggers and site owners have been using it to gain popularity via backlinks. Each Romlet user has customized their widget to suit their blog – with everything from elegant to bizarre results. The Romlet Awards are designed to highlight the best widget examples as well as the weirdest uses and strangest users.

The Bikini Zone

Sexiest Widget: How can you go wrong when you put a simple white-on-black widget next to such attractive ladies? This is a bit of a spoof award to be sure, but The Bikini Zone seemed worth an honorable mention!

Cerealize Me

Most Outrageous: Many people blended the design of their Romlet widgets with their site. Other sites, however, such as Cereal Wednesday chose the opposite approach. It is perhaps fitting that the most garishly outstanding yellow Romlet would be found on a site whose author is eating only cereal and milk for 30 days.

Daisy the Curly Cat

Most Pink: Inevitably, someone was going to make a bright pink Romlet. A few sites already have. The Romlet on Daisy the Curly Cat is not only nicely fit to the site’s design and colors, it is extremely extremely pink.

No Direct On

Double-Romlet: With two Romlet widgets to choose from, someone was inevitably bound to use both. NoDirectOn went an extra step and used the maximum widget size for each of their two, then merged the two into one. If that isn’t dedicated fandom what is?

Life of a School Bus Driver

Best Integrated Colors: This Romlet is particularly well-integrated into the color scheme of the site, and put in the same area in relationship to a MyBlogLog widget. It almost seems to be a plugin or built-in site feature on The Life of a School Bus Driver.

Win Extra

Best Integrated Stats: So far the ‘stats’ version of Romlet is somewhat less used than the ‘favicon’ version. However, this site owner and others find the stats-Romlet useful to see not only where visitors are coming from but also how many visitors they are getting. This particular widget fits the colors and overall site theme well.

Shop Like Us

Best Integrated Widgets: The owner of ShopLikeUs managed to get the MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog and Romlet widgets to line up quite nicely and all appear as part of a group. This is one of the tricks to successful widget design: integrating various widgets in a single theme or even area within a theme.

Pure Blogging

Best Integrated Sidebar: Pure Blogging has taken an extra step in cleanly integrating the Romlet widget into their design. The created a sidebar section and unique ‘referrers’ label to call out Romlet as an element of the site.

Webmania

Best Foreign Language: Romlet went international quite rapidly, popping up both in European and South American websites within days, and Asian sites shortly after. Webmania has done a great job of cleanly integrating the widget next to their MyBlogLog equivalent.

WallStreetFighter

Most Scandalous Surroundings: The Romlet on this site has dubious company, from almost-naked women to tree porn. So far WallStreetFighter is the most scandalous and off-beat site using the Romlet widget.

Web Urbanist

Most Prominent Widget: Blogs are often cluttered with widgets all over, but this popular site (which has had over 300,000 widget views!) has its Romlet right in the upper right for all to see. The Web Urbanist widget is also fit well to the sidebar and overall site them.

disassociated.jpg

Best Overall Design: Nothing at Dissassociated seems out of place – least of all the Romlet widget. In fact, the site only has two widgets (Romlet and Flickr) and both are cleanly integrated into the brilliantly simple site layout.

Romlet helps bloggers boast and boost content and brag top referers. More examples of Romlet widgets in action can be found on Romlet’s featured users page. Bloggers and site owners: get your own Romlet widget!

WebUrbanist.com is a hot new blog that has really hit the ground running – covering everything from online ‘societies’ to real-life design. Straightforward and engaging text is blended expertly with eye-popping imagery and stellar links. In one short week the site has covered really cool and interesting guerilla marketing campaigns as well as creative and diverse urban street art. In contast but in parallel, the site’s authors have also written about the controversial Google Street View and posted scandalous images from it as well as documenting the incredible readership of the Wikimedia Foundation that runs Wikipedia. Perhaps most amazingly, the site has already gotten link love from a variety of blogs and news sites, including the popular PR7 CNet! The site is definitely worth checking out and well worth subscribing to – as each new post is carefully crafted by one or more experienced authors and really contains a vast amount of interesting images and content.

I’ve been toying with a few different sites and, strange though the URL may be, have decided to make this my site about writing and promoting content online. Going to be testing things out, changing as I go, but look forward to feedback and suggestions along the way!