Linked In, Facebook, Myspace, and a gazillion imitation websites have popped up over the last few years. All attempt to leverage social networking and while they have some value, they are still a pathetic attempt at mimicking real affinity groups. If you're building your personal and professional network, you'll get much more mileage from meeting people face to face, pressing the flesh, and remembering to follow up.
When you want to go online to network socially, forget about the usual social networking sites. Social networking sites are poor imitators of much older forums, email lists, and even chat rooms. People have been gathering in these forums and email groups since the Internet began. When you visit these websites and email lists, you'll find people with common interests and real experts, happy to dole out crucial advise.
Let's bring this back to Gear Thoughts. Here's a few groups in which I participate.
For my BMW K75s, I often participate in the Yahoo Group: KBMW. For my adventure riding addiction, I can spend hours reading the ride reports on the Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum. For meeting local riders and going on group rides, there's the regional subforums. If you live in Colorado and are into sportbikes, you'll want to visit the Colorado Sportbike Club Forums. You'll find plenty of expertise and lots of opportunity to join other riders. If you're into BMW motorcycles, visit Colorado Beemers and join the group for a ride. When I want to feed my Audi addiction, I'll go to the forums on Audiworld although the Audifans site has a much better marketplace.
And on it goes. For every passion, you will find a forum or email list to support it. When you have a problem, the people you meet are often willing to help and you'll also find a treasure trove of useful technical information in the archives. There are always informal and formal gatherings happening, so there's plenty of opportunity to meet these people in person.
I don't mean to bash Facebook, Linked In, and other social networking sites. I have a few profiles out there myself and they've enabled me to reconnect with people I haven't spoken with for years. That's pretty cool. But they're also limited and the widget stuff is increasingly annoying. If you're looking for much higher quality interactions, visit forums and email lists on subjects you're passionate about.