It’s easy to get caught up in new sites and technology in the social media space and forget about those that have been around a while. More often than not, those old, trusted friends have continued to innovate and are still developing noteworthy functionality and uses. You just get caught up in the new shiny objects and shrug them off with, “been there, done that,” reactions.
One social network and blog search utility I think gets overlooked a lot is Blog Catalog. Most beginning bloggers start there to find like-minded thinkers and blogs to read and favorite. They grab the “My Community” widget and have little avatars of users appear on their blog’s sidebar as visitors. (See mine, top of the left-most sub-column in my sidebar.) I’ve even known people to spend hours navigating Blog Catalog, clicking on people’s blogs so their avatar shows up on that particular site’s widget. When the author sees a new avatar, it’s human nature to click through and see who was visiting, thus increasing the traffic and exposure of the instigator.
Despite the fact Blog Catalog has continued to grow, expand it’s functionality, add life streaming and so on, other services like MyBlogLog, and FriendFeed ahave overshadowed the San Antonio-based platform.
I’ve had a couple of conversations with Tony Berkman, BC’s president, about some innovations and additions his site has been working on. They launch one such new feature today with the introduction of BC 360, an embeddable search tool for your blog. Users can search your site for a specific term, but can then select a social search result that looks for the same term on blogs you’ve favorited on Blog Catalog. While it’s similar to the social search functionality of tools like Lijit, which I also use and can be found in the sidebar to the right, Blog Catalog’s functionality allows you to more accurately specify which blogs are searched as part of your community. Lijit’s tool just crawls outbound links from your site. BC, in essence, allows you to designate which sites the search applies to. Blog Catalog’s has the added caviat that It also searches the social content of your network of friends on Blog Catalog.
In the image seen here, you can see a social search for “personal branding” on Social Media Explorer shows a recent blog post by Harry Hoover at MyCreativeTeam, a blog I read regularly, and a mention of personal branding in a Facebook status of Thomas Clifford (a/k/a Director Tom), a friend who is also a connection on Blog Catalog. Clifford’s status line actually points to a personal branding post by Chris Brogan, so you can see the intense relevance of the search results.
Here’s what I really like about the widget: In order to make sure it’s searching the blogs you find most relevant and the social graphs of the people most relevant, you have to log in to Blog Catalog and spend time maintaining our community there. It gives you reason to come to the site instead of just using the widgets and never visiting. The utility for your blog actually makes you want to be more active on the Blog Catalog site. That’s pretty smart.
The BC 360 widget shows up as a small search box you would most likely place in your sidebar. Mine is just below the feed subscribers number atop the right sub-column of my sidebar. The results appear light box style as an overlay on the page.
I’m excited about some other innovations Tony and his crew are working on as well but they’re not ready to let the cat out of the bag on them. Suffice to say, Blog Catalog is one social network, utility, search portal and more that keeps creating innovative tools for its community of users.