Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook sometimes have the feel of a giant game of tag, where everyone reaches out and touches everyone they can connect with on the Internet. So perhaps it's no surprise that these days, one of the hottest online communities is called Tagged.com. Tagged is a blend of social networking features that MySpace and Facebook users will find very familiar.
Tagged launched in 2004 as a so-called "interactive social experience," the brainchild of Harvard graduates Johann Schleier-Smith and Greg Tseng. The two wanted to establish a commanding presence among users ages 13 to 19 by offering networking services slightly different than those found on other online community sites. Rather than simply help people reiterate their offline social groups, Tagged was designed to help users meet lots of new people with similar interests in a short amount of time.
And now it's not just teenagers who can make a lot of new online friends. In October 2006, Tagged opened its doors to all ages to increase its range of potential users. According to company statistics, 74 percent of users are over the age of 21, and the vast majority of users are evenly distributed between the ages of 18 to 44 [source: Tagged].
Expanding their target audience hasn't hurt Tagged; the site now claims to have 80 million registered users and 7 billion page views per month. That makes Tagged the third-largest social networking Web site in the United States, behind MySpace and Facebook [source: Gregory].
In addition to its millions of users, Tagged also attracts its share of unwanted attention. The site is a target for anti-spam crusaders and unfortunate e-mail users caught in Tagged's aggressive, if not unique, recruiting techniques. So before you rush to open an account, read on to see why Tagged is so popular and how you can best use its features to your advantage.
As with other major social networking sites, you can access Tagged directly and register for a free account. Alternately, you may receive an e-mail from someone in your contact list inviting you to join Tagged so you can see a friend's newly uploaded Tagged photo album.
Once you complete the registration process, you'll see an interface that bears more than a passing resemblance to MySpace. Using this interface, you'll create a personalized, public profile complete with a picture of yourself.
Then you can begin using any of the site's many networking or entertainment features. You can write in your Tagged journal -- which serves as your blog, send bulletins to friends, play games such as poker, watch videos, collect "pets" (other users on the site) or engage in any number of networking games.
Many of Tagged's capabilities emphasize what it calls "social discovery." Unlike Facebook, which tends to restrict your network to people you're familiar with, Tagged encourages its users to meet strangers based on shared interests, with the idea of growing your network to meet as many people as possible.
In that vein, you can send friend invitations to other users based simply on information you see in their profiles. You can leave comments, wink, or offer Tagged "luv" as a sign of interest for whomever you like. Tagged's features also encourage you to earn virtual "gold" for completing certain actions (such as answering a marketing survey). Then you can use your gold to buy digital gifts for your new friends.
If you don't want to put the effort into earning virtual gold, you can buy it outright with your real-world credit card. Tagged will also let you upgrade your account to VIP status for a monthly fee, which earns you a VIP logo, more gold, the ability to see who views your profile, and more.
So how did a social networking community manage to become a lightning rod for major controversy and earn the designation from Time Magazine as The World's Most Annoying Web site? A lot of the hullabaloo stems from Tagged's aggressive recruitment of new users.
Many people discover Tagged for the first time through an e-mail message from a friend. The message bears the Tagged banner and a message indicating that your friend sent new photos to Tagged. You're encouraged to click Yes to see the photos, and if you don't, the message states, "Please respond or [your friend's name] may think you said no." A sad-face emoticon follows this sentence, implying that your friend will be disappointed if you don't respond.
Click Yes and you begin the registration process for Tagged, ostensibly so you can eventually see your friend's photos. As part of the process, Tagged requests your primary e-mail account and password, supposedly to connect you with your friends on the site.
The problem is that there are likely no photos to see, and once you enter your e-mail address login information, Tagged sends the same message to every person in your e-mail contact list. The recipients will see a message indicating that you've uploaded photos for them to view, even though you haven't yet created any public photo albums.
Why would Tagged engage in this type of behavior? The site administrators want you to help spread the word about its brand. In fact, Tagged's Terms of Service explicitly states that users "agree that their e-mail addresses and other personal information may be used by Tagged for the purpose of initiating commercial e-mail messages."
This forceful harvesting of e-mail addresses upsets many users. And so does the rest of the registration process, in which you're prompted enter personal information (such as your cell-phone number) in the hopes of winning cash or other prizes.
Users' complaints aren't falling on deaf ears. In June 2009, founder Greg Tseng offered remorse for Tagged's recruiting methods on his company blog, indicating that Tagged received more than 2,000 complaints regarding the registration procedure, and that Tagged would make an effort to prevent unwanted mass e-mailing again.
Benefits of Tagged
If you're willing to work through the registration process, you'll find a social networking site that may help you connect with new and old friends. Browsing and searching features make this process easy.
With the Search command, you can perform a search using specific criteria, such as high school or ZIP code. Tagged then returns a list of registered users you can sift through. If you see someone you recognize, you can send them a message and connect them to your Tagged network.
You can also search for profile keywords. For instance, if you want to find users in your area who like to take pictures, you can enter "photographer," view a list of results, and then narrow the list by age and location. Using this tool, you can quickly find other people who enjoy similar activities or topics and send them a contact message in just a few moments.
The Meet Me feature lets you set a few criteria, such as age and location, and at your command, queues a list of randomly selected users for you to browse. If you indicate you're interested in being friends with someone, you can click Yes, and your photo goes into the other person's Meet Me list; if they click Yes, too, you become Tagged friends. Don't have time for games? You can enter chat rooms whenever you like and meet people right away. The chat rooms are divided by age and location, making it easy for you to find other users like yourself.
If you need a break from the many networking features on Tagged, you can play games, too. Mafia Wars and various poker games are popular. Or you can watch videos and upload photo albums for other users to view.
But social networking is the biggest focus of this site. To that end, you can also use the Tag command to send special messages to your new friends, thereby "tagging" them and inviting the same in return.
Although you have to tread carefully to avoid spamming your e-mail contacts, Tagged is a legitimate community with millions of frequent visitors. If you're addicted to social networking sites, Tagged may be the kind of online community you can use to find new friends.
For more information on social networking and related topics, head on over to the next page.
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- Arrington, Michael. "Let's Not Put Tagged in the Dead Pool Just Yet." Techcrunch.com. June 16, 2009. (June 17, 2009)http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/06/16/lets-not-put-tagged-in-the-deadpool-just-yet/
- Arrington, Michael. "Tagged Turns Profitable -- May Be Fastest Growing Social Network." Techcrunch.com. May 9, 2007. (June 17, 2009)http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/05/09/tagged-turns-profitable-may-be-fastest-growing-social-network/
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- Gulfbase. "Complaints forced Qtel to Block Top-Rated Site." (June 17, 2009)http://www.gulfbase.com/site/interface/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?n=84246
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