I think it might be good to define "social" as it relates to the internet. To me, social means there are built-in ways to have a conversation, ways to find similar people with similar interests, and ways to rank or review. If you think about Facebook, you can have a conversation, search for similar people by keyword, and click that famous "Like" button or link. Obviously, this is social. Yet, how about something like the app Foodspotting? Some social features have just been added to help widen its appeal. Now you can follow reviewers, rank food, and have your own page with your reviews. And you can log in with Facebook—all pretty social by my definition. So, I decided to find some off-the-beaten-path social apps for you to explore.
I love this new socialized version of Foodspotting! The photos on the iPad are huge, and the design is clean and easy to figure out. I can follow a person from one of my other social accounts or a reviewer I find interesting. I can even "follow" a particular item of food—like cheese, or chocolate. The only drawback is I don't have enough friends using this yet. I also like the four different ways you can give a review: Want it! Nom (Nominate) it! Great shot! Great Find! I think Foodspotting just climbed to the top of the social food apps.
Within this app, you can have a conversation with your connections in reference to their post, rank the post with a thumbs-up, and share the post with someone else. But one of the more innovative features of this app is called "In Person." If two (Bluetooth-enabled) iPhone or iPad people launch the LinkedIn app and both tap "In Person" from the home screen, it connects the two devices and contact information is shared. The obvious drawback is you can only use this with other iPhone users. Until the world is all iPhone, this is a big drawback. But if you are an iOS developer at a conference, then by all means, give In Person a whirl!
This is certainly the sweetheart of the social photography apps at the moment. Take a picture, add a filter, and share it with the world. People can "heart" it (like it) and leave comments. You can browse through popular images, and find and follow photographers. You can also read conversations between the photographer and other fans of the image. It satisfies all the criteria for a truly social app, even though it is listed as a photography app.
I don't know about you, but I have really been enjoying the Beta version of Google+. I love the conversation around defining and shaping a new social platform. It is interesting and engaging, and the Google Team is accessible and changing things based on user feedback (which is what's supposed to happen in a Beta version!). If you haven't explored it yet, jump onboard. You can create circles to organize your social world, create live video "hangouts" with ten of your friends (well, not quite yet on your iPhone), and share posts and comments with your designated circles.
If you want to jump back on the beaten path for social apps—the Facebook app (Free, app2.me/260) and Twitter app (Free, app2.me/102) are constantly being improved. Two alternatives for those apps are the Friendly Facebook app (Free, app2.me/3814) and Hootsuite (Free, app2.me/2926).