Social networking on iPhone and iPad: the definitive guide

14th Oct 2012 | 07:00

Social networking on iPhone and iPad: the definitive guide

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and more

Humans are social creatures. From scribbling pictures on cave walls to making funny comments on people's Facebook posts, we love to share with other people.

Thanks to devices such as iPhones, the gap between spotting something interesting and showing it to your friends can be as small as a few seconds, and social networks' global reach means it's as easy to connect with someone in California as in Carlisle.

In this feature we'll follow famous people on Twitter, hide our party photos from the boss on Facebook and discover how to share images, ideas and interesting things with people on the other side of the planet.

We'll also discover some more specialist social networks for particular kinds of content, and the apps that enable you to share special things with just your closest friends and family. Whether you're a networking novice or an experienced operator, we'll discover the best ways to share with the people who matter most to you. Go on, get social with your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.

The Tap! guide to Twitter

Funny, occasionally foolish, but fun and full of famous faces: of all the social networks, Twitter may well be the coolest.

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Imagine you've been invited to the world's best party. Your friends are here, of course, but so are some of the people you idolise: the people who make your favourite things, who created your favourite music or who cracked your favourite jokes. Depending on your mood you can be amused by comedians, get involved in a huge serious discussion or just laugh at talent shows.

That's Twitter

There are two things that make Twitter wonderful: every tweet, is limited to 140 characters. That encourages people to get to the point, fast, whether they're cracking jokes or explaining something complicated, and it encourages people to be witty.

The second thing is that you don't need somebody's permission to follow their updates. If somebody looks interesting, clicking on the Follow button subscribes to their Twitter feed: while some people do protect their Twitter feeds to make their updates private, most people don't.

Tweets are mainly - but not exclusively - text. You can also include images and video, either by hosting them somewhere on the internet and tweeting their address, or by uploading them to a dedicated service such as Twitpic. Many apps support such services automatically.

Twitter has some other handy features, too. One of the most useful ones is Lists, which you can use to manage your Twitter feed when you're following so many people's updates that the volume of tweets becomes a torrent. Instead of viewing everything at once, you can organise the people you follow into different categories, so you might have a list of friends, a list of your favourite musicians, a list of amusing accounts, and so on. You can make your lists private or public.

Twitter also enables you to browse trending topics, which are the most discussed conversations. Tapping on a topic shows you the tweets about that topic whether you follow those people or not, and once again, it can be a good way to find new and interesting people.

You can also store tweets as favourites, which enables you to file interesting things so you can find them again later.

Get started

'How do I tweet, and whom can I tweet to?'

hashtags

Using Twitter is very very easy. All you really need to know is somebody's username! So for example, ours is @tapmaguk. If you want to send us a tweet - please do! - then create a new tweet beginning with @tapmaguk.

In Twitter, 'following' somebody actually means you subscribe to their tweets: once you tap Follow, everything that person posts on Twitter will appear in your Twitter news feed until or unless you decide to unfollow them.

You can use people's usernames in several ways: to tweet them directly ('Good morning @tapmaguk!'); to mention them in a tweet to somebody else ('I just downloaded the latest issue of @tapmaguk!'); or to retweet one of their tweets.

A retweet is when you repost somebody else's message so that the people who follow you can also see it. This can be done automatically by your Twitter app of choice - such as the official Twitter app or Tweetbot (Universal, £1.99) - or manually by typing 'RT @username [whatever they posted]'. Manually retweeting enables you to add your own comment, such as 'Haha, that's amazing! RT @username [whatever they posted]'.

Tweets, mentions and retweets are all public, but you can also send somebody a private message. In Twitter this is known as a Direct Message, or DM for short. Once again, you can do this automatically in your Twitter app by choosing Direct Message, or you can do it manually by starting your message with DM and then the username, eg. "DM @ tapmaguk [your message]".

To reduce the risk of spam, abuse and other unpleasantness, you can only send a DM to somebody if they follow your Twitter feed. You might also see tweets with the hash symbol and a word or words, such as #mondaymorning or #bbcqt. These are called 'hashtags', and people type them to tag their tweets with a subject, so for example #bbcqt is BBC Question Time.

Those tags make it easy to find conversations, enabling you to see what other people are tweeting, and vice-versa.

Experienced

'I know retweets and hashtags. What else can I do?'

geolocation

Once you've mastered the cut and thrust of Twitter chat, the next stage is to take advantage of some of its more advanced features. Lists are a particular boon: you can use other people's lists to find new people to follow, or you can use your own to make your feed more manageable.

Creating a list couldn't be simpler: give it a name, decide whether it should be private or public, and add usernames to it. Once you've done that, tapping on the list shows you all of the tweets from the people on that list without any other distractions. The more people you follow, the more useful lists become.

One of the most interesting Twitter features is geotagging. If you give your Twitter app permission to use your location, it can tag your tweets with where you are, as well as customising the trending topics you see (so for example your trending list might show the topics trending in the UK, rather than globally). If your app supports it, you can also browse for tweets posted near you. That's handy at shows, conferences and sporting events.

Filters

The Twitter app's Discover icon also helps you find new and interesting things. Its Activity section lets you see what the people you follow have been up to - not just what they've been posting, but who they've been following, what lists they've added people to etc.

To save your own favourites, bring up the toolbar on a tweet and tap the star icon. You can also see Stories, which are the links generating the most Twitter traffic.

By now you've probably encountered Twitter spam, most likely in the form of a sudden new follower sending you a link to something suspicious. Twitter apps can deal with such spammers in two ways: blocking means you won't see any more messages from them, while reporting them as spam tells Twitter they're being naughty. You can also use Block to intercept messages from people you don't follow, and whose messages you don't want.

Advanced

'Help! Twitter doesn't do everything I want…'

Manage Flitter

Twitter tries to keep things simple, but that isn't always ideal: for example, searches only go back ten days, which is a problem if you need to find an older tweet. That's where SnapBird (snapbird.org) comes in handy: it's a time machine for Twitter, enabling to search people's feeds for results the main Twitter site won't find.

Another example of Twitter simplicity is the way it deals with retweets. If you want to see who's retweeted your tweets, just tap on Connect > Interactions and hunt for the little retweeted icon (the two arrows in a square).

If you're hunting for retweets of old, once again a third party service comes to the rescue: Favstar.fm, which enables you to see what was retweeted and by whom over several months. It also enables you to see which of your tweets have been marked as favourites by others. The service works as a stand-alone website, but some Twitter clients such as Tweetbot include Favstar integration.

Another useful one is bit.ly, a link shortener that enables you to see how many people have clicked each link. Some Twitter users try to game the system by following you, waiting until you follow them back, and unfollowing you again.

You can prune your Twitter feed of such chancers with ManageFlitter, which connects to your Twitter account and analyses the people you follow. The service then enables you to unfollow anybody you who doesn't follow you back, who tweets too much or who doesn't tweet at all - a sure sign of a spammer.

If you use third party services, it's a good idea to visit the Applications tab of your Twitter profile from time to time: here you'll find the various programs that have access to your Twitter account, and it's a good idea to prune it from time to time so you're only giving access to the apps and/or services you actually use.

There's no getting away from the fact that Twitter requires constant management but it needn't spoil your enjoyment of it.

The Tap! guide to Facebook

The world's favourite social network; so popular, Hollywood made a film about it. But there's more to the Facebook app than you might think

With nearly a billion users, Facebook is the most popular social network on the planet. That's good if you're looking for somebody, because the chances are that they're already a member, but it can be bad, because Facebook's desire to encompass the entire internet means that it can be occasionally confusing.

Facebook started off as a way for university students to talk to one another, but it's since expanded to include the entire world - and that expansion means it's changed quite a lot along the way.

Its News Feed is, ahem, inspired by Twitter, while its Places owes a debt to the location service foursquare. These days it's a gaming platform, a news outlet, a social calendar, a place to find out about your favourite artists, a photo sharing service, an email alternative… if Facebook doesn't already do it then it's probably planning to.

Unlike Twitter, where you can see almost anybody's updates, Facebook is designed around friendships: in order to see your updates, photos and posts, you need to accept somebody as a Facebook friend. That means the first step for most Facebook users is searching for people they know, sending them a friend request, and waiting for the requests to be accepted.

Face up to it

In the real world, we share different things with different people, so for example what you tell or show to your friends might differ dramatically from what you tell or show the boss. With Facebook, it's possible to have both your friends and your work colleagues as Facebook friends, so it's important to spend some time looking at the privacy options.

It's possible to create different groups, such as a group for your real-life friends and a different group for your work friends. Then you can post something and tell Facebook which group(s) should be able to see it.

At the time of writing, Facebook was planning to update its official iOS app from the desperately slow and hopelessly buggy one it was. Here's hoping the new version is the vast improvement Facebook promises us it will be, as more and more mobile is the way that Facebook will be accessed by its billions of users.

Get started

"What's a News Feed? What is the Timeline for?"

timeline

Everything you do in Facebook is posted to your Timeline, a personal home page that shows what you've posted - including links to websites, photos you've uploaded and games you've played. When your Timeline is updated, your friends see the update.

Adding content to the Timeline is easy. You can change the cover photo, the big image that appears at the top of the Timeline; you can upload a photo by tapping on the Photo button in your News Feed; you can add details of where you work; or you might post details of your political or religious affiliations.

Beware of oversharing, though: unless you specify otherwise, your friends can see everything you publish.

You can find friends in three ways: by typing somebody's name in the search field at the top of the menu bar; by importing your contacts list from your email account; or by inviting them to join Facebook by sending a message from the Invite Friends page.

Once you've found someone, you need to tap Add Friend. This sends a request to the person, and if they accept it you'll be able to see each other's updates, tap on Like to say you like something they've posted, or tap on Comment to add a comment underneath it.

You can send each other private messages by using the Messages feature in the Facebook app, or by starting a chat session, provided the Facebook client you're using supports it. You can also tag your friends when you upload photos: when you upload the images, you'll see the Tag Photo button. Tap on that, then type the name of the person you want to tag into the search bar. Your friend will now get a link to the photo you've tagged them in.

Experienced

"I know uploading and tagging. What else can I do?"

Albums

Uploading and tagging individual photos is fun, but Facebook can do much more with your pics. When you upload photos or videos to your Timeline, you can organise them into albums and set the appropriate privacy level, so for example you might want to share your shots with the entire world, or just with your friends but not their friends.

If you choose the Custom option, you can tell Facebook to hide your photos from specific individuals. Some of this can only be done from the main Facebook web interface, and not from the app, which is a shame.

When you're browsing an image in one of your albums, tapping the Share button (the arrow coming out of the box) lets you tag people in the photo, hide tags, make an image your profile picture, or delete an image you have in Facebook.

Facebook Events lets you arrange anything from birthday parties to business meetings. If you tap Events in the menu bar in the app, you'll see any events you've been invited to, as well as your friends' birthdays.

If you're in the web interface on the desktop, you can click the Create Event button to add your own. Simply give the event a name, place and time, set the privacy level and then invite the friends you hope will attend. Once you've done that, Facebook automatically creates a page for the event where people can RSVP, comment, upload photos or anything else they fancy.

Places aren't just used for events: you can attach them to your status updates by tapping on the Location icon underneath the "What's on your mind?" box when you tap Status in New Feed so that everybody can see where you are. You can also just use the Check In button to say where you are without the message.

This is about to get more interesting, because in June Facebook accidentally switched on a new feature called Find Friends Nearby, which, as the name suggests, lets you see which of your Facebook friends are in the area. The feature was quickly switched off again, but we reckon it'll be back shortly, unless something even bigger is planned!

We mentioned oversharing earlier. If you find that some people post far too much stuff, you can use the desktop web interface to click on the little arrow at the top right of their posts. This brings up a menu that enables you to mute all their updates, or mute everything but the important stuff. The more people you connect with, the more useful that little arrow becomes. We hope this option will come to the iOS apps soon as it's just the sort of thing we could all do with!

Advanced

"I want more control over what my friends can see."

Lists

The real secret of successful Facebooking lies in its Privacy Settings screen. At its simplest, options such as How You Connect enable you to control the big stuff, such as who can send you messages and friend requests, but you can also use lists. You can only create lists in the desktop web interface, not the app.

To create a list, go to your Timeline, look for the Friends section in the sidebar, hover over it and click More. You should now see the Close Friends list and a big Create List button.

Lists can be very handy: for example, you might create a list of work colleagues and then go into Privacy Settings > Timeline and Tagging to prevent them from seeing photos you've been tagged in, just in case they see anything you'd rather they didn't. To change those settings, click on the appropriate dropdown (it's set to Friends by default) and choose Custom. Now choose a list in the 'Hide this from these people or lists' box.

People aren't the only privacy concerns: some apps are rather keen on sharing things too, plastering your Timeline (and therefore your friends' Facebook feeds) with everything you read, listen to or watch online.

To control what apps can and can't do, go to Privacy Settings > Ads, Apps and Websites. Here, you can block unwanted or unused apps and prevent your friends' apps from accessing information you don't really want to share.

Sometimes, of course, you do want to share, and one of the best ways to do that is in groups. To create a new one, click on Create Group (not available in the app). You can now use the edit button to add a description, invite members, set poll questions and manage memberships.

Find new social networks

From networking to sharing fashion favourites, mobile apps can help you find, connect and share things with all kinds of interesting people.

If you like video, you'll love Viddy

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Viddy

The Wall Street Journal described the video sharing service Viddy as "like Twitter for videos", and we that's a great comparison: like Twitter, you can follow people's updates without having to get their permission, and like Twitter, brevity is strictly enforced.

In much the same way tweets can't exceed 140 characters, Viddy videos can't be longer than 15 seconds. That restriction encourages filmmakers to get to the point, making Viddy perfect for a quick hit of culture, comedy or quirkiness.

The Viddy app resembles a mash-up of multiple social apps: there are Instagram-style special effects, YouTube-style tagging, likes and commenting, and integrated uploading. The app enables you to shoot, edit and share short clips in several useful ways.

If you like food, you'll love Forkly

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Forkly

Forkly is a wonderful app for foodies, but it's only as good as the people using it - so at the moment it's absolutely fantastic if you're in America, but a bit less useful in the UK. Let's change that by getting everybody we know to sign up and use it, because it's a great idea that we really want to succeed.

The idea behind Forkly is very simple: when you're out for a meal, you can snap and share photos of what you're having and tell the world what you thought of it. There are even Instagram-style filters to show your pudding in the best possible light.

Forkly is a kind of Hitchhiker's Guide to Dinner, enabling you to discover where to go, what to have and what isn't worth paying over the odds for, and you can follow individual users' updates if you discover they have similar tastes to you.

If you like reading, you'll love Opuss

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Opuss

"Twitter isn't about words," Opuss's developers say. "It's a communication utility." And you should see what they say about Facebook.

Opuss, though, is all about words: big words and little ones, big ideas and little observations. You might have an angry rant or a little poem, a shaggy dog story or a silly joke: they're all grist to Opuss's mill.

Opuss is a social network for sharing words. Rather than publish to a blog, Tumblr or similar service where it might only be seen by a handful of people, when you share something using the Opuss app you're sharing it with other Opuss users - and they can give you feedback or just make you happy by following your updates.

It's a fast and fun way to find interesting snippets, and the search feature is particularly good, enabling you to search by kind and category, such as stories about animals.

If you like weather, you'll love Weathermob

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Weathermob

Here in Tap!'s native UK, we get more weather in a day than many Californians see in a lifetime - and that means Weathermob could well be the perfect app for these rain-lashed isles. It's like Facebook or Twitter where the only topic of conversation is the weather: what the weather forecast says, what's happening right now, and whether you were caught in it when you were going to the shops.

The app connects to Facebook and Twitter so you can post to your feed. It's not the sort of app you'll spend all day using, but as a fun, human-powered alternative to the default app.

If you like photography, you'll love Instagram

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Instagram

Instagram has more than 50 million users, guaranteeing your photos a much wider audience than any of its imitators.

Although Instagram has all the basic social network features you don't have to use it if you don't want to: it's quite possible to use its integration with Flickr, Facebook and Twitter to post to those services instead.

Many people do just that, because the app itself comes with a range of retro-themed filters that produce really great results. In the right hands - yours - Instagram can make good photos even better, accurately mimicking old cameras.

If you like TV, you'll love zeebox

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Zeebox

According to Stephen Fry, "zeebox may change everything about the way we watch TV forever." That's a pretty bold claim, but then zeebox is a pretty clever app.

If you've ever been on Twitter when there's been a big TV event, or tuned into hashtags such as #bbcqt when Question Time is on, you'll know that lots of people enjoy watching live TV while ranting about it on social networks. This app takes that idea and runs with it, providing a guide not just to what's on but what people are saying as they watch it.

The app includes group chat, the ability to invite your friends to an online 'viewing party', and the obligatory social network sharing, and you can even use it to control a compatible TV or TiVo (but not Sky, at least for now).

If you like music, you'll love Soundcloud

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Soundcloud

This music-sharing service has become very popular with artists, partly because it's a great way to promote music in a world of evil internet pirates, and it's often used by big-name acts to show off upcoming releases.

But you don't need to be a pop star to post: Soundcloud will happily host any sound you care to upload, whether it's your own composition or that really odd noise the washing machine's been making recently.

The app enables you to record and share sounds not just with Soundcloud, but on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and foursquare, and as you'd expect, there are the obligatory buttons to like and comment on other people's contributions.

The app offers background playback, too, so you can listen to tunes while doing something else.

If you like meeting people, you'll love Meetup

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

"Use the internet to get off the internet," Meetup urges, and its app is designed to help you do just that. A meetup is a real-life meeting between people with similar interests, and the service is free to use (although meeting organisers have to pay a small fee).

Meetups can be about absolutely anything and the service is very popular: for example, within five miles of Tap! towers, the most active current meetups are for hillwalking, culture tours, mountain biking, girls' nights outs, film buffs, table-top role-playing games, French speakers, fiction writers and people who believe that they can fire invisible magic energy beams to make people's piles disappear.

There are multiple Meetup apps in the App Store, but the official one is the best one by far.

If you like business networking, you'll love LinkedIn

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

As the old saying goes, it's not what you know but who you know that matters - and with LinkedIn, you can build an enormous network featuring everybody you've ever worked with or worked for.

Your LinkedIn profile can be a kind of living online CV, with details of your skills, the jobs you've had and the nice things employers have said about you, and you can use the network to stay in touch with former colleagues, to boost your profile or to stay on top of industry developments.

There are some nice touches including synchronisation with iOS's Calendar app and a Flipboard-style news feed based on your connections' updates, and the iPad app's a much nicer way to use the service than LinkedIn's own website. It's just a shame you can't edit your own profile in the app.

If you like following friends, you'll love Flipboard

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Where most social networks are all about sharing your things with other people, Flipboard takes the opposite approach: it's all about catching up with the things other people are sharing.

Describing itself as a social magazine, Flipboard enables you to mix the content your friends are sharing online with content from professional publishers such as the New York Times, creating a kind of 'Daily Me' newspaper that's unique to you.

New kinds of content are added all the time, and at the time of writing Flipboard can show content your friends have shared on Facebook, images from Instagram, links and photos from Twitter, YouTube videos, Google Reader feeds, LinkedIn updates, Soundcloud music, 500px photos, Tumblr posts… if your friends use it, Flipboard can probably connect to it.

If you like clever people, you'll love Quora

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Quora

Yahoo! Answers' good results tend to be ignored in favour of the dimmer bulbs who use it to ask silly things - but Quora is a very different proposition. It's a kind of social network for smart people, where everybody's encouraged to share their expertise and nobody can hide behind a pseudonym.

What makes Quora special is the kind of people who use it. Want to know what it's like working at Apple? Ex-Apple employees will spill the beans. Need to know cool things to do in New York? New Yorkers will tell you. Unsure what LIBOR means and why Barclays were messing with it? Banking experts will enlighten you.

From the important to the utterly inconsequential, if you want to know more about something the Quora app is one of the best ways to find out.

If you like fashion, you'll love WIWT

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

WIWT

WIWT (What I Wore Today) is a social network for fashion fans, enabling you to take a photo of your outfit, tag it with details of what you're wearing and who designed it, and share it with the world.

WIWT is about exploring as well as showing off: you can explore the looks your friends and the wider WIWT community have uploaded, see the editors' favourites, and flag up anything you really fancy for yourself.

Many users also provide links so that you can buy the things you see on screen. As you might expect, the community is largely pretty young things who'd look good in bin bags, let alone designer gear, but the only no-nos are: "Under 13s, slaggy porno types and people who just wanna write 'YOU UGLY'".

Location-based social networking

Every iOS device is location aware, and that opens up all kinds of possibilities. Location-based social networks can help you find what matters to you.

Every iOS device knows where it is, and you can use that information in all kinds of ways: for example, you can ask the Siri-style app Evi to find you the nearest cash machine (and Siri too, when it's updated for iOS 6 this Autumn), or you can use a sat-nav app to find out where the nearest petrol station is.

Foursquare

Where location really comes into its own, though, is when it involves other people. The king of location-based social networking is Foursquare, which encourages you to 'check in' to places such as restaurants, cinemas, cafes and anywhere else you might find interesting. When you check in, you can then add content, such as a photo of the building, a tip about finding free Wi-Fi, or your review of the food.

That information then enables other people to benefit from your expert advice, and it also enables your friends to see what you've been up to (and vice versa: you can see what other people have said about the places you're going to). You can even use it as a game, earning badges as you achieve a certain number of check-ins.

Gowalla - one of Foursquare's biggest rivals - was snapped up by Facebook, which now wants you to use their own Places. This enables you to check in and tell your friends where you are. You can also tag your friends, provided they haven't changed their privacy settings to prevent you doing that.

Places hasn't had much attention recently, but when the accidentally leaked Find Friends Nearby feature reappears, it should be great for big nights out or for finding your friends if you get separated at big sporting events or gigs.

Not everybody wants to share their location, of course. In Settings, Location Services enables you to specify which apps can use your location data; you can also turn location services off altogether if you're pretending to be off sick when you're really at the beach.

Location recording

Nearme

Your iOS device's GPS system can also help other apps, too. When you take a photo using Instagram, it can record where you were when you took the shot, enabling you to organise your photos by location as well as by date; location-aware apps such as NearMe can find anything from the nearest ATM to the nearest ASDA, while Localmind can tell you what's interesting in the immediate area; and apps such as Yelp can tell you not only where the nearest restaurant is, but whether you should stock up on Immodium before you go.

You can even use location awareness to discover stories: if you're in London, the clever Hackney Hear uses locations to trigger audio content such as poems and local residents' memories. In the long term, the combination of iOS 6's Passbook and location awareness could mean that your iPhone pings with useful special offers such as discounts or money-off deals as you get close to a coffee shop, restaurant or retailer.

Location-aware apps are very useful, but keep an eye on your battery indicator: Location Services are a famous battery drain, so if you need battery life more than you need location awareness, it's a good idea to switch them off. It's fun to watch your real-time progress when walking in Maps, but it'll murder the battery.

Join Social communities

Flickr

People love to share the things that inspire, excite and delight them - and thanks to technology, we can share those things with the whole world. Most social networking is based around a simple idea: connect with the people you know, and then share things with them.

Sometimes, though, that happens in reverse, with the sharing coming first and the getting-to-know-you happening later. A great example of that kind of social sharing is Tumblr, which at the time of writing has 26.2 billion posts across 62.1 million blogs.

People upload whatever they're interested in - photographs of interesting things, links to interesting websites, funny or dramatic videos or just their favourite tunes - and share them with other Tumblr users.

Where things get interesting is when content is reposted, so for example you might post something we really like, so we repost it on our Tumblr page; someone who reads our Tumblr might see it, like it and repost it with a comment, and so on. Tumblr also enables you to add question-and-answer posts, where you ask your visitors things or vice versa.

So what exactly is a Tumblr? It's short for 'tumblog', which is a kind of weblog, or blog for short. Blogs are places where people publish whatever they fancy, and where traditional blogs revolve around long-ish articles, tumblogs are simpler and faster: instead of long written pieces, tumblogs favour bite-sized content such as photos, quick comments, quotes and so on, often posted without any explanation or commentary.

Where traditional blogs say 'here's what I think', tumblelogs say 'look at this!' - and that makes them particularly well suited to mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads.

Another excellent 'look at this!' service is Pinterest, which is designed to help you 'organise and share all of the beautiful things you find on the web'. And which, according to website monitoring firm Pingdom, has now overtaken Tumblr to become the world's third favourite social network (Facebook and Twitter are numbers one and two respectively).

Its growth has been extraordinary - industry analyst comScore says its website traffic grew 4,377% from May 2011 to May 2012 - and it's just beginning to expand globally.

Pinterest is popular because it's very easy to use, and very flexible. It's a virtual pinboard where you can stick or 'pin' anything at all: recipes, patterns you like, things you think are beautiful, photos of your favourite actors, funny quotes or anything else you might like to collect.

Pinterest boards are designed to be shared and commented on, and if people enjoy what you're posting, they can follow your updates either on a global basis, where they see everything you update, or on a per-board basis, so they only see the updates you post to a specific board.

At the time of writing, there's an official Pinterest app for iPhone and iPod touch, but no iPad one; as you might expect, developers have been quick to spot the gap and create their own iPad apps, such as Flow for Pinterest.

Photo-sharing

Metafilter

Instagram offers another way to get social: not only can you follow other interesting users, but you can meet up with them in real life. If you visit meetup.com/instagram, you can find 'InstaMeets' where like-minded users can meet up for a chat and some photo-related fun.

Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram aren't the only places that emphasise the 'what' of sharing rather than the 'who'. There are content-specific sharing sites such as Flickr for photos, Photosynth for 3D panoramas, Viddy for video, ShareMyPlaylists for Spotify playlists or Goodreads for books, and there are also sites such as MetaFilter, Fark and Reddit where people compete to post the most interesting links to news stories and other online content.

The best such sites are moderated, with super-users known as moderators or 'mods' given the power to intervene if conversations go off the rails or if the posted links aren't appropriate or presented in the right way.

That moderation keeps the standard of posts very high, so for example MetaFilter - with moderators that are generally firm but fair - is a reliably excellent way to find and discuss interesting stories and links, while Fark is a good source of quirky news stories and geeky humour.

We've mentioned Tumblogs and community weblogs, but there are plenty of normal blogs, too - and some of the best tools for taking part in blogging are available as iOS apps. Google has released an iPhone app for its popular Blogger.com platform, and there's a dedicated app for the more powerful rival TypePad too, while the superb WordPress for iOS is a firm favourite: if you start a blog on the free WordPress.com service you can use the app to post content to it, and if you'd rather download and install the free WordPress blogging platform on your own web space, the app can be used to control that, too.

Wordpress

You don't have to stick with the default apps for your chosen blogging platform: the excellent Blogsy for iPad works with all the major platforms - Blogger, Posterous, TypePad, Movable Type, Drupal and Joomla - and makes it easy to drag and drop images and videos from Flickr, Google's Picasa and YouTube for photo and video sharing.

If you're active on multiple social platforms, the Posterous Spaces app enables you to post not just to Posterous, but to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogger, Tumblr and more. It's a post once, post everywhere arrangement: once you've given your various credentials to Posterous, it automatically updates each service with your latest post.

The best apps for sharing with communities

Tumblr

A better way to blog on your tumblr account

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Tumblr

Tumblr's 'tumblog' approach - quick nuggets of information, images and videos posted with little or no explanation or comment - is perfect for mobile devices such as the iPhone, and the official Tumblr app makes uploading content to your Tumblr as simple as possible.

Features include the ability to save draft versions, queuing posts for uploading later and super-speedy access to the camera, and the app works offline: if you can't get an internet connection, you can still write posts and compose replies for example.

Pinterest

Pin things in seconds with this useful companion app

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Pinterest

The fastest-growing social network in the world might not be as big as Facebook, but it's much, much better looking: Pinterest is a primarily visual network where you can 'pin' interesting images on any subject you like, from wedding ideas or decorating inspiration to funny things you've seen on the internet.

That visual focus lends itself really well to the iPhone, enabling you to quickly snap and share anything you see when you're out and about, and it's easy to re-pin other people's uploads to your own Pinterest pinboards.

Blogsy

A clever blogging tool for a variety of platforms

Price: £2.99 / $4.99
Works with: iPad

Blogsy

Blogsy supports all the major blogging platforms and even supports email posting, enabling you to create content in Blogsy for any platform that email posting.

You can drag and drop images and videos from social networks, add hyperlinks by dragging and dropping, style links with ease and even manage multiple blogs. The app supports scheduled posts, drafts and editing online posts.

GoodReads

The online equivalent of a giant book club

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Goodreads

Goodreads is all about the written word: with more than 8.7 million members talking about 300 million books, it's the world's biggest book-based social network.

The app offers a good mix of online and virtual networking, with the ability to follow friends' reading lists and reviews as well as details of real-life literary events and the option to join online book clubs to take your reading further.

Social networking privately

Path

Social networking isn't just about sharing everything you do with everybody you know. Some networks are designed to share the things with smaller groups.

Social networks such as Facebook would really like it if you shared everything with everybody, but that's often overkill: a quick look around anybody's Facebook feed will quickly demonstrate people sharing stuff that's interesting to only a few of their friends.

You can restrict what you share with whom using Facebook's lists or Google+'s Circles, but that takes a bit of effort to set up and a bit of thought to remember to limit your audience. It's much easier to use a social network that only a few of your friends actually use - not least because Facebook's frequent privacy changes often mean that content you thought was private suddenly isn't.

Path is the poster child for more limited sharing, and it's a kind of Facebook for your family and/or closest friends. It's like a cross between a journal and a social network, enabling you to share anything that matters: photos of the sights you're seeing, maps of where you are, the music you're listening to, or whatever you happen to be thinking about.

"We believe most stories are meant to be shared with your closest friends and family, not with 500 random acquaintances," say the developers of Everyme, and their app enables you to create Circles for private, secure text, photo and video sharing. Where services such as Facebook and Google+ are public by default, Everyme has no public setting at all: your stuff isn't shared with anybody until you give the app your say-so.

In a nice touch; your friends or family don't need the app to see what you do decide to share: Everyme can share content with anyone, provided you have an email or mobile number.

Group hug

23snaps

Some apps are designed for even smaller social circles. Cupple and Pair are two approaches to the same idea: social networking for couples. If you've ever despaired at your friends' online declarations of love in their Facebook or Twitter feeds, you'll see the appeal immediately: these apps enable you to share photos, reminisce about the past or call each other snookums without appalling everybody else you know.

You could achieve something similar with iMessage, of course, but not to the same extent: Cupple pulls together not just messages and pictures, but location-based check-ins and places you'd like to go. It's particularly good for couples that have to travel far from one another, and it uses push notifications so you'll always know when there's a new message from your other half.

23Snaps is another variation on the theme, this time for parents. The app can use your Facebook account to find your friends and family, but sharing takes place purely inside 23Snaps - so your baby photos and updates won't be posted to your Facebook timeline or shared with anybody you haven't approved.

You don't need to be part of a couple to benefit from private social sharing. Glassboard's approach to privacy is simple: everything is private, and nobody can access the content you share, unless you specifically invite them. That makes it a useful tool for group sharing, while apps such as Liveshare make it easy to share photographs - although when iOS 6 ships, its shared photo streams will use iCloud to do much the same thing.

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