Every day, new and exciting platforms emerge for distributing great ideas, products and answers, and the boundaries keep getting pushed further out each year. Here's my shortlist of the top three most useful, innovative and interesting social platforms today.
1. uFlavor www.uflavor.com
A platform for creating and distributing your own soft drinks, tops my chart as the most interesting of the bunch. The actual soft drink flavor creation and label design are done on a web application that's connected to uFlavor vending machines across the country. Each vending machine is joined to the online database, which mixes your drink on demand and even prints your custom label right on the bottle. A royalty distribution is sent to the inventor with every drink purchase.
While the beverage making is exciting, the social sharing potential may be the most interesting aspect of the venture. Star athletes, musicians and even enterprises can promote their brands. Even social movements can promote themselves while raising money. Imagine an 'Occupy Cola' or 'Diet Tea Party'. Many non-commercial applications exist as well. Imagine going to a wedding with a custom drink and label showcasing the bride and groom or a graduation party featuring the special student.
uFlavor estimates that its full-scale custom drink creation platform will be available by the end of this year. I believe success depends on vending machine distribution combined with a smart search tool to comb the database of millions of drink mixes. I definitely can't wait to create my own soft drink!
2. Quirky www.quirky.com
A social product development platform that provides crowd sourced community feedback with free prototyping and development of your idea if it's chosen by the community and the Quirky staff. Basically, the process looks like this:
1) Submit your invention idea to the Quirky community
2) The community crowd will vote your idea up or down and even add to your idea
3) The crowd chooses the top 10 ideas each week
4) The Quirky staff then chooses the top 2 ideas for product development
The ideas are chosen based on three main criteria: design, market and viability. If your idea is chosen, the Quirky team will prototype, refine and ultimately develop your product. After successful development, your product will be up for sale, at which point the goal will be to reach the sales threshold. This threshold is the number of sales necessary to warrant full-scale product development. A successful threshold sale will get the 'green light' and the product will be sold through the Quirky website as well as retail partners such as Bed Bath and Beyond. The product inventor then receives royalty checks whenever his or her respective invention is sold.
The Quirky platform may be the easiest way to get your product idea off the ground and on shelves. Quirky states that it combines "passion for great products brought to life by an entirely design-centered process." There have been some idea disputes within their community, but overall there have been big wins with new products the world has never seen. I believe there is a huge market for Quirky considering that most product innovations occur through hobbyists and lead product users rather than corporations.
3. Quora www.quora.com
A high-powered Question/Answer resource with a community of experienced professionals in nearly every field imaginable. Quora relies on the thought leadership of knowledgeable professionals to offer quality answers to users' questions. Community members promote their own social profiles and expertise through providing quality answers to questions by other Quora members. All Quora members are able to vote answers up or down, which also contributes to answer quality. I am convinced there is no better place to ask a detailed question and receive an answer by an expert in the field.
These types of platforms go far beyond beverage creation, product development or thought leadership networks. The new initiatives push the envelope of technology and ideas. These are the types of platforms that, even if they don't pan out perfectly the first time, inspire more people to think, try and ultimately succeed. I'll bet this time next year there will be an even more impressive list of social platforms – and they just may be built using the best platforms offered today!