The following contribution is from my friend Dawn Boyer
If a small business owner, entrepreneur, or business developer is seeking the best venues to find others who are in the same boat, and/or interested in meeting each other for referrals, references, and business interaction, they should try business networking meetings.
There are several 'free' venues, other than the Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn social networks and my favorite is MeetUp.com
On MeetUp.com you can enter your zip code, click a button for the number of miles you are willing to travel to meet others with similar interests, and then find all the current groups that already exist or folks who have the same interest.
These groups usually have regularly scheduled meetings, at local meeting sites (restaurants, hotels, libraries, university/colleges, etc.) where the group can meet, exchange introductions, and then network or learn new information about the chosen topic matter designated for that meeting.
I joined several groups in the Va. Beach (Hampton Roads, VA) area since last April of 2009, and in six months had gathered and met over 500 new acquaintances and like-minded business owners, entrepreneurs, or network marketing representatives, several of which have developed into some fantastic new friends.
I've opened my own group now in MeetUp.com for those business folks who want to solve problems, discuss ideas, and network their businesses in my geographic area, while I'm also pushing and doing PR for another group of which I'm a member. The camaraderie is incredible, and the fun is non-stop.
I've also decided to put up my own shingle for Human Resources Consulting in my geographic area because it's my background and I have so much to offer others with my vast experience.