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Plum Groups: Another way to bring your social circle online

Plum, a company that makes white-label social networks for clients, has launched a cute side project: free groups for Twitter-like conversations.

Introducing the latest spin on microblogging: Plum Groups, which lets you create your own private stream of bite-size content to share and collaborate with a select group. You can add status messages much like Twitter posts or Facebook status updates, or you can share links, videos, files, or photos. Basically, it puts the ever-popular "stream" slant on the private group niche (you know, like Google Groups).

"Services like Facebook and Twitter are powerful ways to broadcast to large groups of people, but they stop short of keeping real-world groups like families, close friends, schools and co-workers connected in a more private and intimate way," Plum CEO Hans Peter Brondmo said in a release.

"In real life we all belong to many social groups, and what we share and discuss with our family is different than what we share with our friends or co-workers. Plum Groups makes it super simple to share and discuss what matters to you with all the different groups of people in your everyday life."

OK, so I see where he's coming from. It's a more consumer-grade version of the Twitter-for-business genre that was totally hot right before the economy tanked. And I don't think it's surprising at all that online discussion groups will follow the "streaming" trend just like social-network feeds have recently.

But do we really need another microblogging start-up? I could see Plum being useful for students working on a project together, or for limited business collaboration. Something like Dropio's more open-ended sharing stream, which it launched earlier this week, is probably better for more hardcore use. Plum doesn't automatically reload, for example.

Plum Groups, at first glance, looks a lot like would-be Twitter rival Pownce, except structured into private networks. Slight problem: Remember that Pownce, despite the star-power backing of Digg founder Kevin Rose, couldn't sustain the hype and shut down after a bargain-basement sale to Six Apart.

But on the flip side, Plum can make money: it creates custom networks for clients, and had been doing so for some time before launching the consumer-grade Plum Groups. If anything, Plum Groups can serve as free advertising for the company's paid services.