SQUA.RE, eVelvet Rope, IN, Nico’s world, Diane Fay, Diamond Lounge, A Cool World, 740 Park, A Small World, Linked In, Hamptons Under Cover, Decayenne, Black Diamond, Plaxo, Pulse, Qube, LStyle It may sound like a list of old album covers but actually it is a new media source put to work. They are just a few of the more popular on line social networking clubs. There has been a mass entry of new on line communities.
People spend more time on the web then in front of the TV and these clubs, which are free to members, hope to capture the advertiser’s eye. A recent study done by The Luxury Institute found that Luxury consumers were disappointed in the weakness of luxury brands to meet their on line needs. The truth is that the mass retailers were much earlier to enter the web media and have a much more sophisticated platform now than the luxury brands. The Premium brands turned up their noses initially and their arrogance cost them dearly. They were slow to the high tech world of on line media….but the highly educated, high net worth individuals are insisting that luxury adapt to their needs. The Luxury Report showed that the majority of the Ultra High Net worth (minimum of 30 million liquid assets) individuals preferred to do their shopping on line. The elite brands now must fight to claim their territory on the web. These private social clubs are hoping that they offer the advertisers the perfect media entre.
The plethora of new exclusive social networking clubs is competing for unique features to meet the demands of their audience. Several of the most elite social clubs air video podcast (on demand viewing on your computer) from THE LUXURY CHANNEL on iTunes & Zune. The video podcasts are small web TV shows that you watch on your computer or down load to a cell phone or iPod. iTunes is enormous and offers the largest market as it is truly world wide. Zune directory was founded this year as a joint venture between Microsoft and Adobe. Experts believe it will take 10 years for it to be as big as iTunes.
The grand daddy of the successful social networking clubs was A Small World, referred to as ASW, which was started in Europe with the time appropriate fact that the world has become a small place and people of a certain financial and social prestige are doing business with each other around the globe. As one climbs the pyramid, the degree of separation decreases. ASW created an on line social network to assist this group in connecting with other like minded people to socialize, get restaurant recommendations, travel tips, the hot local party, event information, etc. It is an invitation only club with approximately 130,000 members. The founders have stepped out of the management and so it is run by “middle management types” with no real authority or inspiration. Some members feel that it is lacking the creativity that it takes to keep it from going stale. ASW has no video, no podcasts, the staff is surly, etc. ASW did a great job initially of keeping it exclusive. I personally have been impressed when I use it traveling in Europe or the Middle East more than in the US. Many members complain about Germanic rigid structure of the rules for membership. Most find it too confining and the website itself is not “sexy” but archaic and slow.
I find that many of the individuals on my ASW network use Facebook much more on a daily basis for staying in touch with friends. The fact that so many ASWers are on Facebook means that they are not meeting their member’s needs. Facebook has the easiest format to use and the most fun and creative ways to stay in touch with friends from sending them a virtual drink, fashion accessory, poke, bumper sticker, etc. You can add video and photos and it seems to have been successful in not attracting the MySpace crowd despite the fact that anyone can join.
Several other new generation sites have grown out of ASW to fill niches that they find that ASW missed. SQUA.RE was founder by two 25 year old ASW members and they target a young urban international jet set crowd. Their format allows all members a channel to run their videos instead of a static page. It is invitation only. They are targeting the tech savvy affluent 18 to 35 year olds. My interaction with the owners was positive; they seem like a sharp hip fun group and they offer a unique format.
eVelvet Rope is an invitation only social club also founded by an ASW member. EVR is going after the young professional single and newly married that have a lot of expendable income, like to go out and eat and can travel and stay at nice hotels (But not like the ASWers that take their private jet to their own villa). They have EVRMag.com which is an on line magazine open to the public. Again my interactions with the founder were very positive. He is very professional and serious about having a great club.
Diane Fay is trying to do the same thing but is focused in Asia primarily, although the founders are Europeans. They seem to have some bugs to work out of their site. There is a fundamental flaw in a networking site that won’t allow you to connect to build a network. I spent several days attempting to grow my network but all my connections said they had never figured out how to connect either. I sent off an email to the website for help on 3 occasions and no one answered. Initially upon joining I got several nice welcome emails from the partners and senior staff telling me they want to speak with me in 2 weeks when they returned from traveling……..it has now been 5 weeks and I still have not heard back from them. I did attempt to reach out to them again 2 weeks ago. I’d have to say pleasant folks but no follow through as far as management is concerned.
Qube is new and is an off shoot of Quintessentially which is an international concierge service. This allows their members to reach out to their non members in an on line social format. It kind of works on the “friends of rich people are probably rich too” theory. It is very new and I had difficulty setting up my but was nicely assisted by their IT. I have reached out to management but not heard back and will see if and how they respond. When I clicked on one of the founders names of Quintessentially on the Qube membership network and it said he had not been on line for a year!
LinkedIN is a big networking service focused on work. They have really grown. I have to say that my first LinkedIn event I attended was in NYC at a bad art gallery where they had bags of pretzels poured out on paper plates and “pour your own” Glen Ellen jug wine. Needless to say it was also my last LinkedIN event.
Plaxo & Pulse seem to be trying to combine social and work but anyone can join so no exclusivity and it often just becomes annoying.
A Cool World runs Stealth Wealth and has different degrees of “éliteness” as you can be an Alpha or a Beta member. The membership is by approval only and I was shocked that when I joined they already had my photo and professional title. Alpha membership allows you into the exclusive 740 Park club.
LStyle is another new European club more concentrated in Scandinavian countries. There is nothing particularly unique about it. I did reach out to the owners and they seemed more confused than anything. I think it will take them a while to figure things out.
Hampton Under Cover is bran new….they haven’t even taken the bubble wrap off…too soon to tell.
You are the asset and these on line clubs are vying for. They need the demographic mix to sell advertising to the “trying to catch up” luxury brands. The web based social clubs can be a very affective tool if you use them correctly. What ever your situation there will be a club with a unique twist to make it your perfect match…..and if not, start your own!