Way Too Good for Facebook or MySpace?: I knew it was going to come to this at some point — social networking sites are getting more exclusive. This article profiles aSmallWorld which is the apparent king of the elite social networking sites.
Membership in these networks, not unlike the exclusive country clubs where the rich and powerful hobnob, is carefully guarded. At aSW, only a subset of established members have the power to invite new users to join. In developing the site, founder Erik Wachtmeister rejected the prevailing Web 2.0 business model of attracting large audiences so you can sell ads to big brands. Instead, he confines membership to the relatively small group of people who travel in the same elite, often moneyed, social circles. “One’s network on the site is less useful if it is diluted by people you don’t know,” says Wachtmeister. His goal was “to create a private place where people could be much more forthcoming with information.”
Two points here:
Chris Pirillo sort of did the same thing. Sometime back he had a mailing list for entrepreneurs (it may still exist, I have no idea). I don’t remember what the joining fee was, but it was pretty steep. The idea is that the cost weeded out everyone but those who were very, very serious about doing business online.
I wasn’t moved enough to join, but the idea was very attractive to me. I was envious of the discussions I assumed would take place inside. (For more on this general concept, see “Do we put more intellectual value on information we pay for?” and “The Quality of Free Discourse”).
Someone else — and I can’t remember who — said he thought it was almost dishonest to accept connections (“friends,” whatever) from just anyone. He was kind of a big shot, I remember, and his theory was this: “A lot more people ‘know’ me than I, in fact, know. By being selective and only making connections with people I do, in fact, know, I’m keeping the system honest.”
I can’t disagree with that logic. I get LinkedIn requests from people I don’t know, or people with whom I’ve had one email conversation. The thing I always keep in mind is that with LinkedIn, they can ask me to introduce them to someone I know. Am I comfortable doing that? If I’m not, then I usually don’t accept the connection.
The bottom line is this: of what value is a “connection” if there’s really no “force of relationship” behind it?
Elitist or not, you can’t deny that for some billionaire, there’s a lot more value in aSmallWorld than in, say, Facebook. Much like there’s more value for them to hang out at the country club than at McDonalds. They do business with people like them, so they need to go where people like them are, and the signal-to-noise ratio is high.
Geez, did I just write that? Maybe I’m just trying to kiss up so I can get in…