They have limited members and are somewhat secret. Meet the world’s most high-end online social networks.
by Anita Zaror
St. Moritz, Switzerland, 2011. A friendship club was formed among a few people sharing similar interests and helping each other open doors for business and personal matters, with its main asset being a contact list with very good connections. Two years later, anexclusiveworld.net (AEW) was born— it’s one of a few global high-end social networks that you might have heard of, and that you are secretly hoping to get an invite for … with no luck.
Being part of these exclusive online social networks where le beau monde—including models, businessmen, millionaires, and celebrities, among other common mortals—mingles before meeting in person is not easy, and that won’t change. As AEW’s business development manager, Peter Schmidlin, explains, the value of these communities being member-vetted lies in the fact that their members want to feel they are part of a trusted community.
“At AEW we offer a regulated, safe environment where we do not sell or misuse our members’ data. The most important thing is that they do not want to meet any random people, but trusted people in a trusted surrounding—people with the same interests, the same problems, who are facing the same challenges in life. In our modern days of platforms like Twitter and Facebook, a lot of people ‘publish’ their lives to the open public. That is when closed, high-end networks are sought. The fact that our members live after the principle of social arbitrage, where they support each other in all kind of areas, makes it much more attractive. Another value is that our members get to know each other faster and better than in any public network,” he explains.
How would you like to test drive the newest Tesla car? Or access exclusive events worldwide such celebrity parties, award ceremonies, galas, movie premieres, film festivals, and fashion weeks? You can if you are a member of AEW and visit its Opportunities section, where the focus is “not to offer common privileges like discounts, but more that the members most likely help other members thrive and open doors.”
AEW lives up to principles of sharing access to people and venues, exchanging favors and trusted intelligence, as well as opening backdoors to its members on a not-for-profit basis, supported by donating
members. In the meantime, other private networks such as ASMALLWORLD.net (ASW), founded in 2004 and re-launched in 2013, are subscription-based (USD 105 annually). But to cultivate that distinct sense of trust ASW describes as “atypical to digital platforms,” membership in the network still requires an invitation from an existing member, or an approved membership application by its international committee of trustees. An altruistic sense of purpose is also supported by what ASW calls its “inherently conscientious community” through the ASMALLWORLD Foundation.
This “international members-only travel and social club” offers lifestyle content to its members, and gives them benefits from more than 500 luxury partners as well as the possibility of networking in more than 100 cities around the world. Its privileges include, for example, an annual membership card to The World’s Finest Clubs
(www.finestclubs.com) and a complimentary week-stay in a five-star resort in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Just the titles of the discussions had by thousands of ASW members on its forums confirm the presence of the “social arbitrage” that Schmidlin referred to: “How to invest when you are an expat?”; “The French Riviera”; “Attractive, intelligent, successful … yet single?”; “Desert adventure”; “Looking for work opportunities in Paris”; “Confessions of a serial expatriate”; and “Zurich ASWers catch up!” are just a few posted to the site.
But what role do these high-end online communities play in shaping offline relationships? “They are a getaway for successful, broad-minded people. Mostly businessmen and women who would like to meet and exchange opinions, and share opportunities with other sophisticated people online,” assures Schmidlin. According to him, these online networks are required to bring the right people together, and they do so by taking those online acquaintances to an offline level through real-life get-togethers. ASMALLWORLD also organizes around 50 events worldwide a month, the most recent in Bangkok celebrated April 5 at Whisgars (●www.whisgars.com).
A third high-end social network seeking to cultivate online socializing with people who share similar interests and passions is BestofAllWorlds.com (BOAW). Based in Stockholm and founded by Erik and Louise Wachtmeister—the original founders of ASMALLWORLD—BOAW is also by invitation only. It is targeted at entrepreneurs and influencers, and it aims to “return relevance, trust, and usefulness to the online world,” according to its website.
When asked how many members they have, these networks are reserved. The word got out that ASW used to have around 800,000 members worldwide until the re-launch, when the figure was reduced 75 percent to keep only the crème de la crème. All in all, quality over quantity is the principle. Or, as Schmidlin says, “We try to have as few members as possible, but as devoted as possible.” Both ASW and BOAW already have members in Asia, but this is a market that AEW will start developing in Q4 2014, with the help of local ambassadors.
What does it take to become a member of one of these high-end online communities? “A valuable personal network is the most important asset a cosmopolitan person can possess,” says Schmidlin. And, like in the diamond–water paradox, this seems to be true: money won’t get you a membership, but a good contact might.