In October and November 2008 several bloggers and writers started commenting on invitations they had received to join Affluence.org, one of several private social networks focused on a niche audience, in this case millionaires and billionaires. Like many others, I too received an invitation. Leaving alone, how or why it would come to me (best guess - LinkedIn email dump), it's been interesting to see what has transpired.
For those who haven't received the invitation, it typically came with a direct marketing focus as opposed to a genuine invitation. Here is one example:
In June 2009, I again received a similar email. The chief difference was the email service provider being used. Instead of iContact, the company began using a dedicated email domain, affluencemail.com, which is hosted by Exact Target but does not have a live site on the root domain. The message is still similar (although with no referrer embedded):
TechCrunch did a small post at the end of January 2009 and Search Engine Journal an interview with their now former head of marketing in early February. There are some great debates about the need for such a service and its legitimacy in the TechCrunch post. And, at the end of this post are some of the comments from the Search Engine Journal one with "users" lauding its value (a definite red flag).
Like the concept of celebrity. there is something about an exclusive club that not everyone can get into that causes the us as people to become intrigued. It's why Affluence was able to get the press it did. The story here for me is not so much whether the world needs such a service, but a lesson in how not to succeed in executing on a vision of exclusivity and exposing the true intention of the business - shameless advertising.
It's one thing to try and create a high value group that can garner high end advertising dollars, but Affluence puts the cart before the horse in that the needs being served aren't for the members but for the site owners (who unlike those they backhand-bash, namely LinkedIn and Facebook, built a real product first). It's the opposite of how such a site would in reality succeed. All it takes is a look at what I got out of my non-association with the site - spam.
I don't remember ever joining Affluence.org. In fact, I know I didn't, so it was intriguing to see why I would receive promotional messages from them. I clicked on the update profile in the email. This is where it gets a little odd. The link embedded in the email goes here:
The page above is not hosted by Affluence but hosted by their email service provider Exact Target. It isn't my Affluence profile, only my email subscription one. More intriguing, there isn't anything for me to actually "Update." My personal information and preferences are hard coded / grayed out. The only choice I have is whether to unsubscribe. That's fine, assuming I were actually a member of the site. Surely, I must be since I'm getting their promotional email and was referred by someone (as we can see it was not Michael Dell).
Let's retrieve my password.
No soup for me. Just ads.
Affluence.org - a niche marketing farce and exclusive community fail.
Addendum - Search Engine Journal article comments from Affluence "users."
I’ve been a member of sites like aSamllWorld, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. and found that I get hounded by people looking for something (money, jobs, etc.) at an almost constant pace. I am an Affluence member and could not be happier with it.
The proof is in the pudding and I can honestly say that I have met people for lunch and dinner from Affluence and would never even think about doing that from LinkedIn or Facebook (unless I knew them already). It’s particularly valuable to be able to network with people about ideas, charities, emerging businesses, sports, and travel that have the same perspective and opportunities as I do. This is the same reason why people join country clubs or the YPO.
It’s unfortunate that (as Mr. Rockefeller indicated above) outsiders feel that this is some type of snobby club. It is actually the most socially responsible, philanthropic, environmentally conscious website I have seen online. Maybe, just maybe, Affluence represents a new paradigm in social networking that can be referred to as social wealth.
The online business is the furthest thing away from what I do for a living but I thought I would add my two cents.
I have been a member of several network sites and by far this is the best I have found. Conversations are almost always sincere, people are more than reasonably authentic.
There isn’t a constant hustle and there is a real desire for people to understand what is going on around them and help on a sensible basis.
I have made contacts and some friends from places all over the world and since time is so limited for me - this is a great use of time.
Also, a great number of different views on shared topics have come up. Very healthy dialogue.
I agree with Dave and my good friend Bob Smith above.
There is absolutely nothing snobbish about affluence.org. Bob and I are members since October, almost the very beginning. Affluence has been successful in gathering the greatest concentration of the greatest minds. There are many more people that qualify, and hopefully they will find their way to the site. But there is also a huge group of people that doesn’t qualify, and those happen to be the most vocal critics of affluence.org. Weird, isn’t it?
The CEO, executives and directors of affluence.org are among the members; they interact with the others as friends… they follow up on members’ suggestions. I don’t see that happen elsewhere. I have been a Linkedin user since 2003, but the two sites are incomparable.
You’ll see that on affluence.org the majority of the members talk about social issues, about charity, about their efforts and dedication to help and assist others. There is no bragging going on… everything is in a peaceful sense of comraderie and friendship. And yes, as business is part of many of us, it happens that deals are closed and company executives are hired and consulted. The beauty of affluence is maybe that it is so diverse.