Thursday, October 15, 2009

The wrong side of the velvet rope

I've been hearing a lot lately about the value of the "velvet rope social network*." As a business person, this sounds pretty interesting. It conjures up images of inviting just the right customers or suppliers into a snug, fancy little room to talk shop and share witty repartee. Or a social club where you can feel totally safe and at home because you know exactly who the other members are.

One of my new favorite bloggers, Julia Roy, blogged here about luxury brands who use velvet-rope social networks to connect with their customers.

But there's a downside. Exclusive sounds cool until you're the one being excluded.

One of the brands that Julia highlighted was Mercedes-Benz and their velvet rope social network, Generation Benz. I happen to be a Benz enthusiast, so I figured that I'd go check this bad boy out. I linked to the site, and had my first interaction with their "doorman" (played by this innocuous questionnaire; I imagine him as a huge, HGH-swilling beast):
I'm pretty suave, so I casually hit the "continue" button. He came right back with:

Yeah. You know that Benz wants to know what cool guys in their late 30s and older 40s are thinking.

DOH! Denied! Now I REALLY want to know what's going on behind that rope.

There's a moral to this story, right? It could be this one:
Be sure to hire the right bouncer, because he might keep out the very folks you want to have in your club.

But more likely it's this one:
Exclusivity feels nice for a while, but it's mostly just lousy to keep people out. That's what I teach my kids; why should the social web be different?

Since velvet ropes seem to be the coming thing, I'd love to know what you think!

*BIZARRE SIDE NOTE: I linked above to a video of Chris Brogan talking about velvet rope social networks, because I know that he's been interested in them. I didn't realize until after I'd posted the link that this video was filmed at my company, and that I am sitting stage right, looking up admiringly at Chris. Irony; you've got to love it.

Bouncer photo by Tawny Rockerazzi

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