Initial social networking users went on-line looking for friends they knew but had lost. They were looking for members of established off-line networks and recreating the group in cyberspace. After we found a comfort level and established basic rules of engagement, we expanded our on-line networks and reached out to those of like mind and interest.
On-line networks have now become a dominant force in the lives of web users. I donâ€™t know about you, but of the couple hundred or so folks I call a friend in all my social networks, Iâ€™ve probably only met half of them in person.
But Iâ€™ve recently discovered a social network that, while new with quirks and facets, is going old school and creating an on-line network for an already established off-line group of people. LovinLounge.com is a San Diego, Calif.-based startup trying to take the active, club-hopping crowd there and plug them into one another on-line. The nightlifers not only have a place to find one another after hours of sweaty frolic, but somewhere to decide which club or deejay will be blessed with their presence next weekend.
The catch? Itâ€™s invite-only, heavily screened to ensure only â€œrealâ€ people are involved and itâ€™s local. (San Diego is up and running now. The company has plans to expand to Orange County and Los Angeles in California, plus Phoenix and Miami in early 2008.)
I spoke with CEO David Laurent Tuesday to get some clarification on some of the thinking behind it all. My primary concerns were the screening process, the potential negative backlash from those who canâ€™t get in the members-only club and the potential monopolization by club owners and promoters should the site blossom.
The screening process isnâ€™t complex, but fairly thoughtful. You have to be invited by other members (with an appropriate code) to have a free membership, otherwise you pay a nominal membership fee. Your profile is reviewed by company staffers to ensure you picture isnâ€™t a fake (i.e. â€“ celebrity, avatar, copyrighted image, etc.). The information you input is then checked for realism â€“ email address-name match, location and background sound legit, etc. One PR person I spoke to indicated they may even go so far as to search for applicants on Facebook or MySpace just to compare information, pictures, etc.
So long as you donâ€™t throw up red flags, youâ€™re in. But then you have to validate your membership by taking a photo of yourself with your screen name written on a piece of paper or some such display in the image. This base-line photo will be used to compare with your future uploaded images and so on during ongoing â€œreality checksâ€ by site editors.
The weeding out of riff-raff, Laurent assured me, had nothing to do with only picking the pretty people or violating any civil rights. You can pay to join if an invite cannot be had and, so long as you abide by the terms of service, validate your existence, etc., youâ€™re in. Laurent did indicate, though, that riff-raff will weed themselves out. â€œIf they donâ€™t fit in, they wonâ€™t enjoy the community and use all the features the site offers,â€ he said.
The site works on an advertising model where clubs and promoters, plus other interested parties, can purchase standard banner ads and preferred event placement. Laurent insisted, however, that when users enter the event search areas, all clubs and performers are treated equally. Plus, so long as the community develops influencers (San Diegoâ€™s ultra-chic, I suppose), the community will dictate where the party goes, not the other way around.
Some not-yet live features of the site include community text messaging so if the ultra hip suddenly jump to another club, they can post a message that is immediately sent to their friends list. Laurent was also excited about the future launch of a camera phone-to-profile immediate post function so the Lounge lizards can let friends see how sweaty (or drunk) they are in (almost) real time. (Editorial sarcasm added by me.)
Obviously, there are some merits to the idea and I like several components of their approach. It will be interesting to see how the site continues to grow in San Diego and if it becomes the hip, trendy on-line stop for the hip, trendy off-line sect. The launch in other cities will be worth noting as well.
And even if Iâ€™m too old, too married and too uncool to be in the little club â€¦ and would have despised it on principal 15 years ago when I was at least younger and single, I hope LovinLounge.com is on to something.
Hereâ€™s what I want to know from you:
- Are there holes in their approach and what are they?
- Would you join (or would you have before life happened) such an animal?
- What brands should keep an eye on this thing to see if the ultra cool, 18-to-32-year-old demographic buys in?
Other posts youâ€™ll find interesting:
- Social Networking With The Elite
- MashMeet NYC Recap
- The Nearly Never Ending Market For Niche Social Networks
- Whatâ€™s After Facebook Or Is The Migration Over?
- Faceparty On