Victoria Archbold, Partner at international members community, Adoreum, explains the positive and impactful value to be gained from harnessing the power of network communities
In this post-Covid era, private members’ clubs and gated networks have become big business. Names like London’s Soho House, New York’s Core and Hong Kong’s Carlyle & Co have surged in popularity as many of us seek real and virtual places to work, rest, play and broker new entrepreneurial opportunities.
However, as a recent report from Martin Raymond, co-founder of strategic insight business The Future Laboratory (link to download report) suggests, brands must also understand the role these communities play in bringing the latest products and services into the high-end consumer mainstream.
Raymond’s report, ‘The Chemistry of Connection’, stresses the increasing importance of nano-influencer networks. The brand landscape is no longer a place of ‘customer cohorts’ but of ‘network communities’. Not of campaign engagements but communal conversations. Not of clients and customers but of co-partners and collaborators, and narrative impact rather than brand messaging.
He continues by highlighting how brands and individuals with an eye on tomorrow’s new market opportunities are beginning to understand the true power of niche clubs, high-net-worth individual enclaves and the ‘value networks’ of influential individuals they contain.
The report illustrates how ideas, innovations and brands are likely to enter the early majority mainstream once a particular kind of club or one of its network members gets their hands on it.
As Ana Andjelic, a brand consultant, strategist and contributor to the report, points out, these communities can be harnessed to broker tastes, drive trends or market and sell new products to those discerning early-adopter communities.
This is why good marketeers are moving away from broadcast platforms or moments such as repetitive campaigns or blanket influencer gifting. “Consumers now see themselves as better informed overall, so a ‘go wide and go big’ approach isn’t really a strategy,” Raymond says. “It’s a bit like kicking a lot of balls along a field, any field, and hoping you’ll find a net, any net, to score a goal in.”
This is increasingly what happens when brands communicate through the medium of paid media, brand marketing, even macro-influencers. Raymond tells clients in one of his network-related masterclasses that “a lot [of money] is often exchanged for very little, which we refer to as ‘influence’, ‘gain’, or, if you are wildly optimistic and unquestioning, ‘engagement’.”
But even this kind of engagement, no matter how authentic and honest, has minimal return, Raymond believes. If the network of an influencer you are targeting contains 1 million followers, you are likely to get 1.5% return in terms of engagement, which sounds a lot until you realise that within this group there will be a high percentage of bots to deal with, fake accounts to detect, dead ones to discount, even so-called engagement pods that are high on the use of generic emojis, but low on being useful to you or your brand or product in terms of actual and tangible returns.
Instead, good marketeers are seeking smaller, more focused targets such as hosting individuals in the same way they would have once done press, as well as niche communities and networks that contain high numbers of creative, cultural and entrepreneurial members.
In this new order of network marketing and brand storytelling, brands are not facilitators but collaborators, co-partners, fellow travellers and co-enablers in the life and times of a network. What’s more, these networks are increasingly embracing an ethos of ‘reciprocal capital’, or the idea of generous members who are willingly prepared to share expertise. Networks should be assessed on the basis of undertaking connections and collaborations without the expectation of receiving anything in return. If one member succeeds, then they all succeed.
It is a view supported by some of London’s most respected networks. Marcus Watson, co-founder of Adoreum, says that its network of 35,000 HNWIs is built on the ideas of compassion and reciprocity. “We believe that power is unlocked through meaningful connection, kindness, a sense of mutuality and fun,” he explains.
It is an ethos based on plugging into diverse thinking, and meeting people we would not normally engage with – or even agree with – says Richie Notar, former managing partner of Nobu and founder of Notar Hospitality, who has spent his career building and harnessing an incredible network through his hospitality expertise.
Research by The Future Laboratory suggests that the smart money is now on investing in, and engaging with, networks of wealth, note, influence, power and intelligence, especially in the areas of culture, design, luxury, tech, innovation and entrepreneurialism, and understanding the role that connecting with others plays in driving business, channelling ideas, unlocking new collaborations and future business opportunities.
“Within these networks,” Raymond says, “the key components for strengthening a brand’s story, position, value and ability to improve its appeal to the wider community are already in place. Entrepreneurs, innovators and those who desire to influence others tend to seek out their own company. We usually find a higher-than-average number of influencers, super-connectors and brokers among the members of these networks who allow conversations about our brands to spread quicker, and in turn, to be brought more effectively into the wider community.”
So, if there is a future time and budgetary decision to be made, both personally (as a member) and professionally (as a partnership), a network is an investment worth committing to.Written by Victoria Archbold, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Insta: @takenbytoria
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